Characteristics of
Online Business Advertising



Online business advertising is something that every business should think about. The reason for this is that 85% of all product and service searches – even local! - begin online. Think about your own example, isn't that what you do? That's what I do, whether it is trying to find a pizza shop to looking for prices for hotel rooms. 10 years ago the call to action was, “You can't survive unless you are online!” and businesses were scrambling to get a website at any cost. Now the call should be, “If you advertise then advertise online!” Business are taking heed as well and the trend continues of more advertisers spending more and more to tap into this online medium.

Consider that it took Barnes & Noble 54 years to reach $1B in sales and that Amazon.com did it in 4 years. Consider as well that US online business advertising expenditure in 2012 was $40B, higher than print advertising expenditure for the first time ever and looking to overtake TV advertising expenditure ($65B) in a few years. I have already written about the power of online communication in my articles on social media marketing and Internet viral marketing. The power of online holds true for advertising as well but in different ways. This article discusses a comprehensive list of the characteristics of online advertising after first looking at optimizing your website for advertising online.


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Online Business Advertising: Your Website


This may not be obvious to some traditional business owners and so I just want to make it clear: please don't spend scads of money advertising online before optimizing your website for the web leads you want to generate. The good news is that you do not have to change your business model or incorporate e-commerce and online payments. You do have to make sure that there is a well-designed flow that leads visitors from landing pages to a “call to action” be it a purchase, capturing their contact information, soliciting a call / email / chat, requesting a survey, downloading a brochure or something else. The ideal thing to do is hire a landing page optimization consultant to help you with this.


Generally speaking, the formula used in websites looking to monetize their traffic is Create Traffic -> Presell -> Convert. Once you have generated traffic through online business advertising you shouldn't try and sell your web visitors something right away. Rather, you first need to connect with your visitors and you do this by preselling. Preselling is simply providing your customers with something of value which might be content, an experience or even a fantastic offer in some cases. Read more about content that presells here (by the way, I used SiteSell's Site Build It to build this website!). As you surf the Internet going forward, pay attention to how other websites seek to attract your attention and lead you towards their own calls to action.

Your website is an opportunity to provide information, build trust and credibility and start a relationship with your customers. Just like you would not expect to pitch a customer at the opening of a sales relationship, so you should not expect people who visit your website to purchase from you right away or complete any action step. Your “conversion” may be as simple as getting people who visit to spend more time on your site. The good news in all of this is that if you do it right, you can successfully build relationships online without having to lift a finger. By the time you are in touch with visitors yourself then, you may find them already won over.


Beyond hiring a landing page optimization consultant – or doing a lot of studying yourself! - the best thing you can do for your website prior to investing in online business advertising is to create high quality information. You may or may not have heard the phrase that on the Internet “content is king”. Not only do people spend the most time on websites with the most good information, as you add more content to your website you are more apt to be discovered by Google and other search engines. You can read about creating search engine friend content here but you needn't be technical. Simply add regular pages of good content to your website (info, how-tos, FAQs, industry briefs, general knowhow).


Characteristics of Online Business Advertising

You may think that there is not much more to know about online business advertising beyond the fact that it works! However, going over the following comprehensive list of characteristics will help novices and experts alike think about a lot of those aspects of advertising online that you may not be familiar with. At the very least, you will have a fresh perspective on most all of the characteristics of online advertising that make it such a powerful method of promoting your business. You will also be able to think about the various ways people act and interact online as well as new approaches to advertising that you may not have tried before.

