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Should I Be Advertising Online?

3 minutes Read

By Gene Marks

Small business influencer Gene Marks is a guest blogger for CAN Capital. He is a celebrated author, columnist and small business owner.

Should I be advertising online? I ask myself this question all the time. Millions are doing it, and many of them are small businesses. My company sells software. We are often found via Internet searches. We work in the technology field. So, one would think it natural that a business like mine would be doing more online advertising. But, I don’t. I’ve thought about it. And, at least for now, I’ve decided not to. And here are five reasons why.

1. I’m still not sure it is the best place to advertise. The people that succeed online do their research. They know their markets and they know where their customers are. They understand that today, there are many choices, from search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing) to mobile sites to social media, like Facebook and Twitter. For a small business it’s very tough to cover them all. So you have to be very focused and disciplined. You have to pick a medium and dedicate yourself to it. Because my company sells B2B and across all industries, it’s very tough to pick that one place where eyeballs will be. It’s not impossible and I’m sure that it can be done. But I’m not willing yet to spend the money or the time (see below).

2. I’m not prepared to spend the money. Advertising online can be expensive. In most cases you’re paying per click. And it’s kind of a “be careful what you asked for” story, because if you choose a successful keyword or if your ad is getting attention, a lot of people will be clicking on it and your costs will go up (hopefully your sales will too, of course). Most online advertising services allow you to set a maximum budget but it’s difficult to figure out what that budget is. There are also great services like Reach Local and Yext where you can bulk-buy and manage ads for a bunch of different sites, both online and mobile, that can save money. If you want to succeed online you need to spend. You need to look at it as a long-term investment and not just a quick fly-by. There is no get-rich-quick-scheme on the Internet. Like everything else in marketing, there’s also no silver bullet – it’s a continuous strategy that for most goes on for years and requires a lot of cash. I’m not ready for that yet.

3. I’m also not prepared to devote the time. Like everything else in this world you get out of things what you put into them. To really succeed online you need to devote time – choosing keywords (which is both an art and a science), changing messages, reviewing your metrics (using tools like Google Analytics), tracking what’s working and what’s not, making adjustments, fixing problems. Business owners who succeed here almost always have a person doing this for them – an employee, part-timer or consultant. They understand that successful online advertising requires a significant amount of human involvement too.

4. I don’t have a good landing page. The whole point of advertising online is for the prospect to click on a link and immediately go to a page on your website where they can buy something. Although my company sells technologies, we don’t sell online. We primarily provide services. So if someone does get to our site via an advertisement, they can download a whitepaper, sign up for a webinar or do some research, but they’re not really buying anything…yet. For my business, which is service-oriented, I’m not sure it’s worth it if I’m not getting that immediate gratification. The clients that I have who succeed with online advertising succeed because they’re driving traffic right to their online store where customers are forking over cash (OK, a credit card) right away and they’re converting the lead to a sale right away.

5. I could just promote other people’s products. I could get involved with an affiliate network of advertising like Google AdSense, Affiliate or Clickbank which not only lets users promote their products across others’ websites, but works in reverse. But, I don’t really want to clutter up my website with advertisements for other people at this time. I get why people do this and, if you’ve got the time, money and discipline (see above) it can be a profitable thing. But…not for me. (By the way, although a few years old, this piece on affiliate marketing is excellent if you’re interested in giving it a try).

Which brings me back to my original question: should I be advertising online? Even though I’m not selling anything online, I could probably justify the cost and the effort if I were to try. I know plenty of business owners who do. However, I’m likely not going to do this in 2015. There are so many ways for me to spend my marketing money and for at least the next year, I’ll instead focus on just making my website better and easier to find. Which is another blog entry altogether!


Photo credit: Bplanet/