According to a recent Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) study, online advertising accounted for 3.7 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011. To say that online advertising is huge would be an understatement – digital ads are foundational to business on the Internet. As a small business owner, if you’re not participating in this landscape, you’re missing out on an important channel for reaching prospects.
It’s normal to feel hesitant about jumping into the Internet advertising game. From free iPod scams to obnoxious pop-up windows, ads have a bad rap—and rightfully so. Some malicious companies have gone to extremes to deceive consumers. As a business owner who is committed to user experience, you may feel worried about scaring potential visitors away.
Don’t let the aggressive practices of bad brands hold you back from running valuable ads. What you need to do is focus on strategies that align with your marketing goals. Online advertisements can add value to everyone involved, especially your prospects. Here are five of the top advertising myths refuted.
Myth #1: Ads are spammy
Fact: Ads are only spammy when you don’t prioritize user experience
If you’re worried about spamming your prospects, take a step back and evaluate your strategy. Do your advertisements look professional? Are you communicating important information to your prospects? Are you trying to build substantive connections with web visitors, or are you just focusing on tricks to increase pageviews and traffic?
You want your ads to be like the high-value coupons that you find in your mailbox from time to time – or the witty television commercials that catch you off guard. What you don’t want your online ads to be like is the hoard of junk mail that ruins your day. Or the late night infomercials that nobody’s watching.
Myth #2: Your website needs to be perfect
Fact: At a minimum, you just need a place to direct your traffic
Even if your website is under construction, you can still utilize PPC advertising to connect with prospects. Instead of sending web visitors to your homepage, direct them to a landing page with a lead generation form. In return for filling out the form, interested prospects can download content marketing materials like e-books, sign up for upcoming webinars, or be ‘the first to know’ about a new product or service. Even if your website is undergoing changes, you can use your advertisements and landing pages to kickstart long-term relationships.
Myth #3: Display doesn’t work
Fact: Display is essential to the ‘introductory’ phase of the sales cycle
Some marketers believe that it’s better to pay for a click than to pay for a view. This statement is a generalization that is simply untrue. The sales cycle is a long-term process, and you want to reach people from the beginning—when they are learning about your business for the first time – to the point of transaction. It’s just as important to make introductions with new eyeballs as it is to catch prospects when they’re ready to buy. Even if you’re used to pay-per-click advertising, don’t rule out a fixed banner at a fixed price. Don’t get too hung up on click-through and conversion rates. Focus on the big picture by tracking trends in growth over time.
Myth #4: Just get visitors to your site
Fact: Marketing goals require depth and on-site planning
Some marketers believe that the goal of advertising is to get people to your website. If you follow this shallow perspective, you’ll end up wasting money. As a marketer, it’s your responsibility to guide prospects through the conversion goals that you’ve set. If you want prospects to complete a lead generation form, for instance, make sure that you provide them with enough guidance. If you want web visitors to sign up for an offer, make sure that you provide a substantive incentive. Whether you’re an eCommerce site or consulting business, make sure that you define visitor objectives up front so that you can guide your prospects through the transaction process.
Myth #5: Offline doesn’t matter
Fact: Marketing is a holistic process that relies on a range of customer acquisition channels
Advertising is a medium-agnostic concept. While the Internet provides a solid foundation to expand upon your existing customer acquisition efforts, you shouldn’t ignore the offline strategies that have and will continue to work for brands like yours. Even though companies are flocking to advertise online, there are still plenty of cost-effective opportunities in radio, print, television, billboards – and even flyers at local venues. Even if you want to transition your advertising efforts online, make sure that you continue to focus on the big picture.
When you launch your online advertising strategy, focus on the efforts and marketing channels that make the most sense for your brand. If you’re choosing between a banner ad or pay-per-click, focus on what will cause your potential web visitors to take action. Keep your goals reasonable, but also keep them specific so that you can achieve measurable results.