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Big Game Takeaways: How to Run a Killer Ad without a Million Dollar Sponsor

You don't need a million dollar celebrity sponsor to run a successful advertising campaign.
Caitlyn Blair

From first down to touchdown: the best marketing strategies for small businesses

During most shows, commercial breaks are the part when viewers do just that – take a break from the screen. They grab a snack, go to the restroom, or take a moment to chat. Nowadays, many of us stream or record our favorite shows ahead of time, so we don’t even see the commercials.

When it comes to the big game commercials at the end of the football season, it is a different story. In fact, during the big game, 43% of viewers say they tune in to watch the commercials. That is a stark contrast from the 65% of viewers who typically skip video ads whenever they get a chance.

It makes sense then that brands take this seemingly rare opportunity to create a big production with as many big names as possible. From Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck grabbing Dunkin’ to Alicia Silverstone re-enacting a scene from Clueless, the star-studded ads didn’t stop this year. The average commercial during the big game costs between 6 and 7 million, and while that might be a great investment for big corporations that can shell out those kinds of marketing dollars, smaller businesses might be left wondering when their day in the spotlight will come.

The good news is that you don’t have to break the bank or land a celebrity endorsement to run a successful ad campaign. Believe it or not, your small business can compete with big corporations and win clients.

In fact, some of the most effective forms of advertising are also some of the most cost-effective. Plus, small businesses still have a leg up on the competition! The data shows that more than half of consumers prefer to shop from small businesses when possible. Here are some advertising strategies that will help your small business make the most of what you have. To make it a little more fun, let’s think of these strategies the same way we think about football plays:

  • First down: word-of-mouth marketing

In football, the first down lays the groundwork for the rest of the play, much like a recommendation from a friend shapes a consumer’s perception of your business. The first down is the first of four offensive chances. While those numbers aren’t such an exact science in the world of advertising, both a successful first down and a positive reputation in business mean greater control over the next move.

Believe it or not, word-of-mouth marketing is still the most effective type of advertising out there. In a world where consumers are constantly being bombarded with products and services that they “must try,” it can be difficult to know who to trust. A word from a friend or at least a real person can go a long way. In fact, over 90% of consumers are more likely to trust a brand that has been recommended by a real person, even from a stranger.

One of the best ways to get people talking about your business is to go above and beyond their expectations. Much of this comes down to their personal experience with your team and whether or not they feel valued. Small businesses naturally have an advantage in this area because bigger brands tend to lack that “special something.” If your products and services are stellar enough that your customers feel compelled to leave a review or recommend it to a friend, that can speak volumes even when up against million-dollar ad spends.

  • Second down: social media advertising

The majority of the movement on the field happens during first and second downs. These plays go hand-in-hand the same way word-of-mouth marketing and social media advertising do. Your business can gain a lot of momentum when your customers are engaging with you, and you now have access to the same 4.76 billion active users that big corporations do. You might even say that social media has leveled the playing field for small businesses. It doesn’t take a large budget or even a major influencer to get people talking about your business on social media.

To succeed as a small business on social media, you need to figure out where your ideal audience is spending their time. You don’t want to stretch yourself too thin and invest your resources into platforms that your customers don’t frequently use. If you know that a large percentage of your customers are young adults, you might consider posting heavily on Facebook, where the largest audience is men between the ages of 25 and 34. It is important to post every day if possible, but what is more important is to make sure that each post is authentic to your brand. In other words, just be yourself! Your customers will come to your small business because they appreciate your unique qualities, so don’t dull those down to fit in with the other brands.

One great example of a small business that took social media by storm is Bloom & Wild. If you take a look at their social media pages now, you might not even realize they are a small business, but this flower delivery service grew it’s following by 100,000 in just five years. The company’s most successful campaigns that likely landed them on the “explore” pages of flower lovers everywhere were their seasonal ones. You’ll see that this Valentine’s Day season, they weren’t afraid to think outside the box to relate to their audience, and other small businesses would do well to take note.

  • Third down: content marketing

If your palms aren’t sweaty by the time the third down comes around, then chances are, you might have been one of the 43% of viewers just watching for the commercials (no shame in that). The third down is the real “meat” of the play – it is time for the players to put their skills on full display and leave everything on the field. This is also the time when viewers who might have been tuning out the game start to get in on the action. The same can be said for customers who engage with your digital content.

Through blog posts, videos, e-books, and infographics, your content marks the time to “leave it all on the field.” When customers and potential customers interact with your content, they should have a good understanding of exactly who you are and what you can offer them. For small businesses especially, your content can be a prime place to differentiate yourself and establish your expertise.

Don’t be afraid to coin some iconic phrases that will represent your brand or craft some memorable imagery. Because of the SEO opportunities that come with content marketing, it can also attract those customers who might not have been paying attention otherwise. Weave in keywords and implement local SEO tactics by targeting your specific area in your content.

MoveU is one example of a small business that excels in content marketing. They offer a membership-based digital exercise program that offers daily workout regimens, workshops, and a community of fellow fitness enthusiasts. The team regularly contributes to their blog, where they cover interesting topics regarding fitness that prompt the reader to work with the team to learn more. They also brand their imagery with signature painted muscles that give their audience a unique insight into what is happening in their bodies, a tactic that has made their small business nationally recognizable.

(Source: MoveU)

  • Fourth down: pay-per-click advertising

The fourth down is a “last chance” in football. A wrong move at this point in the play means losing the ball. Fourth down is essentially crunch time, and it might also be time to switch up the strategy. While pay-per-click advertising is not nearly as daunting, it is not usually a first resort in marketing. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising typically comes into the picture when a business has established itself online but needs that extra push to attract the best customers for them.

As the name would suggest, PPC advertising means that your business pays when a user clicks on one of your ads. The most common type of PPC ad is a paid search ad. Think of the last time you did a Google search for a local service. You probably encountered a few “sponsored” businesses at the top of your search results page. These businesses did not appear there by chance but through PPC advertising.

When conducting a PPC campaign, your business would typically bid for the search terms that you want to trigger your ads. The good news is that you would only pay for these ads when users click on them, and they can generate a 200% return on your investment. PPC tends to be effective for small businesses because you can target your geographical area, easily make changes, and track your results. TV ads can produce between 300-500% ROI, so while you might not be on par with the big game time spenders, you can still give them a run for their money.

  • Touchdown/conversion: lead conversion

A touchdown is one of the best moments for the offending team, but the work does not stop there. After a touchdown, the offenders have the opportunity to convert and score an extra two points. When you are marketing your small business, if you have made the right moves up to this point, you will also have a golden opportunity to convert new leads into long-term customers. These customers then have the potential to spread the word about your business, at which point the journey starts all over again.

Ironically, the small businesses that think of their customer as an individual and not as another sale are the ones most likely to make the sales. After all, these people were attracted to your business because of that special “wow” factor, so don’t give up on that just because you are close to a sale. It is a great idea to follow up with your leads if they have not yet converted, but make sure to do so out of genuine concern. Whether your lead conversion is happening over the phone, email, or even an automated system, add touches of personalization every step of the way. The real winners are the businesses that make their customers feel taken care of and heard, even in the end zone. We have a feeling that a positive customer experience from someone they can relate to will mean more than a paid endorsement from a celebrity. Sorry, J-Lo.

Ready to take home the title? Scorpion can help. Find out just how powerful small business marketing can be.