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Online Advertising for Dummies

Whether you are checking your email, shopping on a website or just searching for information, online ads are everywhere! A new marketing landscape, the Internet offers a new and cheaper advertising space, as compared to traditional spaces like print, television, radio and outdoor advertising. It's a revolution of sorts and small and home business owners are making the most of it.

For a home based start up, online advertising is a potent tool that can maximize visibility, drive traffic to the company's website, up the sales and build a solid brand in the process. Going to an expensive advertising agency to run your campaign would most definitely burn a hole in your pocket. The good news is you don't have to do that. Just remember the twin mantras of focus on what you want and a strong dose of imagination; and you'll be on your way.

Take the guesswork out of online advertising

Online advertising is not a function of elaborate guesswork and a myriad of hits and misses. Like the traditional offline version, online advertising must also follow some basic rules. Know what you want your advertising to do, where to get it and what to do with it once you have it. Here are some guidelines to get you started.

  • Define your advertising objective: Shut the door, switch off the lights, take a deep breath and think why you need to advertise. Clearly define the goals you want your advertising program to achieve. Is it generating new leads, increasing the number of hits on your website, making your company visible in the market place or to increase on/off -line sales? Each goal will have a different advertising path. You can only expect your program to maximize returns, if you know for sure what you want your advertising to do.

  • Decide "where" you want to be seen: It makes a difference to be seen in the right places. Like in offline advertising, the placement of your ad is very crucial to success. Advertising (Co-advertising for higher benefits) on websites that are most relevant to your line of business would be the best place. Also consider top Search Engines, Online Yellow pages, Service Provider directories and large sites or networks. Explore trade ?specific websites for a more focused audience.

  • Tailor the message for your target audience: when you want the caveman to listen, beat your chest! Craft your message to appeal to the target audience. Your message for a visitor on a trade forum's website would be different from what you say to the guy clicking on your ad on a home business site. The trick here is to align your message to the mindset of your audience. Equally important is that the message should convey the promotional goals your advertising desires to accomplish. So if you are selling ice to an Eskimo shopping in an Internet mall, don't forget to mention the discount on your season sale!

  • Be Creative: In a marketplace teeming with new ads you can easily get clobbered on the head with run-of-the-mill ad copy. Your most valuable asset in this crowd is your creativity, which will make your ad stand out. Be creative not only in the copy, but also in the placement of the advertisement. An online contact lens clinic pulls hundreds of people every day to take an eye test with a simple ad. The small 1" X 2" banner says, " Think You Don't Need an Eye Test?" in the same format as you see on the reading sheet in an optometrist's clinic, with alphabets running vertically in a decreasing order. This is a classic example of a simple but creative idea getting the desired results.

    Add more depth to your advertisement by using rich media like HTML, DHTML, Java and layered ads. Use animated messages doubled with pull down menus for better use of space and for expanding possibilities of response.

  • Choose the advertising medium well: They say, "Well Begun is Half Done". If you are going to spend a sizeable amount of money on creating and placing ads, they should do more than just wiggle and pop. To maximize response, choose the advertising medium carefully. You have several choices like banner ads, contextual advertising, ezine advertising etc. Research and read on various formats and the factors for each one's success. Then decide on what format works best for your campaign. Once you have decided on the format, it is equally important to choose the vendor. If you have decided on banner advertising, research and list the websites that would give you the maximum exposure to the right kind of audience. Check out the option of using advertising networks and the pay-per-click options as well.

    Once your campaign has been set in motion, take care to monitor response and be ready to change or completely redo your copy and the advertising vehicles you use. Keep a track of the ROI (Return on Investment) for every advertising purchase that you make. This way you can figure out which forms of advertising are working for you and which ones aren't.

    All online advertising is aimed at inducing "action". Every online ad that you see is built to make you act: 'Register for a free newsletter', 'buy now and save dollars', 'get a quote on your requirements'?the list goes on. The thing to remember here is that once the prospect has been pushed into an action, there should be real value for him at the other end of the pop- up. Unless you can fulfill the promise your brand is making, your online ad has been wasted.

    A well-planned and well-executed advertising campaign can fuel the growth of your home business tremendously. Use online advertising following some simple guidelines and see how it impacts your sales, visibility and brand building, all at the same time.

    Also see:

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