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Long gone are the days when companies needed big time marketing budgets to get themselves heard. Now, businesses of all sizes can put a few bucks towards digital marketing and get their message out to millions. According to eMarketer, digital ad spending is expected to grow from $83 billion in 2017 to $129 billion in 2021 and companies will spend $10 billion more on digital marketing this year than on television advertising.

The shift to online spending has given a big boost to smaller companies who may not have been able to afford a 30-second TV spot or a full-page ad in a magazine. With the average cost per click for a Facebook ad about 27.29 cents in 2016, according to Hootsuite owned AdEspresso, and the cost per 1000 impressions a little more than $7, you don't have to spend much to get in front of key customers.

While cost will depend on company size, for most small businesses, $200 a month on a social ad spend will go a long way, says Shama Hyder, CEO of The Marketing Zen Group. "For that little you can make sure your Facebook fans see more of your content," she says. "Or you can target people within a certain radius."

That kind of targeting is the reason why digital marketing - which includes Google Adwords, social media advertising, e-mail marketing and more - is soaring. Unlike with traditional advertising, you can zero in on a specific audience, like 30-something New Yorkers or minivan-driving parents in Wichita. "It's transformed opportunities to market to people who are in the vertical their product is playing in," says Jeff Hofmann, general manager of Chase Ink business credit cards.

As popular as digital marketing has become, many business owners still find it difficult to know where to put their dollars - there are so many sites to choose from. Hyder says to not get overwhelmed. "It's less about the tools or what social sites you use and more about how you reach the right customer," she says. 

Know Your Customer

Before doing anything, you need to know your customer and find out where they spend their time online, says Hyder. If your business caters to millennials and denizens of Generation Z then popular (and younger-targeted) sites like Snapchat may be the way to go. If you're a business-to-business operation, then advertising on LinkedIn might be the target of choice. "A lot is determined by your audience," she says.

Where you advertise will also depend on what you're selling. If you're in a more visual business, like architecture or design, Instragram, which is seeing the fastest growth in advertising, is an ideal place to advertise. Whatever you do, though, Hyder says to be consistent. "It's never going to be one Tweet that gets results," she says. "You have to spend time on it." 

Understand the End Game 

While digital advertising can be done in a cost-effective way, if you don't know what you're doing and aren't paying close enough attention, digital advertising buys can go through the roof. 

Digital advertising, like all forms of marketing, needs to have a purpose, says Hofmann. It could be driving traffic to a brick and mortar store or helping to originate new leads. Maybe it's to increase branding and awareness, but whatever the purpose is, there needs to be a reason for why you're advertising. "It's important to understand your end game," he says "Your calls to action have to be distinct."

Managing the Cost

It's also important for businesses to figure out how to pay for their online ads. Depending on the site, and how you structure your ad buy, the costs could add up. For example, Google AdWords, which lets people purchase key words, can get pricy if those words are in demand. Consider paying with a rewards-based business credit card, where you can earn points for every dollar spent, says Hofmann.

Chase Ink Business Preferred® offers its cardholders three times the points* on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines, whether that's through Google or Facebook. Those points, which can be redeemed for flights, hotel, gift cards and a host of other items, can add up over time, especially if you're regularly advertising online. "This makes digital marketing even more powerful," he says. "It should be a recurring investment to help the business grow."

Whatever sites you end up advertising on, Hyder says you have to be patient. But, because it can be cheaper to market online than in other ways, it will pay off. "It takes time, but out of all of your options in reaching an audience, it's still the most cost effective, she says. "And it will continue to pay dividends over time."


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