If you sell a good or service from a bricks-and-mortar store, you probably already realize there are seemingly endless vehicles with which you can advertise in the physical world. Adding the online world to that mix can create so many advertising opportunities that you might be overwhelmed to the point of not utilizing any of them. But since everyone with a product or service needs to do some form of marketing, I’m hoping this post will help.
Which advertising vehicle you use could be a calculated result of a sophisticated marketing strategy you’ve put together, or it may be as loose as caving to whatever sales person pushed hardest for your business. Whether you are a new advertiser or a veteran, you need to be informed of your options. I’ll try to cover the basics of some options in both the physical and online worlds.
Newspapers, radio, television and outdoor are probably the first types of offline advertising that come to mind. Even if you aren’t familiar with their rates and terminology, you at least recognize their media. Because I’ve written about these media here, I’ll leave it at that.
However, there are a lot more offline advertising sources than those. Here are a few.
Yellow pages: Yes, it seems strange to think of phone books in the digital age, but they are still around. In fact, I probably get phone books from four different companies delivered to my door each year. When I was a kid, I remember just a single phone book. The crazy thing is I keep each one until I replace it the following year. Even though yellow pages still get printed, they also have an online presence. It’s just as easy for them to put the information they have online as in print. And when you think about how important accurate data is, the phone books have a built-in reputation that is stronger than a listing site on the Internet that nobody has heard of.
Yellow pages are more akin to search engines than banner ads. Chances are consumers will run across your ad only if they are searching for something you provide. You won’t get any impulse buyers.
Mailers: With the price of postage these days, direct mail is not cheap. But there is some comfort knowing that a consumer will at least look at your mailer and decide whether to toss it or keep it. And if you do it with consistency, consumers know to look for it. For example, I know that if I want anything from Bed, Bath and Beyond, I just need to wait a few weeks for a 20-percent-off coupon in the mail.
You can do mailers a few ways. You can send a stand-alone piece that you’ve produced (like the Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons). Or you can mix your ad with other advertisers, like inside a ValuePak envelope, the equivalent of mailed newspaper inserts, or coupon magazines. If you decide to go the ValuPak-type route, you’ll be working with a sales rep from whatever advertising company produces those coupons, inserts or magazines. You pay them, and they’ll handle the mailing costs, and probably do your creative work for you as well.
Other: There are also quite a few non-traditional offline ways to advertise. If your community has a bike-share program, you may be able to sponsor the program by having your company or product show up on all the bikes. You can advertise in playbills for orchestras, plays, dance concerts, etc. You can be a supporter of public radio or television. Your local dry cleaner may let you put your ad on the coat hangers they give out to all their customers. And remember that outdoor media includes sides of buses and bus-stop benches.
Just like broadcast and newspaper ads come to mind with offline advertising, banner ads are probably the first that come to mind with online advertising. These ads often run through online ad networks, which I’ve written about here.
But online advertising doesn’t stop with banner ads.
Search: If you anticipate people looking for your company or product by going to an Internet search engine, think about the search terms they would most likely enter. Now search for those terms yourself and see what results you get. If you or your product don’t show up anywhere, you may want to pay for those search terms. You can actually buy your way to the top of sponsored search results on Google, Yahoo, etc.
Contextual: If you want your text or banner ad to show up in or around online stories, you can pay for contextual advertising. You can do this through online ad networks or Google. So if you sell snowmobiles and want to advertise on newspaper websites, but only if the story has something to do with outdoor activities, snowmobiling or winter sports, you can pay for those contextual ads.
Directories: Online directories are kind of like yellow pages. It is possible that you are already listed in some online directories, just like you’re listed in phone books, without your having paid to be there. The directory company adds as many businesses as they can for free, because the more accurate content they have, the more people will trust their listings. But if you want to show up more prominently, you’ll have to pay extra. That’s what the yellow pages and online directories hope for.
Although being listed in online directories may be good for you, they may actually be a hindrance. It is much easier for an entrepreneurial person to create a directory online. Once online, that person may then be using search engine optimization (SEO) or paying for keywords that would drive some customers who might have otherwise found your site to their own. For example, if you own a coffee shop, search for “coffee shop” and the name of your city. Chances are you’ll see a number of directories where you and your competitors may or may not be listed. If so, chances are you’ll be getting calls from the owners of those sites asking you to advertise in their directories.
If you just want people to know your address and phone number, showing up on multiple directories might be OK. But if you actually need people to come to your site, realize that you are now not only competing with other coffee shops in your area, but also competing with these online directories that will probably have their own interests above yours.
Social: By now you know you can advertise on Facebook and other social-media sites. Paying Facebook for clicks may or may not be the best use of your money. There are other ways that you can utilize social sites. Although technically you can do them for “free,” there will still be some cost in terms of hiring someone to do it for you, or for spending the time to do it yourself.
Social sites include blogs and forums. If you or someone you hire participate in forums, leave comments on blogs, or leave product reviews on sites that showcase your products, you are in essence engaging in viral marketing. If you have your own blog, potential customers will view you as an expert in your area, develop a level of trust with you, and feel better buying from you.