A little over a week ago, I penned an Inc. column in which three experts explained what native advertising means and why it's relevant to Inc. readers.
Based upon the response, I did a decent job at the former and failed miserably at the latter. Dry cleaning magnates, pizza chain owners and a host of other Inc. readers scorched me on Twitter for writing an article that, while relevant to Procter & Gamble, The New York Times, and Rolls-Royce, had no meaning whatsoever to Rent-a-Wine-Glass, Bob's Car Wash, or Lia and Colin's Wisconsin Farm Co-operative.
So in a desperate attempt to make amends, I turned to my company's resident small business expert, Ted Birkhahn, for clarification. After all, who wants to piss off Bob or his car wash employees?
I asked Ted for nine conditions under which as a small business owner you should consider native advertising, but the best he could muster up was four (I think Bob scared him). Here they are:
1. You have a receptive audience
Are your competitors using native advertising? If not, that may provide you with a huge advantage--assuming your customers and prospects engage with your small business online (especially from their mobile devices) and dive into native ads.
In that case, ask the top media properties in your region or industry to pitch your business ASAP. Ask them how they can create an "advertorial-looking" information piece that positions you as the thought leader in wine glasses, car washes, or farms. Do this the right way--that is, in a way that provides value--and you'll generate all sorts of new leads.
Otherwise though, native advertising is a non-starter. If your customers and prospects prefer old school, face-to-face conversations or snail mail, hit the delete button right now and hire a teenager to hold up placards outside your business.
2. You can improve customers' lives
If you have a host of ideas, tips, trends, and case studies that can be turned into a page-turner of a native advertisement, then, Ted says, you're home free. That's because regardless of the marketing medium you choose, the content should not be about you--it must instead be about how your company, product, or service can benefit the end-user's life or business.
If you really can improve the day-to-day existence of your customers or prospects then, Virginia, native advertising was meant for you. You can partner with the right trade journal (say, Undercarriage Coating Today?) to provide a whole host of ways to save customers time and money.
3. You're already digitally-savvy
Is your website driving qualified leads? How about your e-mail campaign? What about that embarrassingly bad cable TV commercial you just produced starring you and your brother-in-law?
If your current digital investments aren't paying off, forget about digital. Native advertising is useful for companies on the rise who are doing everything right, and trying to reach a media-conscious target audience that wants to engage online. If that doesn't sound like your business, I'd again encourage you to hit the delete button.
4. You have good resources for creating native ads
Forget about doing any native advertising on your own. Sure, your nephew graduated from Drew University with a graphic arts degree, but does that mean you turn over all your website assets to him? Not unless you want to end up toweling off cars at Bob's Car Wash.
Call the publishers, ad salespeople, or content creators at Duluth Business Today, Wine&Shine, or AutoWashWeekly and have them pitch your native advertising business. Share all of your content and have each trade or business journal show you how you can attract new customers while deepening relationships with existing ones. Make them sweat. Tell them to cut their budgets and treat your money as if it were theirs.
With any luck, you will have yourself one killer native advertising campaign that will not only impact your bottom line but, critically, give you a whole new subject to discuss at the next neighborhood cocktail reception ("Oh, you just grouted your entire kitchen! Far out. Listen to this, Ralph, I just ran a $300,000 native advertising campaign that boosted business by 20 percent!").
Is Ted good, or what?