Does Your Business Still Advertise Itself?
Advertising experts weigh in on the importance of maintaining a multi-tiered digital and traditional marketing strategy.
Small business owners have found it difficult to craft a marketing strategy going into the new year after almost three years of economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a looming possible economic-driven recession on the horizon. SMB marketing experts must land on an overall strategy to acquire new customers, pivoting to offer new products and services in many cases.
One question many owners and experts are asking themselves, as they consider discretionary spending in their annual budgets, is whether or not it is still worth it to dedicate spending on advertising and marketing. Oversaturated markets are rife with competition who are just as desperate to shore up their revenue streams, and even the most well-crafted brand image would be hard pressed to attract significant attention from potential customers.
UpCity posed this question to our community of expert B2B service providers: Do you think that small businesses need to advertise? The feedback we received shows that owners and marketing experts feel that marketing should remain a focus and priority in some way in the coming year.
Those who stated that they weren’t leaning on paid marketing tactics were relying on more organic methods such as SEO, Google My Business, and other affordable and low-cost methods designed to boost local search ranking. Many weighed in on the benefits of marketing, as well as the most effective forms of digital marketing and traditional marketing they feel are still relevant and will carry your business successfully through the year.
Do Small Businesses Need To Advertise?
Whether you operate in the B2B or B2C space, brand visibility is vital to your company’s survival. How to achieve that visibility is at the heart of our discussion, and our respondents paint a clear picture of how success can be achieved through a mix of digital advertising and organic marketing tactics supported by increased customer engagement.
“Small businesses need to advertise! Advertising is not dead. We target potential clients who we know we can make a big difference in their businesses and send out mailers advertising our services with a personalized note. We find that connecting with business owners on a personal level makes a big difference in successful advertising efforts! How can you spread awareness if no one knows your business exists?” —Meg Mothershed, Co-owner & COO, Mothershed Design Co.
“The decision of how to advertise your business is based on how strong your existing presence is in your industry. In the situation that your products or services are of a high quality and known in your industry, and your branding is supported by well-managed and well-designed SEO, you don’t have to spend as much of your budget on advertising, as your business’s organic reach will naturally attract the business you need. However, if you’re a newcomer to your industry niche or your products or services aren’t top performers relative to the competition, you will need to supplement any SEO you have in place with advertising and marketing across other channels.” —Henri Cheung, Marketing Director, LRDG Toronto Marketing Agency
“We advertise heavily and we recommend all businesses do the same if their goal is to grow and scale. We utilize Facebook Ads and Google Ads heavily. They are proven channels that work for us, and for all of our clients. Outside of that, building a reputation and selling through authority is great, just not as scalable. Handling paid leads is a skill that must be learned, and the sooner you learn how to convert a cold, paid lead into a customer, the sooner you can scale to the moon.” —Wes Foster, Founder, WESFED.com
Organic marketing tactics can stand alone when leveraged properly
With nearly 46% of all Google searches focused on finding local businesses, and 86% of those searchers visiting or calling that business within a day, it makes sense that many of our respondents are leveraging organic and SEO marketing tactics over other methods.
Content marketing has emerged as a powerful and affordable method for driving traffic to your brand throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as consumers have become more focused on learning about the brands they consume and educating themselves on the products they use.
“We’ve actually never advertised our business. We’ve solely relied on SEO and online reviews to build a fairly successful website design and SEO company. After four years of work, we currently get 1-3 qualified clients leads per day from 100% organic search results.” —Paul Letourneau, Director of Digital, YEG Digital
“We don’t advertise and have never done much advertising for our business. However, in recent months we have hired a Growth Marketing Specialist that reaches out to potential clients. This is more effective in our industry because often when we do an extensive advertising campaign, we get low-quality leads. Only some businesses can afford our services, so instead of promoting ourselves to a large group of people, we reach out to select companies that we believe will benefit from our services the most.” —Rachel Macfarlane, Content Marketing Strategist, Redfox Visual
“We don’t advertise anymore. Our focus is organic growth as the return has been much greater. Our primary focus is SEO and local events. We’ve found that the combination of the two work great together. You can get exposure from local events, and it feeds onto our SEO strategy.” —Edan Ben-Atar, Founder, WebLime
“We believe that organic methods and good content are the best way to get traffic to our website. It takes time and effort, but it’s worth it in the long run. Advertising may still be important for some businesses, but we believe that organic methods are best for us. What little advertising we do incorporate, we focus on LinkedIn. It’s a great channel for B2B opportunities.” —Jose Gomez, CTO & Cofounder, Evinex
“We have tried many different methods to advertise our business: personal emails, mass emails using Constant Contact or MailChimp, postcards, leaving business cards on doors, text messages, meeting face-to-face, even just relying on our SEO to ensure clients can find us on Google. In relying mostly on grassroots and word-of-mouth tactics, we’ve never been burdened with having to borrow money to execute our marketing campaigns. We still have customers we’ve had from when we first opened our doors because we are able to provide every client with personal attention.” —Robert Williams, Owner, Williams Web Solutions
What Is The Benefit of Advertising?
