How the new digital frontier of advertising is throwing SMEs a lifeline

Traditionally, advertising options for small businesses have been limited. There’s only so many classifieds you can list, fliers you can distribute and noticeboards you can pin an ad to.

Now, with the rise of digital, there are more options than ever before to market your business. Yet this hasn’t made it easier to market a small business.

The idea of investing in adwords, building a social-media presence, or getting an influencer to use your product bewilder SMEs. And rightly so, it can be a minefield.

Big brands have the time, money and human capital to invest in experimental marketing and advertising. But this isn’t an option for small businesses. Given how hard it is to guarantee eyeballs, there are limited tangible ways to measure the impact of online digital advertising. With only a small budget, you want to know people are watching your ads and then coming into your store.

Facebook recently announced in a blog post that they’re rolling out new features to help small businesses better reach potential customers. This is helpful, but despite Facebook’s commitment to help “you improve the performance of your ads”, it still can’t feasibly measure whether those reached are the best possible audience for conversion into customers.

And with the decline of print media, the local paper’s classifieds section no longer has the pull it once had. The community rag doesn’t have the same expansive local readership – exactly the audience a small-business targets – and this drop in readership has not been matched by a drop in advertising costs.

Most SMEs have attempted a Facebook page or a website but don’t have the budget or time to invest in the sophisticated type of campaign and strategy that the big brands use. Small businesses sometimes don’t even have a logo, which is essential to marketing.

But that’s where digital out-of-home (OOH) advertising is starting to play a role; it’s an increasingly viable option for SMEs.

In an uncertain advertising world, OOH is the only advertising stream that’s achieving steady growth. New and innovative forms of digital advertising are cropping up, including interactive billboards at bus stops and television screens in elevators, healthcare centres and train stations.

The reason for its continued growth? It’s located in environments where consumers don’t have a choice but to engage with the advertisements. According to recent Outdoor Media Association data, OOH saw a 15.8 per cent growth in net media revenue over the past year. There are no ad-blockers and there’s no remote control to turn the screen off. Most importantly, if it’s done well, the advert has meaning to its audience.

So, how do SMEs fit into this advertising picture? There are more and more means for small businesses to have access to the digital OOH networks with a relevant audience.

We put advertisements for SMEs on the screens in doctor waiting rooms, we create the content for them and run it on a yearly subscription. What better place to reach for an SME to reach the community members than where they’re sitting and waiting?

The benefit here is that SMEs can target their audience very specifically. By a well-located digital billboard in a community area or targeted advertisements on a waiting room screen, an SME can reach thousands of consumers within a short radius of their store location every month.

We have offered many of the small businesses that we work with their first foray into the digital advertising space, and same the opportunities that bigger brands have had for years.

In a competitive market where small businesses are vying to remain relevant, a well-placed advertisement can do wonders in gaining the lead. Digital OOH is fast becoming the best way to ensure your potential customers are seeing what you have to offer.

Nazar Musa, CEO, Medical Channel