What Is Interactive Advertising And How Can It Help Your Small Business?

Starting a small business and want to get your advertising plan mapped out? Explore interactive advertising for an added boost.

Small business isn't what it used to be. The possibilities have become endless and have developed way, way past the brick and mortar retailers we have come to identify with a small business. The Internet and the introduction of interactivity in general have changed the landscape forever.

The customer has now come to include several generations of technology savvy consumers. They feel entitled to have what they want, when they want it and where ever they choose to have it. This trend will not reverse but instead all consumers will eventually be highly interactive oriented. Do not exclude a viable target audience just because you don't understand technology as well as they can or you don't click on banner ads or use a search engine everyday.

WHAT IS INTERACTIVE ADVERTISING?

Lets start with the definition of interactive. Merriam-Webster defines it as anything that is "mutually or reciprocally active; of, relating to, or being a two way electronic communication system (as a telephone, cable television, or a computer) that involves a user's orders (as for information or merchandise) or responses (as to a poll)."



Taking this definition into the 21st century we can assume that interactive advertising would include the ability to track the customer or potential lead in some manner that required a response or required them to click through and arrive at your site, your information, or your product. Let's add "as a click through" to the list of responses in the Merriam-Webster definition.

TYPES OF INTERACTIVE ADVERTISING

Here is where the new economy throws the small businessperson, or any type of businessperson concerned with advertising, a curve ball. Interactive advertising includes techniques that can open up a whole new way to approach putting your business name in the public eye. Where once upon a time you could purchase a full page ad in the Sunday Times, now you have the ability not only to know who your definite prospects are when they view and click on an Internet ad or enter a Keyword search, you will also be able to gather some information on those that are interested enough to click but not to follow through.

Here are some interactive advertising techniques:

­- Banner Ads/Display Ads

­- Sponsorships

­- Email

­- Rich media/streaming video & audio/Flash

­- Referrals

­- Slotting

­- Interstitial (pop-up ads)

­- Keyword Search/paid listings

According to a survey conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau in 2004 that measured the revenue of Internet ad format, Classifieds, Rich Media and Keyword Search capabilities are the top three interactive advertising mediums around and gaining ground daily. The once popular banner ads and sponsorships have begun to lose ground, although they will probably always be available and definitely still hold their own as an image builder.

HOW CAN INTERACTIVE ADVERTISING HELP SMALL BUSINESS?

The message is simple. Interactive advertising helps small business by increasing awareness, increasing brand recognition, and causing attitudinal shifts in brands. This was proven, as noted in The Journal of Advertising Research article Advertising on the Web: Is there response before click-through?, to be true even without an actual click-through by the potential customer.

Choosing the right place to advertise or the right format for your product or service is key. This requires investigation on the part of the small business owner and the patience to test venues as they proceed. Putting a mechanism in place to track the results is imperative to receiving accurate and applicable data. Look to your web host first and your programmer to assist you in placing these tracking mechanisms. Consider the use of incentives, proper placement of ads on a web page, and the actual ad and image it projects as being part of your experiment.

Delivering relevant information at the moment the consumer needs it will bring the customer directly to your door. This is why using keyword searches for advertising are so effective because they deliver information directly to the consumer. In addition, it does so per request and a consumer is more likely to view this as non-intrusive.

The challenge of the small business owner, outside of identifying and testing interactive advertising venues, is the integration of interactive advertising with traditional methods. Investigating ways to meld these two will produce a broader and more significant response and, after all, that is what you want, response.

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