Make sure you know where your customers spend most of...

Make sure you know where your customers spend most of their online time, and target your digital ads to those platforms. Credit: Getty Images/Obradovic

Approximately $327 billion is expected to be spent worldwide on digital advertising in 2019, according to eMarketer.

Creating a well-tailored digital  strategy for the year will help ensure your marketing dollars are used wisely.

“Now’s the time that all small businesses should be reviewing their digital analytics and see what worked for them over the last year,” says John Lincoln, CEO of Ignite Visibility, an Internet marketing firm in San Diego. “Everybody needs to be budgeting right now for an ongoing digital marketing strategy.”

How much you allocate depends on your goals, but in general marketing should be about 10 percent of annual revenue, and of that, about 80 percent should be devoted to digital, he says.

That also varies depending on the size of the business, with larger firms traditionally spending more offline, although that’s shifted as well.

To decide where to allocate dollars, identify your ideal customers (age, gender etc.) and find out where they spend the most time online. Ask them, or follow relevant online groups that your target audience may be part of.  Then build an advertising budget for each of those platforms, says Lincoln.

At minimum, have a Google Ads strategy. Under Google's program, you pay to put your ads in front of people who are searching keywords related to your product. Your ad appears if your bid (what you are willing to pay per click) wins against other advertisers and your ad is considered relevant to the search by Google, says Lincoln.  You can set a daily budget, he says, and you only pay if someone clicks on your ad.

“We recommend this as a starting point,” says Andrew Catalano, chief digital officer at Austin Williams, an ad and marketing agency in Hauppauge, noting it allows marketers to reach "in-market customers" -- those who are already searching for topics relevant to your product or service.

Beyond that, marketing automation -- in which marketers use a software platform to automate certain marketing functions or repetitive tasks -- continues to be a growing trend, he says. For instance, if a customer fills out a contact form on your website, your system might be set up to automatically email them a downloadable white paper two days later, he says.

Another growing trend is merging the world of digital and traditional marketing, specifically with direct mail, Catalano says. For example, if someone comes to your website and doesn’t take a preferred action, such as filling out a contact form or buying a product, that person can be matched to a physical address and a  mailing related to their search would be sent to the person within 24 hours.

This kind of melding of digital tools and traditional direct mail will continue to be prevalent in 2019, says Kevin Lee, executive chairman of Didit, a digital marketing firm in Melville.

Direct mail can be particularly effective when paired with digital marketing, considering that over time consumers’ mailboxes have gotten less cluttered, he says, so mailers stand out more.

Another prevalent trend next year will be the use of "geo-fencing": serving up relevant ads to customers based on their actual locations using their mobile device’s IP address, Lee says.

In addition, marketers should be embracing digital video and digital audio (Hulu, YouTube, Spotify etc.), he says, noting dollars are shifting from traditional TV and radio to these platforms.

When doing digital video ads, look to frontload the most important information in your video within the first five seconds, says Lee. Consumers are often given the option to hit "skip" after five seconds, so you want key messaging in the beginning, he says.

“Video’s the fastest growing type of content consumers like to see,” says Lincoln. He also recommends checking out what your competitors are doing  in digital marketing. A good tool for that is

Beyond that, don’t ignore having a good content marketing strategy (blog posts, white papers etc.), says Kristen Herhold, content writer and marketer for Clutch, a research and ratings firm in Washington, D.C. A Clutch survey found fewer than 1 in 4 small businesses planned to invest in content marketing in 2018.

 Herhold suggests businesses make a calendar and stick to it, committing to one blog post a week, for example. Also consider using online influencers to help promote your brand or product, she says, noting they do influence consumers' decisions.

Fast Fact:


Percentage of U.S. small businesses that are not taking full advantage of digital tools

Source: Google/Deloitte & Touche

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