Your Business Name in Lights: Online Advertising 101

Ever heard of John Wanamaker?
According to Wikipedia, he was a wildly successful American merchant, civic and political leader, and is sometimes referred to as the father of modern advertising. But he’s probably most famous for this quote:

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

If you’re a local business owner, you probably just laughed. Or groaned. Either response makes sense – it’s funny because it’s true, right? Not anymore.

Be Where Your Customers Are

Advertising is all about getting your local business in front of the people who are most likely to buy from you. But before you start thinking about specifics, consider the overall goals of your online marketing strategy. Where do you need to focus your efforts? How can you get the most out of the ad dollars you spend? With hundreds of options out there, narrow down your choices by making sure you:

  • Show up where people are searching for you through text ads on search engines and local directories. Focus on keywords related to your local business, product or service (e.g. “door and window repair” or “broken window Dallas” using your city keywords, of course). This is known as search engine marketing, and ensures consumers ready to make a purchase at that very moment spend their dollars with you, and not your competitor.
  • Show up where people are surfing through display ads next to content related to your business. Today, there are literally millions of websites geared specifically to your business vertical or professional specialty, so focus on those. What this does is increase brand awareness about your business, so your name sticks in their head and can come to the surface when they need your product or service in the future.
  • Track everything. Forget the wasted dollars you’re used to from offline media, and start learning which types of advertising actually deliver the clicks and calls that convert into dollars for your local business.
  • Get quality creative. That’s industry code for “ads and videos that don’t look like they were thrown together haphazardly.” Including or leaving out certain types of information, or aesthetic tweaks can mean the difference between getting a click or not.
  • Know what’s next. Consumers are always checking out out new digital technology platforms and services. Right now, group buying deals (like Groupon or LivingSocial, and location-based apps (like Foursquare or Gowalla) are all the rage. By getting on the bandwagon early, you’ll attract new customers, get your business name on everyone’s minds, all while staying ahead of your competition.

The Funnel is Your Friend

The reality is that all consumers fit into the buying funnel – they’re just in different stages of readiness to spend money at your local business. Some may be ready to buy now, and some might be just be considering it. And many may not even have a need for your product or service – yet.

The solution? Make sure that your local online advertising strategy builds brand awareness to consumers further up the funnel, while snagging the ready-to-buy consumers towards the bottom.

What are you doing now to target digital consumers at every stage of the funnel?


The ReachLocal online marketing blog shares practical tips and advice for those who want to reach local customers online. Learn about online marketing from our in-house experts and thought leaders.

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