Effective

The number one reason more and more businesses are spending more and more on online business advertising is because it produces results. This is obvious and I don't need to elaborate except to say that an integrated marketing campaign utilizes a wide array of channels and offline channels should not be given up as you go online. As well, depending on the demographics of the market segment you are targeting, a significant number of people may not go online or may not be responsive to online ads








Global

Another no-brainer but I need to get these things out of the way! Who is to say that you cannot expand your business overseas some day? If not, then how about the next city away or the next state or province or the other end of the country? The point is that while you can localize your online advertising, you have unlimited options with regards to reaching potential customers, partners, suppliers, industry trade associations and other valuable contacts in other geographic areas. The great thing is that it does not cost you more, either (generally speaking!). As you grow your online presence you will attract interest from a lot of different people in different places who are somehow connected to or interested in your field

Scalable

The Internet has a way of increasing pretty much everything exponentially. By this I am talking about things like time-to-market, reach, sales, leads, communication, responses and so forth. The beauty about putting together a super-successful online business advertising campaign is that as it takes off you can continue to expand it. This is another characteristic that is highlighted when you compare this to a traditional advertising campaign. In a magazine print ad, for example, you have to wait for days and weeks before you know how effective the campaign was. If you want to expand it, how long will it take to schedule runs with other magazines? Compare this to online: point and click a few times and you're done!











24/7

You might be asleep but your customers might be awake, online and on your website. A classic case of snoozing and not losing! This might seem like a trivial feature of online advertising but think about the fact that being online is probably the one thing that people do at all hours of the day. You generally stop watching TV at night and you probably aren't going to stay awake till 3 in the morning reading a magazine. You are indoors and therefore protected from outside ads. What does that leave? The Internet is so popular just because there is so much you can do online. Think about when the last time was that you were online really late or if you couldn't sleep...



Variety

This is another obvious advantage of advertising online and this list should give you an idea of the breadth of options available: display advertising, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, social media marketing, email marketing, affiliate marketing, referral marketing, video marketing, webinars, podcasts, online radio, online TV, banner / link exchange, content marketing, directory marketing, strategic partnership, sponsorship, apps and widgets, social bookmarking, RSS feed, RSS submission sites, online PR, online classifieds










Invisibility

I remember seeing an ad on a bus about online predators that showed a huge, ugly, dirty man in a vest sitting at a computer. Underneath it had his online monicker which was something like sweetsally16. Most people are all too aware of this dark side of the Internet but there is a positive spin on this truth for small businesses. You can be operating out of your basement in pajamas and still have a strong online presence that competes with the biggest companies in your industry! As long as you run your business properly and can deliver on your promises, your online business advertising can represent you just like any other business

Interactive vs. Interruptive

I have written about how the rise of the individual means thats today's consumer is boss. You can no longer blast messages at them and expect them to respond. You need a pull versus a push approach and online business advertising is just that. What you end up with is called Interactive Marketing or Engagement Marketing and ideally ends up being Permission Marketing (when they have signed up for your spectacular bi-weekly e-mail newsletter, for example!). Your customer is exposed to your message and chooses to interact with your brand in a progressively more engaged fashion








Instant Publication

Everything online is immediate – except for large downloads and money transfers! - and this holds true for online business advertising as well. You can have an ad designed and published the same day. You can make changes which can go into effect right away. This may be important if you are running two ads side by side and want to switch to the better performing one. To understand the value of this feature just think about the feasibility and potential costs of changing print, TV or billboard ads

Instant Tracking

As in the example above, having the ability to track web users in realtime is a powerful feature that can only be achieved online. Measurement is the cornerstone of a successful sales and marketing campaign and the Internet allows you to gather the largest amount of data in the least amount of time with the least amount of effort. In additional to tracking basics like the number of leads generated by your various advertising campaigns and your overall ROI, you can monitor insightful things like exactly what people do on your website and whether or not they return









Instant Conversion

Not only can you reach your customer instantly online but they can buy from you right away (or complete a preset call to action!). To understand the power of online business advertising, simply compare this with traditional advertising. The only thing that comes close in my mind is a TV informercial that gets you to call in and place an order over the phone. There are many advantages the online model has such as the customer's ability to browse at leisure to order related items and the opportunity to capture their email address for ongoing marketing (to say nothing of the expense of running a phone call centre!)

Extended Exposure

You may not have a visitor who clicks on your ad purchase from you but you do have the opportunity to expose them at length to your <iobranding>brand. If you think about it, there is only so much a salesperson or someone in a retail outlet can talk to a customer before they grow bored, restless or uncomfortable and leave. With online business advertising you can immerse your visitor indefinitely in a very personal experience with a diverse array of branded content. How can you compare that to an infomercial?









