A Guide to Digital Advertising for Small Businesses

by Jimmy Rodela | Updated Aug. 5, 2022 - First published on May 18, 2022

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Three office workers discuss a digital graph.

Image source: Getty Images

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the key steps, strategies, and tools for digital advertising to get your brand, products, and services in front of your customers successfully.

For your online advertising campaigns to succeed, you need to establish a clear strategy to reach your customers and guide them through your marketing funnel. Ensure that your marketing materials and brand positioning are helping you deliver the right information at the right time and to the right audience.

To help you get better results out of your advertising campaigns, we’ll dive deep into the inner workings of digital advertising.

Here are six strategies to create a successful digital advertising campaign:

  • Study your target audience
  • Make your offer irresistible
  • Create compelling ad copy
  • Be mindful of your graphics
  • Be strategic in your audience targeting
  • Evaluate your results

Overview: What is digital advertising?

Digital advertising is the data-driven approach of marketing your products and services online via social media, email, websites, search engines, mobile apps, and other online platforms.

The goal of your digital ad campaigns is to generate interest about your product so you can influence your prospective customers to make a purchase or act on your offers.

It’s crucial to note that although there are similarities, advertising and marketing are not the same thing. Digital advertising is a subsection of marketing that focuses primarily on promotion, while the term “marketing” covers the overall process -- from research to strategy implementation, and more.

The 3 main types of digital advertising

There are several types of digital advertisements, and when deciding which type to use, consider the marketing channels you’re already using, your audience, the type of products or services you offer, as well as your overall business dynamics.

Below are some of the most popular types of digital advertising.

1. Display ads

There are several ways to integrate display ads into your advertising campaigns. Banners, pop-ups, and email messages make it easy to reach your audience wherever they are on the web, making it a cost-efficient way to draw relevant traffic to your business website, get more brand visibility, improve conversions, and drive sales.

2. Social media

There are two types of social media ads: paid and organic ads.

You can run paid ads using the native ad tools within a given social media platform (which come with a fee) to create, schedule, and post targeted ads for a specific audience you select.

Organic advertising refers to the content you post on various social media platforms for free -- for example, a Tweet or a post on your company’s Facebook page.

These posts show up in the feeds of the people who follow you, and as your community shares and engages with them, your audience grows. It’s a form of digital word-of-mouth marketing where other users, and not the platform itself, do the promotion.

Social media platforms are powerful marketing tools because they have features that allow companies to reach their audience with ease as well as built-in tools for market research.

Facebook Audience Insights, for instance, lets you learn more about your target audience and shows you aggregate information about purchase behavior, demographics, and more to help you run your Facebook advertising campaigns.

Facebook’s audience insights tool

There are various ways to view data on Facebook’s audience insights tool. Image source: Author

The tool can also show you other pages relevant to your industry. If you follow a few of your competitors’ pages, their Facebook ads will appear in your newsfeed, allowing you to study them and potentially come up with better ones.

Page Likes section of Facebook’s audience insights

This is the Page Likes section of Facebook Audience Insights. Image source: Author

3. Email advertising

Use email advertising to reach your audience with promotional emails about your new products, discounts, limited time offers, etc.

To streamline your email advertising campaigns, take advantage of the powerful marketing automation tools available in many email marketing software solutions. These tools keep your to-do list short, leaving you more time to optimize your email ads and accomplish more.

Things to consider before using digital advertising for your small business

Consider these essential factors before you implement your digital marketing strategy in order to ensure better returns from your advertising campaigns.

1. Your goals

Understanding the purpose of your digital advertising campaigns, such as introducing a new product or building your brand, will help you establish measurable goals so you can create and place your ads successfully.

Plus, knowing your purpose will help shape your strategies, define your key metrics, and aid in crafting your call-to-action.

2. Your target audience

Your advertising strategies, materials, and platforms need to align with the characteristics and interests of your target audience. Learning about your audience will help you determine what kind of ads to create and how you can get them in front of the right people.

When your strategies are aligned with your target audience, your ad campaigns increase in relevance, making them more compelling.

3. Your key performance indicators (KPIs)

Regardless of your strategies, analyzing your performance so you can translate your consumer assumptions into data that you can monitor is digital marketing 101.

Setting your KPIs from the beginning will tell you what to track in order to assess the effectiveness of your ad campaigns. By monitoring your KPIs, you also get actionable insights to improve or change your approach to increase your revenue from your digital advertising efforts.

How to start digital advertising in your small business

With a carefully planned and executed digital advertising strategy, you can reach a wider audience, generate more leads and sales, and grow your business.

Follow the six steps below to start your digital advertising campaign.

1. Study your target audience

To know which type of online ads are ideal for your small business, you must learn as much as you can about your target audience. Your marketing planning and research team should uncover your ideal customer’s needs, desires, and aspirations, among other characteristics.

