It’s been a common theme in meeting with vendors and customers this year. How do I reach my very specific target audience with all the choices out their today? Television is either too broad or too expensive, print is expensive and in decline, and the Internet is too big. While I understand their frustration with the first two, the “too big” part is their definition, and what they really mean is that there are so many websites out there how do they know where to advertise.
Local advertising is a piece of cake. Learning your town’s source of news and information is pretty easy to figure out. It starts with finding the top local news station, newspaper, and which radio station best fits your clientele. After that it’s a matter of establishing a website that provides all the information a customer would want and that is SEO’d, building a regular newsletter, and in general, keeping a steady flow of constant contact with the local community. I’m not saying it doesn’t take money and practice, but after you’ve done it a while it’s merely a game of variables to build a great advertising program. Reaching national customers is a whole different ball game.
I recently met with a tree supplier that has several new varieties of trees that they want people to know about. They want homeowners to ask for them by name at their local nursery, architects to spec them on jobs, and city arborist to add them to the “can plant’ list of city trees. Their present plan was to advertise in trade magazines to reach the architects and arborists and then set up facebook pages or personal sites for their new varieties of trees. I will add that this meeting was to show me as a grower how they were going to make their trees so popular that I would want to grow thousands of these trees. Instead it turned into a lesson for them on how to advertise on the Internet.
It started with the websites. They were all redirects to their main page so google didn’t index most of the pages. Of the four, one front page of one of their sites was indexed. The rest of the sites couldn’t be found by customers. Of course, the facebook pages were right there at the top. I questioned the redirect and the director of marketing said it was to save on hosting. Lesson one, hosting is super cheap yet most business think prices are what they were 10 years ago. I had to be careful not to make the marketing guy look like he was not capable of his job, yet at the same time try and help these family friends out (and add a new consultant job)
Now we moved onto advertising on the net. To reach customers their initial plan was to advertise in Better Homes and Gardens but when they found out the price they dropped the plan. For the last 30 years if a national company wanted to reach gardeners that’s where they turned. Better Homes’ ad rates still reflect it and their prices are way out of wack compared to what you can get for the dollar on the Internet. I told them to find the biggest forums on the net for gardeners. Dave’s Garden and Garden Web have hundreds of thousands of devoted gardeners going there every day. The ad rates for these two sites blows the magazines out of the water AND the users come every day. This takes us to the smaller sites. There are hundreds of sites that reach tens of thousands per day that would love to have national advertising and offer rates that a very affordable. Sure, it takes a bit more work because you have to contact directly all these sites but the savings and impact of your dollar is hundredfold of old fashioned media.
While I won’t go into all the details of what was discussed, I left the meeting realizing two things. One, as a business it is in my best interest to find and follow the sites that my customer frequent. From the large to the small, I need to catch customers in their daily routine and somehow become a part of that or at least be acknowledged. As a site owner. I need to let potential business advertisers know that my site offers value and that my readers are the people they want to reach. I need to make it easy to contact me, find pricing and make it an easy process of gathering information about my readers (demographics, not personal) and my site. And when I say site, I mean functional, informative, interactive sites with community. Plug and play and mini sites trying for clicks don’t come into play here. They are of no value in this scenario. Businesses are starting to figure out the value of popular sites AND THEY WILL BE COMING, BE READY.