Advertising online provides alternatives for companies at every stage of development, from bootstrapped start-ups to established giants in their respective markets. However online advertising not only *can* be, but needs to be more carefully-targeted than some other media to be effective. Unwelcome, distracting ads in any online environment can easily be perceived as spam.
No one likes being force-fed irrelevant noise when they’re looking classified free ads for something specific, but beyond human nature, the established culture of the internet itself actually holds spam in contempt. Especially as search engine users have become accustomed to being served well-placed contextual offers, they often have little patience for interruptions or distractions that are not on point, or that actually frustrate their efforts to get the content they’re seeking.
To be sure, going directly after identified buyers of your particular products and services, rather than browsers and researchers, is typically going to be faster but cost more up-front than a long-range, relationship-based approach. And if you have the budget to pay a for premium advertising on major search engines, social sites, or solo ads in highly-responsive ezines, you’ll also need the time or manpower to manage those campaigns and keep them from blowing that budget.
Relationship marketing allows you to invest sweat equity into a gradual expansion of your opt-in lists and RSS feeds. In this area of your marketing mix, three successful lower-cost but longer-term advertising methods are: banners, posting comments, and e-mail marketing. While all of these are time-intensive compared to short-term high-cost ads like pay-per-click ads on the major search-engines and social network ads, a gradual, cumulative approach to getting opt-in subscribers can create stability for a business.
Once they’re on your list and like what you’re providing, you can strategically place short targeted offers, into your valuable email or ezine content to monetize that list. From time to time you can broadcast special timely and targeted offers that are in keeping with the valued content you provide. Just avoid a “boy who cried wolf” desensitization to your messages. Once you begin to constantly push every affiliate offer that looks profitable to you, your credibility can suffer. Your emails’ open rates will begin to shrink, your conversions drop, and your lists could be decimated.
Often, a well-designed banner at the top or side of a website that caters to your target market can produce quality visitors to your own site. A winning combination is to promote a free offer that your target market finds valuable, your banner linking to a Capture page that makes it convenient to get in exchange for subscribing to your list or ezine. You can buy advertising space on popular websites or, if you’re short on cash, join a banner exchange program.
Banner exchange programs set up agreements with other website owners to display each other’s banners. The size of the banner, the page on which it will appear, its position, are all negotiable. You’ll have to agree on all of them beforehand, even in private arrangements, so that there are no problems later on.
To prevent your audience from tagging your ad as spam, place fewer ads over a specific period, allowing your customers to discover your site rather than being bombarded by your business. What happens when you keep seeing the same ad on TV, over and over? Unless the ad is exceptional, you usually change channels, press Mute, get up or otherwise stop watching.
Posting comments is a great way to promote your business. Yahoo and Google groups are fine for starters, along with other social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Orkut and so on. Make sure the comments are related to the topic at hand. A random or vague comment like ‘So true’ with your link is most definitely going to be frowned upon as ‘Spam’. (Reserve brief comments for Twitter or Facebook interactions with your Friends to help help keep you top-of-mind with your own followers).
Of course don’t neglect writing your own blog posts and articles about your industry, and submitting them to directories to promote your business. Making efforts to keep a fairly regular posting and submission schedule can make a huge difference in your exposure. Being part of a community (or overlapping communities) makes one more thoughtful of other members. If you’ve had to take steps to avoid comment spam yourself, you’re less likely to be tempted to engage in it.
Many times, your e-mails might be forwarded to friends or relatives, who are looking for just what you offer. If you send unsolicited e-mails though, it’s likely to be tagged as ‘Spam.’ Just as people hate junk mail in their mailboxes, they despise spam mail in their In-boxes. Just like a flier on your windscreen might be thrown away without a glance, or with a curse, online advertising can easily be ignored or deleted – or worse, regarded in the same light (or even reported) as spam.