by James Green
Featured on MediaPost’s RTB Insider, September 15, 2014
Over the last decade, search engine marketing (SEM) has served as an integral part of marketing strategies for businesses of all sizes. It doesn’t matter if you are playing in a global, national or local league, SEM allows the right message to be delivered to the right person in real-time, providing a high value to marketers. Even after a decade, this strategy has not yet lost its luster. If anything, we’ve seen SEM grow beyond the search engine and into the world of display advertising, opening new doors for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). As many say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
The recent shift to real-time buying (RTB) and growth of programmatic marketing has changed the traditional way of buying display media, making it more actionable for smaller businesses than ever before. With traditional forms of display advertising, advertisers had to cough up large sums upfront in order to reach their target audience for a given campaign. The challenge for SMBs was that they didn’t have access to the sizable budgets of larger advertisers, and therefore felt limitations in terms of scale and reach. However, because of the influx of programmatic marketing and real-time buying, algorithms are enabling the right ads to be delivered to the right users in real-time using dynamic pricing models.
Now that RTB has become so widespread, it’s catching the attention of virtually all companies, regardless of size, and there are different ways of utilizing it depending on your business. For instance, although display advertising offers a near infinite supply of inventory, not all marketers need to flood the market to create impact. Instead, the most efficient and effective display strategy leverages the best of both worlds (i.e. search and display). This enables you to reach the consumers that you want to influence throughout their path to purchase, including when they show purchase intent and even after they have left your website.
The preeminent tactic for any business is to build its target audience based on two distinct factors: site traffic and search activity. While site retargeting works well, there won’t ever be enough traffic to build a scalable marketing program — therefore, it becomes critical to look at other audience attributes that signal intent, such as search data/keywords. For smaller businesses, intent-driven display advertising can play a prime role in customer acquisition and retention. If done right, you can create highly efficient and cost-effective strategies where you continue to reach and nurture your audience beyond the search engine and re-engage them after they’ve left your website. This is a very powerful approach for attracting, capturing and converting prospects.
The ability for marketers to deliver their ads on premium content through RTB levels the playing field for advertisers of all sizes. For example, advertising on ESPN.com now becomes somewhat affordable and just as important as smaller blogs, because you know you are reaching the right end user. Businesses with small and large budgets can reap the benefits of these new opportunities afforded by retargeting strategies that leverage both site and search data.
There are approximately 28 million small businesses in the United States alone, many of whom have most likely not even scratched the surface of the value of display. There is so much value in RTB and programmatic marketing, with the added benefit of not having to commit massive amounts of dollars to specific publishers – allowing marketers to optimize and improve strategies in real time, just as in SEM. As programmatic marketing use continues to grow, we will see further parity between search and display, resulting in more RTB activity for SMBs. There is plenty of room for brands of all sizes, large or small. May the best strategy win.