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Honey I shrunk the budget: Big brand advertising for the little guy

One of the frustrating ironies of the small business world is that the marketing tools most suited to small companies are only available to big brands.

For large firms with six figure advertising budgets, getting the message out there is easy. However for their smaller peers – the start-ups, tech companies and even high street businesses – with audiences that are either hyper-local, or contained within very narrow job roles or demographic margins, the challenge is very different.

Taking a mass market approach can never deliver ROI for these firms, and yet the technology they need to reach their specific audience is out of their grasp.

What’s more, the programmatic technology we’re talking about isn’t rare or unattainable, in fact it’s very common. A third (32 per cent) of marketers now spend more than 50 per cent of their budgets on programmatic advertising, that’s compared to just 7 per cent two years earlier. A further 66 per cent of marketers plan to increase their spend in the area in 2016. So why can’t start-ups and SMEs jump on the bandwagon?

Out numbered and out gunned

In spite of all of the great leaps forward – in targeting, relevance to the consumer and the channels through which brands can get their message out – the advertising sector’s historic barriers to entry remain in place: budget and expertise. To realise the full potential of the technologies now available, small companies need to make programmatic advertising and ROI tie up, and that means small budgets, low set-up and running costs and quantifiable results.

In fact, none of these things are without a solution. Looking ahead into the very near future, the advertising sector is on the cusp of achieving the so-called ‘democratisation of advertising’, meaning access to advanced programmatic tools for all companies, however big or small. In practice, this means enabling digital advertising campaigns to happen across all budgets, where non-specialist managers can build scalable ad campaigns and compete for business with the same tools as their larger competitors.

The next step for ad tech is to turn these advanced, complex functions into simplified, user-friendly processes that allow amateurs to use them efficiently, and to great effect. Whatever the business’s size, there will soon be advertising options available that can deliver powerful results on an entirely scalable basis.

Ringing the changes

Simplifying the tools that owner managers and small business teams need also requires simplifying the strategy that underlies their decision-making. Advertising, like any other marketing discipline, should always be driven by the company’s growth imperatives rather than technical know-how, but that’s not yet the case.

By simplifying the technology, the next generation of entrepreneurs will be able to take nothing more than outsourced creative and a small marketing budget and put their message directly into the pocket of anyone they deem to be a potential customer. That could be the person walking past their shop, or the person who just searched Google for the product or service they sell.

Quality control

Thanks to recent advances in real-time that have brought the technology’s potential in line with the true meaning of the phrase, advertisers will now have more control that ever before over their budgets and their ROI. The ability to target different prospects with different messages and then focus the spend exclusively on the approach that produces the best results is something that small business marketers will soon be able to do throughout the day. In doing so, they will make the most of their budget and ensure that only the most relevant potential customers are targeted.

Moreover, based on the accelerated growth and new business potential that a complete array of marketing tools will offer, and the scalable nature of mobile advertising, adspend will be able to grow in line with the business’s ability to deliver. Ultimately, this means that whatever the objective, and whatever the business size, digital advertising will have a solution that offers both clear ROI and complete transparency to the business user, no matter what their level of expertise.

The future, now

Full access to the most advanced ad tech on the market is an amazing prospect for a small business owner. But how far in the future is it really, and what will it take to make that vision a reality?

The answer is that it could be as soon as this year. The technology being used by big brands today is no longer steeped in the complexities that it was when programmatic first appeared in the advertising armoury. Building a user interface that allows business professionals of all disciplines to run complicated ad campaigns with just a few clicks is the very next step, and a handful of small businesses are already contributing to its development.

In the future, businesses of all sizes will be able to get out more than they put in, not just in revenue terms, but also time and expertise, thereby removing a barrier to growth as old as the advertising industry itself.

Andrew Alcock, chief product officer and CTO at PocketMath

Photo Credit: mtkang / Shutterstock