Sunday, May 23, 2010

Loudoun Advertising Online in Northern Virginia

As a new or existing business in or around Northern Virginia, DC and Loudoun County, VA (or anywhere else, for that matter), it’s imperative that your marketing budget include the Internet. In our opinion, commensurate with the rapid shift in global advertising from “offline” to “online” methods, your marketing budget should be primarily focused on the Internet – especially if you’re a small to medium-sized business. Simply put, your dollars go further, interaction with your customers is more helpful and your return-on-investment is much easier to track.

Assuming you’ve done your homework regarding targeting your clients, and have creative staff ready to produce online advertisements (copy, graphics, multimedia), where do you place the ads? The answer is: everywhere your potential customers, partners or employers are, on the Internet. Following are brief descriptions of 9 major types of online advertising (among others) you should consider, for your Loudoun business. Note that professional Internet Marketing and Social Media expertise will probably be required for choosing, using and managing many of these advertising types – gone are the days where all it took was a simple banner ad!

If you’re just starting out, seeking paid advertising options on the web...(A) begin with #2 below, and (B) seriously look around for some help – competent, current, locally-knowledgeable Loudoun Internet Marketing and Social Media help is worth every penny, and truly necessary given all the options and opportunities. Don’t just buy a high-priced banner from your publisher – ask for distribution, optimization and analytics, and then compare costs.

Note that the lines between “advertising” and “marketing” and in some cases “public relations” are getting more blurry by the day, and many forms of Internet marketing (like using Search Engine Optimization techniques and Social Media) are being offered as advertising opportunities. What we’re covering here are places where, for a fee, you can place a direct ad or announcement online to promote your business.

  1. Pay-per-Click (PPC): This is a very proven, flexible and affordable way of buying ads from publishers and search engines (like Google Adwords), whom you pay each time someone clicks your ad. Geo-targeting or otherwise being able to have your ads show up only to your target audience is extremely important in a good PPC program. Many programs use “affiliate networks” (like Google’s Adsense program) to help distribute your ads and product, sharing your pay-per-click with other publishers.
  2. Regional/Local Publishers/Media/Directories: Many local media outlets, online magazines, area directories and general interest websites, forums or blogs offer advertising. These can be highly effective and useful for local advertising only if managed and tracked correctly (demand metrics!), and if opportunities exist for a buy across multiple web properties (i.e. a “vertical network”). Seek also to leverage “call tracking” and “click to call” services, that tie business phone numbers to advertising clicks for better campaign tracking.

    Contact Us to See our “Best Local Destination Websites for Loudoun Advertisers – Summer 2010” for the highest ROIs among local online publisher sites.

  3. Global/National Media/Directories: Large directories and media outlets like the Yellow Pages or Superpages offer localized or targeted advertising and referral packages; if your clients are in fact outside the area, and you’ve got a hefty budget, then this might be considered – though don’t expect very customized service or area-knowledge. Some, however, are free (like Craigslist); use them, but scrutinize their performance before investing time again.
  4. Networking/Social Media Sites: Anywhere people congregate on the web to share and discuss interests, is an opportunity to advertise – it’s particularly effective among the big guys like Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, who are adept at placing your ad in front of the most appropriate and cost-effective demographic or discussion activity. If you know your customers, and have the social media chops to enter and maintain this venue, it must be done - today.
  5. Email: is still very effective (especially at work), and if other marketing and advertising entices customers to subscribe. Email lists can also be bought, rented and shared, and broadcasts can be integrated with your social media updates...very cool, and effective, but doesn’t reach all demographics (read, mostly those with Blackberrys, vs. iPhones).
  6. Mobile/Interactive Apps: Here’s where terms like “Web 2.0” and “iPhone App” come into play – it’s all about designing something interesting for the customers to do or interact with (like an online game or mashup), in a way that enables you to directly or indirectly get your advertising in front of them (especially on their mobile devices). If you’ve got the technical chops and new media understanding to deal with this, then investigate whether your audience would be impressed –otherwise, outsource it.
  7. Sponsorships/Branding: This is getting your logo or other brand advertisement on somebody else’s web property, that’s in some way unique (like an event), rare for advertisements (like a community or government program) or singularly highlighted (it’s a one-time showcase or product launch). This’ll take some legwork and relationships, and require additional fees/donations – but there may be an opportunity for service-in-kind (i.e. you volunteer, they acknowledge).
  8. Advertorials/Product Placement: Basically where the phrase “don’t believe everything you read on the Internet” applies – i.e. deftly, surreptitiously, perhaps helpfully inserting advertising-laden copy or multimedia into an otherwise interesting or informative webpage or blog. It also goes by “article marketing”, and paid blogs or press releases (especially if optimized for search engines and social media) are similar; this can be and extremely effective and relatively inexpensive way to advertise, if you’re doing the work (i.e. writing/distributing the article, creating the multimedia within which your advertisement is placed). If you’re not in charge of the “container”, then you’ll need a decent budget for copy production and placement.
  9. Broadcast/Instream Ads (Video/SMS/RSS): When people open their “channel” (i.e. their videoplayer, their cellphone, their feedreader, their tweetstream), sometimes a bit of advertising “pushed” to them may be appropriate, especially if they’ve opted in to getting it (along with other free content). Again, if you don’t actually own a videoserver or other broadcast technology, you’ll have to pay someone else to get significant results.
  10. Second Life virtual shingle: Well, if you know it and need it, hang one out!

Contact KME Internet Marketing in Northern Virginia, Suburban Maryland, Washington DC and Southern Maryland for more help and information regarding online advertising and marketing options.