Monday, March 03, 2008

Gasta SearchMatch hits the Spot for SBO's

Gasta Views: SearchMatch hits the Spot for SBO's

Enabling small business owners to launch campaigns on large publishers' sites could be the next million dollar idea.

From automotive and restaurants to carpet cleaning and hotels, a large percentage of us are involved in a business where the local owner/operator is vital to our success. But stepping out from the argument of corporate-knows-all vs. all-business-is-done-locally for a moment, we can all agree that there would be a tremendous benefit to getting these local operators online in a local, customizable fashion that drives real ROI. Sadly, the largest and most advanced portals and networks have neglected this market -- and millions of dollars have been lost as a result.

Currently as small business owners (SBOs) get out their wallets and try to "finally launch an ad campaign online," they find that getting someone to take their money can actually be a challenge. For an SBO who turns to a major portal with his entire quarter's ad budget, $5,000, the money is turned away because of minimums. The result is no different when soliciting the help of most major ad networks. My goodness! We have someone here willing to spend $5,000 and no one will take it. Are times that good?

Microsoft buying Yahoo shows that times aren't that great for everyone. It could be said, "Jay, it takes us the same amount of effort to write an order for $2,500 as it does $25,000, and we just can't be profitable running hundreds of small campaigns." But think about it: Google has built its business on $2,500 campaigns, and they're eating competitors' lunches so badly that Yahoo has to be bought to compete, and you "can't afford" to take that business? Large publishers need to look now for profitable ways to take SBO campaigns. Here are a few steps that could push large publishers in the right direction.

Partner with a flash ad generator
Search any form of "flash ad creation" and you'll find dozens of folks who have created software that takes flash templates and allows laymen to instantly create customized variations. Some portals already offer this, but they should leave pride and effort-spent-to-date behind if better solutions exist. Most SBOs are used to stepping out of their comfort zone and doing things themselves. Building an ad from a template builder will be easy for them, and can be done in a controlled environment for you.

Open up your API, or build one
Buying, placing and loading campaigns can all be automated, and this is the key to profitability on the publisher end. Sure there will need to be some manual oversight for delivery purposes, but one person should easily be able to handle hundreds of campaigns. From there, educate the SBO on campaign optimization and put it on them; but, provide an 800 number in large print at all times. This is one mistake Google has made, and I believe it is a key source of the frustration users feel toward the company.

Be fully transparent with targeting and placement disclosure
The No. 1 targeting desire for most SBOs is geographic; usually involving one or multiple specific ZIP codes. Anyone who has done the research knows this is simply not possible by IP and must be done with registration data or user input. SBOs are surprisingly understanding when it comes to limitations like these -- if those limitations are clearly explained to them up front. It's when expectations aren't properly set to begin with that frustrations brew and animosity sets in.

Because the user would be responsible for placement and creative optimization, an aggregate data library of best practices for vertical and placement would go a long way toward ensuring repeat business by giving SBOs useful data and information to improve their own results.

Work with resellers
The eBay model works. Embrace those that will be power users and help them make you more money. We work with dozens of companies in multiple verticals whose franchisees are 100 percent ready to make the leap into online as long as someone is able to liaison between them and the publisher. In fact, we could have easily brought over 1,000 campaigns of between $2,500 and $5,000 to a publisher by now -- and that is just our company! When $2,500 turns into $2,500,000, might publishers think and act differently?

The reality is there are hundreds of agencies, consultants, and leading speakers who are well-known and trusted within their verticals. Providing a higher, private level of support to these influencers and connectors creates value at the reseller level, minimizes time spent re-explaining the same thing to 100 different SBOs and motivates everyone in the same direction. Of course, accepting SBO credit cards for campaign pre-payment and paying the resellers immediately would seal the deal toward partnership and profitability.

Let this be an open call to agencies and corporate marketers with a horse in the local retail race. This is an initiative you can't afford to ignore. The first major portal or ad network to create a cleanly-branded content solution with the acceptance of third-party ad serving from its resellers will have trouble finding bags big enough to cart away the money. Our network of franchisees and dealers in multiple verticals alone would make this effort worthwhile, and I would imagine there are another 50-100 companies just like us. At a time when two goliaths are having to join forces to stay competitive, is there anyone who can afford to ignore one thousand payments of $2,500?

Jay Friedman president of Goodway 2.0