Automated

Imagine a business that runs by itself and makes you money on an ongoing basis without you having to lift a finger. When you connect online business advertising with e-commerce then that is what you get. This may not be your objective starting off but is certainly something you should look to in the future. An e-commerce enabled website simply means that you can transact business on it. This means that you will need payment options and likely a shipping system as well as optional items like a shopping cart feature. With regards to your online advertising campaigns, these can be automated in many ways as well, just as with everything computer-based. For instance, you might have an advertisement automatically change to another one if it does not produce a certain amount of web leads in a specific timeframe

Sharability

Sharing information online via e-mail or on social media sites is so common that you generally don't give it a second thought. Most people are used to sending and receiving “remarkable” links, documents and more to and from friends, family and co-workers. This has given rise to social media marketing, Internet viral marketing and other ways of online business advertising. Once again, how easy is it to share a traditional ad with someone? Hotmail was spread by a tagline at the bottom of e-mails and ended up being sold to Microsoft for $400M








Unlimited

Generally speaking, anything that you put online is not only sharable but has potentially unlimited viewability (meaning it can be seen by an unlimited number of people!). This is especially true if you build in passability features such as easy sharing options. The key is that your advertising message should be something that a viewer would want to pass on to someone else! By default, therefore, it must be exciting, interesting, funny, entertaining or useful. If you ever doubt the power of the Internet to create unprecedented publicity then take a look at my article on Internet viral marketing successes

Un-advertising

You often see a business name attached to a charity or some other good cause. The great thing about this kind of public service advertising is that it does not sell directly but generates goodwill and interest. Similarly, there are countless ways to promote yourself without marketing, per se, in online business advertising. Article writing, blogging, social media marketing, forum posts, online communities, partnerships and link exchanges. These are just some of the ways you can promote your business online creatively, cost-effectively and in a far more low-key manner than in traditional advertising








Communities

Why would someone want to share an ad with someone else? One reason is, of course, sharing an unbelievable offer with someone you know who might be interested. Another reason is sharing with a like-minded person that shares your interest. This is part of the power of online communities, groups of users that aggregate around shared interests. There are countless communities online and countless ways to market to those in your field of expertise. Simply search for "________ community" or "________ forum" in Google - where you fill in your business area, of course! - to see what I am talking about

Targeted 

Imagine we are talking about advertising the old-fashioned way – offline! - instead of online business advertising. Say you had printed up 2,000 promotional mailers and were getting ready to send them out. How amazing would it be to be able to send flyers only to those people who match the characteristics of your ideal customer? Behavioural targeting tracks a person's behaviour online and combines this with information from IP addresses, search histories, online forms and other sources. A person is then shown advertisements that are relevant to them which, of course, leads to better results. This is what the whole privacy controversy is all about











Pay-per-Action

As far as I am concerned, this is the key feature of online advertising that has turned Google into an Internet behemoth. Google's revolutionized online advertising by creating a system that only charges you whenever a customer visits your website. As it says on their “pay-per-clickAdWords advertising site, Pay only if people click your ads.” Therefore, as an advertiser you cannot lose. It is straightforward and yet unprecedented and the reason they have an estimated 1-2 million customers with leading corporations paying millions every year. Pay-per-Act means charging for specific actions that customers take when they click to go to your website. This might be sales or another call to action

Channel Development

You never know which of your online business advertising efforts might take off and become a roaring success. Even if you simply break even and realize a justifiable ROI, your online efforts at connecting with customers have a valuable side benefit. You have now connected to your customers in new ways and understood which forms of online communication are best for your business. You can now develop these channels to be used for purposes other than selling such as education, support, building communities, brand awareness





Get help with Online Business Advertising or create your own page on this subject!

GO TO:
Online Advertising TrendsUsing Google AdWords  • Online Business Advertising Consultant




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