With advances in technology redefining the advertising market, small and medium-size businesses are benefiting from new opportunities to reach consumers, from reduced costs in traditional media to online, mobile, and social networking opportunities.
The Los Angeles Times reported that mom-and-pop businesses are taking advantage of a depressed media market and increased access to technology to produce successful marketing campaigns. Once prohibitively expensive, spots on TV and billboards are seeing growth from small businesses that can now afford to produce and run advertisements.
In the case of a commercial for a local diner, Eat at Joe's, a small agency shot high definition video with a digital camera, edited the material at home, and charged the restaurant owner a mere $5,000. The producer estimated that production costs on the 30-second spot with 40 actors would have run around $200,000 several years ago.
But, the scope of new advertising possibilities for small businesses is hardly limited to traditional media. As businesses of all sizes can collect more information online about users' demographics, habits, and interests, they can reach targeted audiences with customised ads.
A Facebook campaign targets users based on nine filters, such as age, location, and keywords, for a minimum budget of $1.00 a day. Google's AdWords directs advertisements based on keyword searches with payment per click and even non-tech savvy business owners can learn the basics (to keep costs down, pay attention to these money-wasting AdWords mistakes). For a quick estimate of how much a search advertising campaign would cost, enter a keyword and budget on Yahoo! Search Marketing and see a prospective monthly breakdown.
The mobile space encompassing smartphones and tablet PCs is expected to continue to grow at a steady clip as advertisers jump on the opportunity to reach consumers right in their pockets or purses. The Kelsey Group projects a $3.1 billion dollar market by 2013, and the battle between Google and Apple's respective mobile advertising platforms reflects the recognition of this potential. Businesses can already get in on the expanding market (US smartphone users number more than 48 million to date) with platforms that include Google's AdWords, Apple's iAds, the "geo-aware" AdLocal, and video-centric Transpera.
Social media marketing has generated buzz as a free or low cost way of reaching the masses, with Twitter, FourSquare, and Facebook, and others netting serious business results for companies of all sizes. Naked Pizza, for example, credits the Twitter microblogging site, where it often offers special promotions, with helping to build a fan base and engender rapid growth.
For marketing, businesses have also found success with the location-based service FourSquare, by offering special discounts and giveaways to the "mayor" of the location, which is determined by the person with the most check-ins.
Email campaign services such as Emma and Constant Contact also have seen growth as another relatively low cost way to reach consumers and track results. And, these myriad marketing techniques can direct consumers to a functional website that costs little or nothing to build, even without coding experience, on sites including Weebly, Doodle Kit and Jimdo.
The payoff for engaging in creative, new advertising endeavors can be striking. The restaurant owner named in the Los Angeles Times article, for instance, saw a 10 percent increase in business. There's also the tale of a copywriter who landed a job using AdWords to target employers. And, street food vendors in San Francisco have built successful followings using little more than Twitter and Facebook.