Equipped with these pertinent details, you’ll get a better idea of which among the many digital advertising strategies will yield better results for your business.

Tips for studying your target audience:

  • Identify buyer touchpoints: Identify the places where your customers interact with your brand. The interactions can happen on your website, mobile app, or your social media pages. Study how your buyers behave when faced with certain offers and content at each point of interaction.
  • Use goal flow reports: A goal flow report shows the path your prospects follow to complete a conversion goal. The report helps you understand how your web visitors are moving through your conversion funnel, revealing where the drop-offs and traffic loops occur in the customer journey.

2. Make your offer irresistible

The starting point of your ad campaign is your offer. You need to make it valuable, relevant, and enticing to your audience.

Remember, though, that offers aren’t just about products and fees. The visual elements of your ad as well as the words you use all contribute to its effectiveness, so leverage everything you can in your favor.

Tips for making your offer irresistible:

  • Write great ad headlines: Create high-converting landing pages by including relevant keywords in your ad headlines, asking questions, addressing your target audience’s pain point, considering user intent, and more.
  • See what your competitors are doing: Learn what your competitors are doing, and try to one-up them by providing a better offer.

3. Create compelling ad copy

Your ad copy is the main text you use in your advertisements. The words you choose matter, and it’s important to put your customers’ feelings front and center when writing your advertising copy.

Emotion often leads to action, so if you can create an emotion in your readers with compelling copy, readers are more likely to take immediate action on your offer.

Tips for creating compelling ad copy:

  • Focus on benefits instead of features: Whether you’re running an inbound marketing strategy or you’re using paid ads to generate sales, avoid focusing too much on your brand. Rather, focus on telling your audience how your products or services can improve their lives.
  • Create a sense of urgency: By adding countdown timers or creating coupons that show your offers are available for a limited time only, your audience is further compelled to take immediate action.

Some e-commerce platforms, such as Wix, offer a customized coupon builder that lets you easily create discounts, sale prices, and other special offers.

Wix coupon builder feature

The Wix coupon builder feature helps you create custom special offers. Image source: Author

4. Be mindful of your graphics

The graphical elements in your ads, such as images and videos, should be simple, relevant, and compelling. Use them to capture your audience’s attention, even on busy websites. Well-chosen graphics can catch a reader’s eye and get them to read your headline and click your link.

Tips for using graphics on your ads:

  • Leverage negative space: Avoid ads that look crowded or distracting. Use negative space to highlight the visual elements in your ads that you want your audience to focus on. There is a reason some of the best blogging platforms use negative space or a minimalistic approach in their layout: It just works.
  • Value relevance: Choose visual elements with your prospects in mind. For example, you could use pastel colors if you’re selling baby products to help make your ad as relevant to your target audience as possible.

5. Be strategic in your audience targeting

Whether you’re running an engagement marketing campaign or publishing paid ads, you have to be mindful about how you’re targeting your audience.

Consider which platforms your customers are frequently visiting, their interests, job titles, etc. Having these pertinent details about your audience lets you target them with better accuracy, which helps you get better results out of your ads.

Tips for strategic audience targeting:

  • Create a buyer persona: Your buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. It shows their age, job title, and description, their pain points, interests, etc. A well-formulated buyer persona can streamline your audience targeting since you’ll know exactly who you’re looking for.
  • Study your competitors: If your competitors are running their ads on Facebook or Twitter, for example, it’s worth giving those same platforms a closer look. Do your own research, but it’s smart to learn from what your competitors are doing. They might have good ideas that you haven’t thought of yet, and you can develop your own strategies from there.

6. Evaluate your results

To experience continuous growth out of your ad campaigns, track your numbers and evaluate your results constantly to determine what’s working and what’s not.

As you uncover which of your digital advertising campaigns are performing well, you can redouble your efforts and resources on these ads, and shut down ones that aren't performing well.

Track and evaluate key success metrics such as your cost per click, ROI, cost per acquisition, and more.

Tips for evaluating your results:

  • Use a reliable analytics software: Analytics software automates marketing data collection and analysis. Use it to streamline your evaluation process and gain actionable insights to refine your campaigns.
  • Avoid vanity metrics: Focus your efforts on metrics and results that bring actionable insight to your campaigns to avoid burning through your productivity. Not every single metric you can gather will bring value to your campaign analysis.

Run your digital advertising campaigns now

With well-thought-out and properly executed digital advertising campaigns, even small businesses can generate thousands of sales. You don’t need to spend years or months marketing your website; you can start now with digital advertising and see your online sales skyrocket in no time.

By studying your audience, creating irresistible offers, crafting compelling ad copy, and more, you’re bound to achieve meaningful results out of your campaigns.

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