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How to harness the power of digital advertising to grow your small business

Rocket Fuel is a predictive marketing software company founded in 2008 that aims to use big data to help marketers transform their digital advertising. There is ample opportunity for small businesses to harness the power of big data, especially when they are armed with the right tools and mindset. That’s why ICIC recruited RocketFuel’s JC Medici and Amanda Whiteman for our monthly CEO Series Webinars to share insights on how data can be integrated with digital advertising and used by small businesses to accelerate their growth.

In its infancy, online advertising was simply about delivery: businesses were able to deliver ads to users online. While this was novel, it soon transitioned into targeted advertising. Targeted advertising allowed businesses to choose the right audience was and send ads directly to them, but still lacked some specifics that data is now able to provide in the way of optimization. Optimization, the current trend in online advertising, is being able to choose not only your audience but how best to engage with them.

JC Medici, formally the National Director of Brand, Politics, and Advocacy at Rocket Fuel, understands that big data can be scary to small businesses, saying that many are “sold to, and not consulted with.” He lays out some guidelines small businesses should follow when trying to use big data: working with the right partners, receiving clear information, avoiding being oversold, and having a basic knowledge of what your business is trying to achieve. Because of the multitude of ways in which ads are being sold, it’s important to know which one works best. Buying ads directly from a publisher such as CNN or ESPN is possible, but extra ad inventory is allocated to ad networks that can provide business owners with a single point of contact for advertising on multiple sites. What JC suggested is utilizing ad “exchanges”, which operate as an open market where businesses can find their audience and buy time through ad networks or directly through publishers.

Amanda Whiteman, Director of Strategic Accounts, lays out an image of just how effective media buys for small businesses can be when they have control through programmatic advertising. Direct advertising, the original method for online media buying, meant that you executed a media buy and got a guaranteed ad impression on a named site for a set rate. With the advent of programmatic advertising, however, business owners can utilize automation and technology-driven methods to buy their ad placements. These methods utilize over 11 million data points to find a target audience, which can come from sources such as voter files and include age, gender, time or place.

JC Medici states that there over 25,000 population segments available for targeting, and that businesses can leverage data by coordinating with the right partners when working to buy media. To simplify big data for small business owners, they suggest thinking about data as “your” data, such as email lists or site visitors, “their” data, based on exhibited online behaviors, and “3rd party” data, which is from information groups such as Experian or credit reporting agencies.

When it comes to platform and format, that can mean everything to a small businesses media campaign. Business owners need to think about what screens they want to appear on, whether mobile, computer, or tablet, and what format they want to appear in: rich media, video, in-app, or browser advertisements. Choosing the right format and platform to appear on can be paramount to the success of a small business ad campaign. For example, seniors and baby boomers, two groups many try to target, have different media habits. Baby boomers spend more time on the web than any other channel, and seniors spend 30 minutes more a day than boomers watching television. Hispanics utilize smartphones more than any other demographic, and females top males under the age of 18 as the largest video game-playing demographic. While businesses used to have to talk to a mobile person to run a mobile campaign and a desktop person to run web ads, campaigns can now be run across all channels by the same partners, meaning more effective advertising, more touch points, and better determination of which device is performing the best for your business.

So if you’re a small business owner, how do they recommend you dip your toes into media buying and big data? The answer is Facebook and Google Ads. JC says it would be a waste of money to spend your marketing budget on day one with a big company like Rocket Fuel, and to start learning how to run an efficient campaign on those platforms. This will also teach you a lot of the jargon surrounding advertising, as JC admitted, “we have a tendency to throw out a lot of terminology and flashy words, and we have abbreviations for everything,” leading many business owners to get intimidated by the process. If you don’t understand something, they recommend you ask. After all, it’s your business, your advertising budget, and JC and Amanda both say that too many vendors say yes to any business, instead of pointing you in the right direction and providing candid, helpful advice. The best question to ask, according to them, is “what campaigns can’t you run for my business?” This allows you, as the purchaser, to make sure they aren’t trying to take your advertising money and promise what they can’t deliver.

To view the webinar in its entirety, click here.

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