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The Perfect Digital Advertising Plan for Small Businesses

In 2018, we’re bombarded with ads. How can you ensure your small marketing budget stretches far enough to reach your target audience and turn them into customers? I run digital advertising campaigns, big and small, from concept to reality - and I’ve finally found a marketing mix that works for just about every small-to-medium business. It turns out you can achieve success without hiring a videographer, an influencer, and 50k Instagram followers. Behold: the perfect digital advertising plan.

Digital marketing ranges across simple staples like Google search ads to new kids on the block like Instagram story videos. With this plan, you can achieve results on a budget, and with a bit of time invested, you can probably do it yourself.

Social ads: grab the audience that doesn’t know they need you

Social is the place to go for the best demographic and topic-related targeting. On the Facebook Ad Network (which includes Instagram) you can hyper-specify the type of person you’re trying to reach, from “friend of someone who got engaged in the last 6 months” to “people interested in Lady Gaga.” Facebook ads will show up anywhere the user goes on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and even some third-party apps and sites if you enable their Audience Network placement.

With just one great photo that shows what you do, a short text description to provide more info, and a call-to-action headline, you can run a successful ad. I’d recommend testing with a few variations of photos and copy, so that you can learn better what works for your audience. Best of all, with the right targeting and a strong ad, you can get your cost-per-click down to 15-30 cents. My top trick: choose “pay per impression” instead of “pay per click” - it’s counterintuitive, but it cuts costs by 80% in my experience.

If your ideal customer is more likely to be identified by their industry and job title than demographics and general interests, go with LinkedIn. The cost per click will be closer to $5 each, but it balances out in value: you’ll only reach the people in the exact roles that can take action related to your business.

Search ads: grab the audience that knows exactly what they need

Once you’ve reached the audience that passively match the interests and demographics of your ideal customer, you don’t want to forget the people that are actively looking for a business like yours. Search ads are the VIP pass to the search engine optimization (SEO) world: they put your listing at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) so users will see your site first.

To get started creating search ads, you’ll need to conduct some keyword research (which you can learn how to do in our previous blog post) to find out exactly what your audience searches when they’re trying to find a service like yours. The keyword lists you generate in that process will become the behind-the-scenes part of your search ads - when you set them up, you’ll input these lists, telling Google that when people search keywords A, B, and C, you want to pay for your search ad to show up.

The next step is to write the ads. Though they have strict character limits, for the most part they’re easy to write - write down your top three selling points and you’re probably done. The cost ranges a bit more on the Google Search Network, because some search niches are saturated with advertisers bidding higher and higher to get in those top spots. I’ve found I can get a cost-per-click down to 30-40 cents with a strong campaign, or 1-2 dollars in a real niche.

These ads will make sure that the people who are looking for you actually find you, which is especially useful if your site isn’t organically coming up on the first SERP.

Remarketing display ads: remind the undecided audience to come back

The real secret sauce in this whole plan is this third and final piece: Google Display ads shown only to a remarketing audience. The Google Display Network reaches your audience nearly anywhere they go on the web, from their daily news and sports sites to their favourite solitaire game (over 2 million sites are part of the network). In this case, you only want your ads to show up for users that have already visited your site, to remind them to come back and close the deal.

To set up a remarketing audience in Google Ads, you’ll have to drop a bit of code onto your website that will capture users when they visit the site. If you have enough site traffic, you can even divide this site traffic based on specific pages the user visits, to further target the ads. You can read more about tips and tricks for display ads in our previous post if you’d like to branch out from this strategy.

Creating display ads is a bit more complicated than social and search, since they are images in specific sizes that should have a compelling image, call to action, and your branding. Even without Photoshop skills or a graphic designer, you can do this yourself on a free, online image editor like Canva. Once your ads are created, simply set them up to target your remarketing audience. It’s hard to find documentation on benchmark costs for these ads, because it’s a particularly valuable audience subset, so you can’t compare with display ad benchmarks. In my experience, you can expect a cost-per-click of $1.50 to $2.

Closing the deal with conversion tracking

To make sure this plan is working, you can either set up conversion tracking directly with on the ad platforms, or check your site analytics to measure the conversions manually. If you’re noticing a high bounce rate or very short sessions, it means users arrived at your site and didn’t find what they were looking for, so they left. This strategy will absolutely bring traffic to your site, but even the best ads can’t close the deal alone. Remember that a user clicking an ad is expecting to see a website that matches the ad, where they can easily find information and complete the purchase, so your website has to be up to snuff.

With that said, if your site works, this plan will too. Once this plan is executed, it’s very low-maintenance - with a budget of even $250-500 in monthly ad spend, you can let these ads run and watch the traffic roll in. I’d also recommend optimizing if you can - after about two weeks of testing, turn off ads that aren’t as successful as others and adjust other parameters accordingly.

If you don’t know where to start with digital marketing but you know you need to start, give us a call. We run digital advertising campaigns like this customized to each client’s specific audience and business goals, and we’re happy to chat and figure out what would work for you.

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