It seems like everywhere you turn, new promotions for ad space are being offered up free of charge to small businesses.
Facebook recently announced a partnership with the National Federation of Independent Business and U.S. Chamber of Commerce that will give each qualifying small business at least $50 of free advertising. The program, Facebook Marketing Solutions, will officially launch in January 2012 and will provide $10 million in free advertising, encouraging small businesses to give social media advertising a try. Google also offers attractive incentives for small businesses, from special promotions for new AdWords customers to free credits for non-profit organizations. Similarly, LinkedIn often provides free advertising vouchers for small business owners.
In a recent INC. article exploring this recent surge in free ad space, author Tim Donnelly writes, “The free publicity offers might be coming at an ideal time for small businesses owners, many of whom were taking out loans to keep the doors open just two years ago. Now that the recession has crested, businesses are looking to recover and grow again.”
In the same article, Joe Zetecki, deputy assistant administrator for communications of the U.S. Small Business Administration praises these offerings, saying, "Any of these provide an opportunity to find new customers – there’s tremendous value in that. The beauty of some of these search engines and online tools is it sort of levels the playing field."
Now is the time for entrepreneurs to take advantage of these great deals to help jump-start their online advertising efforts. But after testing the waters with various trial services, it’s important to establish a long term plan to fully unlock the benefits of online marketing.
If you’re not regularly testing and experimenting with a variety of online advertising channels – from search to display to retargeting to social to shopping engines – you’re likely to miss out on important opportunities to increase visibility, attract new customers and maximize your return on investment.
Of course, for many businesses, this is much easier said than done. Managing multiple advertising campaigns across various media channels can be very time-consuming. Add in the complexity of creating your own ads and continuously tweaking and updating keywords, and the process can seem downright daunting. For businesses with limited time and resources, it may make sense to partner with someone who can automate these processes and handle the heavy lifting, so you can spend less time dealing with the marketing minutiae and more time focusing on your business’ core competencies.
If your business does have the internal resources and bandwidth in place, be sure to research and take advantage of every online advertising trial service available to you. Then, focus ongoing efforts on campaign optimization across various media channels – always keeping your specific advertising goals top-of-mind – to attract today’s savvy shoppers and grow your business.