Small Business, Massive Opportunity

Small businesses will play a crucial role as the United Kingdom, and indeed all of Europe, looks to rebound from some rather gloomy economic times. Today, according to the Federation of Small Businesses, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) account for 99 per cent of businesses in the UK. For the UK economy to grow, small businesses also must grow.

The ability for SMBs to run accountable advertising campaigns to grow their customer base profitably will be crucial to making this happen. But with a plethora of advertising options in the marketplace, what are the important factors a small business owner has to consider before starting an advertising campaign?

User-centric world
Broadly speaking, there are two trends that shape the decision of the small business owner when it comes to choosing an advertising solution. The first is the rise of a user-centric world. In the past, marketers used broadcast techniques, such as television commercials or display banners, for branding efforts, blasting one message to all of their desired audience. Today in a social world, they’ve begun to focus on individual users by engaging them via email and on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. In today’s world, users have come to expect relevant content, and relevant advertising.

We are also seeing the increasing adoption of mobile devices on a global scale. An article in the BBC estimated that 2012 will be the year when the number of mobile phones will exceed that of humans. It’s no wonder that marketers of all sizes in the UK are beginning to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to mobile advertising. According to the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), mobile ad spend is predicted to increase by 157 per cent year-on-year to reach £203m as a result of rapid mobile adoption rates.

The industry’s largest ad solutions provider paid a nod to both of these trends in its recent earnings report. Google CEO Larry Page said that the company will have to come up with a way to combat declining cost-per-click rates. In addition, he acknowledged that with the growth of mobile, the medium will be essential to Google’s future success as a company.

In addition to Google, there are many mobile ad solutions for SMBs in the market. In recent times, companies like Millennial Media and AdLeads have announced mobile marketing solutions for SMBs. But for SMBs to do mobile the right way, they must stop asking ‘What should I do now?’ and start instead asking a more relevant question: ‘What can’t I afford to miss?’

Accidental clicks
For starters, SMBs can’t afford to miss out on any mobile solution that allows them to pay for something other than a click. A recent Harris Interactive survey revealed that nearly half of users click on mobile ads by mistake. The implications of these results are important – they suggest that almost half of mobile ad spend is wasted due to people accidentally clicking on mobile ads. And cost-conscious SMBs can’t afford to waste half their ad budget on accidental clicks.

Recognizing this problem, Google AdMob has put measures in place that allow businesses to avoid paying for accidental clicks. Solutions like AdLeads tackle this problem by allowing businesses to pay for actual signups of leads, instead of clicks. Many small businesses are experimenting with such solutions. For example, Cloggs is a UK footwear retailer that is using AdWords, while Como Brasserie, an Italian restaurant in Brighton, is using AdLeads to run mobile signup advertising to geo-target the UK.

The second factor that an SMB can’t afford to miss is the ability to geo-target ads. Any solution they select must give them the opportunity to show their ads to their neighborhood, their city, their state, country, or indeed the entire world.

This is because mobile advertising has opened up a unique opportunity for SMBs – they can now target ads by location. Simply put, this is because people are more liable to carry their phones around, than they are say, their laptop. Local platforms like FourSquare give SMBs the ability to target customers by their current location, while platforms like AdLeads allow for targeting at a residence ZIP/postcode level. In either case, businesses can offer discounts, deals and information based on location, which enable a relevant advertising experience for the end consumer.

The ability to de-emphasize the click and to target locally are the two most important factors for SMBs looking to go mobile with their advertising efforts. There are other criteria, but many of them are as inconsequential as the 72 per cent share of possession that Barcelona had in a recent football match against Chelsea. These two factors are akin to the single goal scored by Chelsea during the game, in that they are the only ones that matter.


Zephrin Lasker is CEO of Pontiflex