If you own a business, any kind of business, you probably know that a large portion of advertising has moved online. You’re probably wondering what the big deal is, and how to navigate the stormy seas of the online ad world. With acronyms like PPC, CPM, SEO, it’s enough to make anyone’s eyes glaze over, leaving you deeply compelled to just stick with advertising in your neighborhood coupon book. Sometimes, people make sophisticated power points about this issue. Thankfully, you have us to break it down.
The difference comes down to a little thing called “targeting”. When you’re flipping through a magazine and you see an ad for puppies, you might or might not need puppies. But if you just did a Google search for “cute puppies”, chances are, you probably need a puppy, or at least really, really like puppies. So, if a puppy ad comes on, you’re that much more likely to click on it. As a business owner, targeted advertising has already done half the work for you, because the customer is already interested.
With traditional advertising, you attack your potential customers with coupons, letters, pamphlets, door hangers, or even those pesky flyers you often find under your windshield wipers.
Paid advertising, on the other hand, offers various targeting options such as pay-per-click and pay-per-impression, or newer venues such as Facebook ads. But that doesn’t mean that you should completely abandon traditional advertising in favor of these fancy features. It’s about what works for you.
So what are the pros and cons of each method?
One benefit of traditional mail is the ability to advertise geographically. Internet advertising works best by targeting people with specific interests, wherever they are. On the other hand, if you’re trying to target everyone within a 5 mile radius of your business, direct mail would be the way to go.
But this method also reveals how inefficient paper advertising can be — you’d be sending your ad to literally every household in the area. How many of these customers are you actually hoping to target? Unless you have the kind of business that appeals to everyone, you’re wasting money (and a lot of paper, tree killer!).
The biggest advantage of online advertising is the ability to target a particular audience with a particular interest, making them that much more likely to click on your ad. And because online advertising is non-geographically based, the entire English speaking world just became your customer base (assuming you’re qualified to ship puppies).
Online advertising also allows for the kind of precise data analysis that is hard to get in the world of paper advertising.
With the traditional model, you can tell if your ad worked if people come into the store, or if they use one coupon more than another. In the online world, you can run two separate ads, which are phrased differently, or make the same ad come up under two different searches. After monitoring the results closely, you can increase profits by fine tuningyour marketing strategy — keeping what works and discarding the rest. The money you save can be placed towards the more effective advertising, or toward other parts of your business.
A subtle benefit of traditional advertising is that it comes with an already acquired level of customer trust — advertising has been done on paper (or was it papyrus?) forever. Online ads can sometimes be considered intrusive, because the online world feels more “private”, making customers feel weird about ads targeted specifically to them. Obviously, this is less of a problem if you’re advertising furniture than if you’re trying to get the word out about an incredible new male enhancement drink.
Paper ads don’t feel like an intrusion of privacy, because they’re the same for everyone. But they’re also easier to ignore. When someone sees an ad on paper, they need toactively remember to visit your website or call at a later time. With online advertising, as soon as the customer clicks, they’re already on your site. This leaves them one step closer to buying or using your product.
Now you know what you’re getting yourself into. The success of your business can depend on the right advertising strategy. And remember, this isn’t an all or nothing thing: the right strategy for you might be a mix of the two. Whatever you choose, make sure the actual execution of your ads is polished — no media platform on earth will make a crappy-looking ad successful. Might we suggest a professional? 
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