A crowded and highly competitive economy makes it extremely difficult for brands to differentiate their products or services in meaningful ways from the competition and gaining a competitive advantage is almost impossible in the traditional sense. This forces brands to elevate themselves above their competition using other methods.
Businesses often rely on customer service models to accomplish this, but in recent years marketing tactics have become a major component in brand-building strategies and increasing visibility. Raising customer awareness through engaging and meaningful digital advertising campaigns can be the deciding factor when a potential customer is researching products and services online.
Meanwhile, if you’re not actively engaged in advertising and marketing, you can guarantee your competition won’t hold back from leveraging social media advertising campaigns, digital media campaigns, and traditional media marketing tactics against you.
“A well-rounded marketing strategy combines inorganic and organic marketing. If you aren’t using paid advertising, your competition will. You should always prioritize new marketing methods to expand your customer base, no matter how loyal they are through your online presence areas.” —Anna Ritchie, Co-Founder, jo leigh marketing, LLC
“”Advertising is and will always be useful in building brand awareness. It must be integrated into other forms of media as well. For demand generation, paid ads can be integrated into direct marketing and other forms of digital marketing to ensure better campaign tracking. Ads in print publications can be valuable because they are asynchronous. Unlike radio and TV, print ads can be viewed at any time and at deeper levels of absorption.” —David Murphy, founder, Nvent Marketing
What Are The Most Effective Forms of Advertising?
The question of whether business owners and marketing experts think that SMBs should advertise is a loaded one as many of our respondents went straight to whether they should be relying on paid digital marketing tactics or traditional marketing channels such as print, tv, or radio.
The fact is that the tools of modern marketing have evolved and expanded to encompass a wide array of tactics that can be leveraged. From our experts’ responses, we can see that the mix of marketing tools and ad campaigns in play largely depend upon the goals of the business, what their target market looks like, and what social networks work best for their business type.
Paid digital marketing is a staple marketing tactic for many brands
Pay-per-click and other paid digital marketing strategies are some of the most cost-effective methods for boosting site traffic and provide some of the strongest return on investment next to email marketing campaigns.
Paid campaigns can also result in a significant boost in brand awareness. With companies in the United States spending roughly $46 million annually on paid marketing, many of our experts suggest that you incorporate paid advertising into your marketing strategy.
“We advertise our brand-building services with priority given to paid professional directories. This ensures that we have a presence on the SERPs in addition to our own organic listings. Another segment of our budget is reserved for paid marketing campaigns that include PPC, paid social ads, local service ads and remarketing. We find the key to success is to monitor which channel is delivering the most ROI, dumping the ones that don’t deliver and doubling down on those that do.” —Paul Bies, Partner, Mystique Brand Communications Inc.
“We still encourage our clients to engage in PPC and other promotions. Advertising is a constant and necessary tool in marketing that companies must leverage to fuel their sales pipeline with both new and existing customers. Strategic PPC can generate impactful results. Despite market saturation, we still see PPC as a dominant channel for local companies and it continues to be a powerful tool for enabling our clients to stay ahead of local competitors.” —Brandon Klayman, President, Conscious Commerce Corporation
“It’s important to identify where to find your target audience and ensure that you’re easily visible to them. We use PPC, SEO, content marketing, and email marketing for advertising. Each one of these methods is implemented in a different way because they each have their different strengths and when used together create a comprehensive marketing strategy. PPC can be a great short-term solution for getting your brand in front of a target audience. It can provide results quickly, provides guaranteed reach, has distinct targeting, allows you to discover niche audiences, provides access to data, and has somewhat easy maintenance.” —Nicole Denson, Marketing Manager, Big Leap
Diversified marketing campaigns provide results
When it comes to crafting your annual marketing strategy, our experts largely agree that a diversified approach is the key to success.
