With Main Street merchants diverting ever more spending away from traditional advertising to online, mobile, and social media, newspapers seeking a healthy share of local marketing dollars need to be selling way more than banner ads.
We’ll describe an effective digital product mix in a moment. First, here’s why this matters:
Although roughly half of local marketing dollars today go to newspaper and broadcast advertising, BIA/Kelsey predicts that only 30 percent of an expected $151 billion in local marketing expenditures in 2016 will be spent on the legacy media. Prior to the arrival of the Internet, Main Street merchants typically put 70 percent of their marketing budgets into print and broadcast advertising.
Today, local businesses are investing in websites, social media campaigns, mobile couponing, search advertising, email marketing, and other tactics that enable them to establish direct and sustained relationships with consumers. Even the best print, broadcast, and banner ads don’t have the power of deft digital campaigns to target the right offer to the right person at the right place at the right time.
To get competitive and stay competitive, publishers must offer a number of complementary digital marketing solutions. The good news is that these products represent an opportunity to build long-term, high-margin, and recurring revenues that enable publishers to amortize their direct sales costs over many years. Here are the products and services you need in your digital tool kit:
A merchant’s digital presence starts with the website, which must be constantly refreshed and maintained to not only sustain its relevance to consumers, but also to ensure high visibility on Google and other search engines.
Because only 5 percent of consumers click past the first page of Web search results, businesses must pay close attention to continuously optimizing their sites to appear in prime positions in searches on Google, Bing, and other platforms. The task never ends, because search algorithms continuously change, and social media increasingly will influence search results in real time.
Beyond Google and Bing, there are millions of other venues on the Web where a business can be mentioned. Reputation management services ensure that information about a business is up to date wherever it appears. At the same time, such services identify unfavorable mentions (such as negative reviews on Yelp) so a business can take rapid remedial action. Given the rise in location-aware mobile services, accurate information about a business is more vital than ever.
While websites can be accessed via smartphones and the iPad, many of them render poorly on mobile devices — or not at all in the case of Flash on Apple products. With nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population carrying smartphones and some 20 percent of the population using tablets, consumers increasingly are turning to these devices to make purchasing decisions. Merchants whose sites perform poorly on mobile devices run the risk of being overlooked and under-patronized.
Facebook and other social media offer appealing opportunities for merchants to make one-on-one connections with consumers — and to leverage these fast-growing platforms to generate viral (and cost-effective) word-of-mouth referrals for their products and services. Successful social marketing programs require constant attention to building audience, creating content, and curating connections. Because these chores are a lot of work for the typical small business, there is an opportunity for publishers to do the work for them.
Merchants seeking to develop direct relationships with consumers need to assemble increasingly sophisticated databases of information about as many individuals as possible. Newspapers can help them build, manage, and market to customers via email, snail mail, social media, and other vehicles.
Deals and coupons:
Several of the platforms described above make it easy for publishers and merchants to offer a wide variety of discounts and coupons, including offers targeted to select audiences or sent dynamically to users of mobile devices.
While the keyword advertising programs at Google, Bing, Facebook, and many other websites are promoted as self-service platforms, the work of creating, managing, evaluating, and fine-tuning a digital ad campaign is intimidating and time-consuming. Significant profits can be reaped from managing campaigns for merchants.
Because of the many complex elements of a digital marketing program, a key component of any program is a comprehensive and responsive analytics package to plan, monitor, and measure each of the various initiatives — and to continuously reinforce for merchants the value of the services (including, yes, print advertising) provided by their local publishing partner.
Publishers shouldn’t try to launch all these initiatives at once. They have to be deployed in a logical, well-planned sequence. Because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, I’d be happy to discuss your situation if you drop me an email at email@example.com.
Alan D. Mutter is a newspaperman who became a Silicon Valley CEO and today provides consulting services to media companies that want to know about technology and tech companies that want to know about the media. His blog, Reflections of a Newsosaur, is at newsosaur.blogspot.com.