Picture this: You’re a business owner in the middle of a global pandemic. You used to rely on local traffic for a good portion of your business, but you’ve had to pivot to increase your online services and serve a wider audience.
It’s a learning curve, though, and it’s taking time to figure out how to really make it work. You’re wondering how you can increase your online enquiries and sales, and everywhere you look the overarching message is ADVERTISE!
And it sounds like it makes sense, right? Throw money at it, put up an ad that will reach thousands and surely, you’ll land more enquiries and therefore, more sales.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Online advertising can be fantastic, but its purpose is to take what you currently have and amplify it. If you are getting a nice steady flow of sales on your website, chances are a well-scripted Google ad will amplify that into a nice increased flow, and it’s worth trying.
But if your website is currently generating no sales, spending money on an ad will just send more people to your site who will behave in the same way as everyone else who goes there and also exit without buying. A thousand times zero is still zero.
Therefore, it’s crucial to have a critical look at your business and your website before you start, to figure out if ads are the right place for you to spend your money at this point in time.
Here are some key things to consider.
Is there a market for what you do?
Did you do market research before you decided to focus on whatever your product or service is? The list of failed business ideas that simply weren’t researched properly is long. People simply did not want laxative potato chips, Cheeto flavoured lip balm, breakfast cola or chocolate sausages, no matter how much money the companies threw at advertising their products.
If you did not talk to people in your target audience to see if anyone would actually be interested in your product or service, start there. Ask people you know. Post in Facebook groups with the right audience.
Check if you have competitors – just Google to see if anyone else is doing the same thing. It’s okay if they are, it actually means there is a market for whatever it is you’re trying to do, and that’s a good thing.
If you do have competitors, research them, too. How does your service or product differ from theirs, and how is it the same? Where is your price point in relation to theirs, and is it justifiable by the differences in your offerings? It’s not a bad thing to be more expensive, but a significant price difference needs to have a visible reason behind it. That reason could be quality (of product or service), it might be experience, it might be something else, but it needs to be visible to your potential clients.
If you realise that your product or service might just not be viable, think about how you can tweak it to improve it.
Is your coaching service too niche, catering only to mothers with twelve or more children who live in a specific town in Alaska? Think about expanding your audience.
Does your clothing range only come in sizes 6 and 8? Think about adding larger sizes.
Does nobody want your marshmallow-topped frozen pizzas? Consider introducing new flavours that are palatable to a wider audience.
Try not to be too attached to your specific business idea and think outside the box to improve it.
Is your site experience costing you business?
If you’ve established that your product or service is viable, then the next thing to check is your website experience. Your website analytics will tell you where you are losing business.
Are your website visitors exiting out after eight seconds because your site still hasn’t finished loading? Are they cancelling their purchase once shipping is added? Are they searching your site for products you don’t stock and exiting when they don’t find them?
Have a critical look at your site’s design and user interface. Ask some friends to test it and tell you their thoughts. Is the navigation user friendly? Is the site pleasant and professional to look at? Does it have any broken links or missing information? Is there anything about it that they found annoying or off-putting?
Is your site mobile friendly? According to Statcounter.com, a whopping 53.98% of website traffic currently comes from mobile phones, so if your site is not mobile friendly you will lose business hand over fist.
Your site needs to look professional, load fast, be easy to navigate and offer quality content. Spending money on ads that sends potential customers to a site that falls short on any of those aspects is a waste of your advertising budget, as those clicks will not result in sales.
If your site is not the absolute best it can be, spend your money there first before you consider running costly ads that will only drain your budget for no ROI.
Know your ad budget and cost of doing business
If you’ve established your business idea is sound and you’ve got your site to a point where it is performing well and generating business on its own, there is one more thing to check before you commit money to advertising: your advertising budget.
Too often, businesses look at their income and set a budget without considering their expenses, or cost of doing business, and end up over committing themselves.
You might look at your income for last month and see that you made $550 per job, and you booked 12 jobs. On the face of it, that means your business brought in $4400.
Only it didn’t. That $4400 first had to pay for taxes. Then it had to cover the costs of running your business: business insurance, vehicle upkeep, software subscriptions, utilities, rent for your office. The costs for every business are different, and it’s important you understand what yours are. That $4400 is likely closer to $2000 by the time you’ve factored everything in, making the actual income from each job more like $166. Out of that amount, you need to set a budget for advertising. You can spend all of it or a portion, but you cannot afford to spend more.
Once you decide what’s reasonable to spend, you need to look at what it’s going to take to make the advertising worthwhile. AdWords can be highly effective, but it’s also expensive, and it’s an ongoing cost. You need to nail your keywords so your ads target the right people, and you need to bid high enough to put you in the top three search results or it will all be for nothing.
If you have good traction on your Facebook Business Page and already receive business through there, a short-term Facebook ad campaign can be a good use of money if you can script your ad well and your budget is not large enough to make a dent on AdWords.
So now you know. It pays to look closely before you commit your hard-earned money to ads. Make sure everything is functioning the way it should, and you’ll be well-placed to have a great ROI on ads should you choose to go down that track!