Why all small businesses should think about online advertising

The rise of online advertising benefits small businesses, but many are struggling to take the first step into the digital realm because of reasons like tight budgets and little experience. Small businesses should bravely make that move and not lose out on this golden opportunity.

Online advertising opens a world of possibility for small businesses. It’s certainly where customers are heading. In 2016 an annual survey by analytics firm comScore found 51% of consumers made their purchases online, up from the previous year’s figure of 48%.

Additionally, over three billion people are engaged on websites and social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. These sites are creating a captive audience for advertisers.

To target this audience larger companies have long relied on marketing agencies to manage their online search and social presence on digital platforms. But, these agencies usually require a “minimum” spend, which may be too exorbitant for smaller outfits.

To bridge this gap, self-service online advertising platforms are changing the game for SMBs. Easy to operate and understand, these platforms give businesses a space to create and manage their marketing campaigns across search and social, where the majority of their customers are: Google and Facebook.

Pay less to reach your customers

Digital advertisements are usually cheaper, especially when compared to television and print. Businesses can avoid expensive fees charged by traditional media, and choose to pay only for the number of views or clicks, which is how online advertising is usually priced.

“This is an enormous opportunity for marketers and many don’t understand it yet,” said Mr Nicholas Skislak, founder of online advertising agency SS Digital Media.

Online advertising also allows small business owners to know exactly what they're paying for. In the case of traditional platforms, “we don’t know how many people actually consumed the media,” Mr Skislak added. “We are now allowed to virtually eliminate marketing budget waste and no longer pay on impression but based on consumption – a huge drawback for traditional TV or print media buys,” he explained, in a contribution on Forbes.

While buying space on traditional media is an expensive inconvenience for large companies, it could cripple a smaller one. The flexibility of online advertisements has helped to level the playing field.

Opportunities for SMBs but it requires effort

With all the benefits, online advertising is the perfect platform for small businesses. But, the situation is not clear cut. They may simply not have the resources or knowledge to embrace it.

Marketing for SMBs can be just be considered a part of day-to-day operations, and is not prioritised over other more operationally important tasks. This makes it hard to unlock the potential offered by online advertising, said Mr Glen Gilmore, who heads social media marketing firm Gilmore Business Network and teaches related master's programme modules at Rutgers University.

Every digital platform is different in how it engages different types of audiences. For instance, advertising on search platforms like Google puts you in front of customers searching for your product - but you need to be able to grab their attention. In-depth content may perform better on Facebook than on Instagram. Hashtags work better on the latter. Twitter is a whole new game altogether, but each platform offers its own set of benefits and caters to different mindsets of consumers.

What this means is business need to regularly relook and reassess their marketing strategy. With each online campaign you’re going to learn something new that will affect how you run the next campaign.

For those who take the time to learn the tools through trial and error will reap the benefits. They will find a cost effective way to reach potential customers on a platform they use everyday or while they're searching online for a product your business provides and in a language they understand.

Businesses can learn from previous campaigns and make changes to increase the effectiveness of future ones. Plus they have a greater control over the budget throughout the process.

New features specifically for small businesses

Digital platforms are also introducing features with small businesses in mind. As of this March, according to Forbes, there were eight million business profiles on Instagram. The application plans to launch a new “booking” function in the months ahead.

“Many small businesses don't have a website or the traffic to sustain a separate place for booking," said Mr James Quarles, Instagram's Vice President for Business.

“They just want to have that as part of their Instagram experience. We're just getting started in building the tools businesses would like to find customers and get people to stores.”

Digital self-service empowering small business

Solutions have started popping up that aims to help small businesses tackle the challenge of learning about online advertising, and assist them in getting started on tapping its benefits.

To succeed in the digital space small businesses need a tailored marketing plan, based on their budget and objectives. They need to be guided by automated recommendations on when to launch, pause and stop campaigns.

At the conclusion of each campaign business requires feedback on achievements, reach and tips for improvement. Old data is there to guide new, smarter decisions. This where the strength lies in digital marketing - its ability to teach and inform business when it comes to the next campaign.

By being open to fresh perspectives, small businesses will be able to start meaningful conversations with more customers. Only then will they be able to reap the full benefits of online advertising.


  • Digital marketing offers SMBs many opportunities but many small business owners are unsure of how to take the first steps
  • Digital marketing creates a level marketing playing field not offered by traditional mediums
  • The opportunities for small business are lucrative but they need to take the time to understand the tools, trial them and make improvements during each campaign
  • Platforms exist today which give small business the opportunity to control digital campaigns over social and search in an easy way and within their budget