“In one sense, we like to maximize our reach while delivering a budget-friendly cost-per-click rate. We also want to retarget our viewers so that we hopefully become a familiar brand name when they’re making a purchase decision. However, we also like to rely heavily on organic marketing strategies. Is it our fundamental belief that if we are on all channels as much as we possibly can be then we will maximize our potential.” —Jeffrey Miles, Founder, Jeff Social Marketing
“Advertising will always be a part of marketing strategies and those strategies will likely be prioritized. Advertising will always play a vital role in brand awareness. We advertise through Google ads, display ads, and social media. Our attribution models and data prove that these methods generate qualified leads.” —Victoria Samways, Marketing & Brand Manager, Major Tom
“Organic SEO is where we place most of our effort, but as a digital marketing agency we A/B test all the platforms consistently to determine where our marketing budget should be focused at any given time. In tracking performance across advertising channels, we can track ROI for omni-marketing campaigns.” —Kevin Heimlich, CEO, The Ad Firm
“It’s important to have a healthy mix of marketing at play. Ads, Social, Content Marketing, and even good old traditional marketing can work together cohesively. Our agency takes part in Google Ads, Social Media Marketing, and even Sponsored Listings. This combination helps to set us apart no matter where you’re looking online. We also advertise through nonprofit event sponsorship.” —Jack Shepler, CEO, Ayokay
“Our business advertises all of the time. There are many digital marketing faucets, but none are better than pinpointed and targeted advertising that ensures your content and information is getting in front of the right individual. We also have the ability to turn the dial down or up depending on needs, which ensures consistent growth and optimization of advertising spend. We love Google Ads because the intent of the searcher is high. If they are going to Google and searching for a particular service then there is a need for that service. We love the transparency of the search keywords and understanding which keywords drive the best performance and results, which allows us to drive down our cost-per-conversion numbers and generate more business on a consistent basis.” —Robb Fahrion, Partner and Co-Founder, Flying V Group
“Digital marketing and advertising are both critical in this highly competitive environment that we live in. It becomes even more important when the economy is tanking. We have pursued and recommended Google Ads and Adwords Express, which is a quick way to get in front of your prospective customers to discover your business through ads on Google Search and Google Maps listings. Both are simple and efficient ways for people in your neighborhood to find your business when searching for products or services you offer. Google Ads and Adwords Express is also our preferred way to advertise our business. This is because your ads can appear next to your prospects’ search results, along with the business address, phone number, and an ad icon to help your message stand out against competitors.” —Ace Rashid, Founder, SEO Consultant & Trainer, Ace SEO Consulting, INC.
Traditional marketing still gives results
Many of us might be hard pressed to remember the last time we picked up a local newspaper and flipped through the ads section, however, no matter how out of date some traditional marketing methods might feel in our digitally focused culture, the fact is that many businesses are expanding their budgets to include more traditional marketing spending.
Trends show that B2C services and product companies expect to increase their combined traditional advertising spending by more than 15% in the coming year. Traditional channels provide a break from the digital noise deafening consumers and cluttering the advertising landscape, and can receive a higher percentage of engagement and trust than digital ads. Marketing experts warn that this trend could continue in the coming years as Google, Apple, and other digital platforms phase out third-party tracking cookies.
“There are many different methods of online advertising, and most businesses like us will use a combination of them. Some of the more common methods include search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, social media marketing, and email marketing. The reason businesses use these methods is because they are effective. They allow businesses to reach a large number of people quickly and easily, and can be tailored to target specific demographics. Additionally, they are relatively affordable, which makes them an attractive option for businesses of all sizes. That said, there is still a place for traditional advertising alongside digital tactics. Traditional advertising can reach the percentage of consumers that aren’t reliably exposed to digital marketing campaigns, and traditional advertising channels such as television ads statistically result in more engagement than digital channels. Traditional advertising also allows you to give life to your brand identity in ways digital channels don’t, and can be extremely versatile in terms of how they can be used across multiple platforms and mediums.” —Navneet Kaushal, CEO, PageTraffic
“”Over the past two to three years, we have found that advertising has yielded fewer conversions for more cost. Both for our own company and for our clients, we have pushed other methods of marketing such as guerilla marketing; referrals; traditional print advertising in the form of postcards, billboards, and in-store advertising; and all types of SEO. We’ve found that traditional methods have actually yielded greater results relative to digital marketing tactics.” —Christopher LCP Mendes, CEO, 2Leaf Web Development
Actionable Advice Your Marketing Team Can Leverage in 2023
As a small business owner, entrepreneur, or start-up owner, you’ll have to hit the ground running in the new year with a plan for acquiring new customers. We know that as a small business owner, you’re already operating on a limited budget and everyone on staff is already wearing multiple hats. This makes it difficult to coordinate a multi-channel marketing strategy with digital ads, direct mail and email campaigns, billboard ads, and multiple social media platforms.
If you’re in this position where you have the need but lack the ability to execute, it might be time to create a partnership with a marketing consultant or advertising agency who can help you create the diversified marketing campaigns our experts point to as a path to profitability in the coming year.
About the author
Rebecca helps keep all things content running at UpCity. Prior to joining, she was a magazine editor at an agency for several award-winning publications based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and a content specialist for several brands within the SMB/B2B landscape. She also has significant experience in digital content creation, most notably targeting hunters and anglers (despite being a vegetarian) during her time at Gander Outdoors. Rebecca has also worked in PR, covering a diverse terrain of products and events, including the promotion of local musicians and music festivals and the latest craft beer offerings from local breweries.