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Every business owner wants the same thing: to increase sales by driving greater traffic into their stores. From billboards to coupon packets, the goal is the same: more feet through the door, more sales.

For small and midsize businesses, in particular, the approach has been to spend significant money and time on traditional advertising campaigns (local newspaper ads, radio, direct mail, billboards, phone book ads, and maybe even TV), yet they don't always get the kind of real, measurable results they desire. But most stick to traditional approaches because digital advertising seems out of reach—too confusing and too expensive.

The reason that traditional advertising channels work is that's where the eyeballs are, but those eyeballs now also belong to consumers who are not receiving circulars or, if they are, are throwing them into the recycling bin—and looking online instead.

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs)—especially those with multiple locations—need to evaluate digital campaigns that help level the playing field so they can compete with larger retailers and restaurants with national ad budgets.

Most SMBs may not realize that it is possible—and affordable—to target relevant consumers in close proximity to their stores by using an online, neighborhood-level targeting approach.

Here are some considerations for SMBs and franchisees when evaluating their online advertising strategy.

Go digital

Small and midsize business owners are accustomed to traditional ad campaigns, such as direct mail, which can take weeks to plan, create, and implement. Digital advertising seems scary: too fast, too expensive, and, really, just for the big guys. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Digital's ability to create and perfect campaigns on the fly means they can craft timely and meaningful messages for their target audience—and fix them if they aren't delivering results.

In addition, digital advertising affords the ability to repurpose existing campaign creative. For example, content from a direct mail piece can become the basis for a digital campaign—a huge saver of time and resources.

Use data for greater relevance

Regional and multilocation businesses, such as regional restaurant chains or franchises, now have the ability to harness technology that analyzes and combines offline and online data, enabling them to learn more about their target guests. By using that data, these business owners can pinpoint the neighborhoods where potential customers are most likely to live.

In one example, a national restaurant chain franchisee that owned more than 100 East Coast locations evaluated what is ordered throughout the day, every day, at each location. By analyzing guest traffic patterns, typical orders, etc., the restaurant was able to identify trends and serve up relevant, online advertising campaigns based on that data—specific to each location.

Use targeting to bring in your best customers

Targeting across entire DMAs is not the best strategy for small and multilocation business owners. DMAs are huge, in geography, diversity, and population—and likely beyond the reach of the proprietor of a small handful of stores.

Three-quarters of US consumer spending occurs at retail locations within 15 miles of consumers' homes—an area smaller than any DMA. By instead targeting the most relevant consumers at the neighborhood level, businesses can serve digital ads to only the most qualified prospects.

For example, a grocery store with 100 locations across the country must understand the typical demographic for each store, at the neighborhood level, to truly serve targeted offerings that will drive increased sales of specific products. Those stores can now use online and offline data to pinpoint the neighborhood most interested in specific products—for example, Christmas vs. Hanukah dinner ingredients and supplies.

Save money by eliminating wasteful ad spending

Hyperlocal, neighborhood-level digital targeting enables small and regional businesses to efficiently reach the most relevant shoppers, driving them to their local stores or restaurants for less than the cost of traditional advertising channels.

By targeting their ads only to those neighborhoods that have residents most interested in their products, businesses can eliminate the cost of advertising to irrelevant audiences that are going to ignore their messages.

Grow your business

Unlike any other medium, digital advertising drives qualified shoppers into your stores—new local shoppers, valuable "hand raisers" who have visited your website, as well as past and current customers. In addition, digital advertising enables businesses to scale campaigns at a pace that fits their business needs—as quickly or slowly as necessary.

Now is the time to consider hyperlocal digital strategies to fulfill specific revenue goals for your small and midsize business, whether you have multiple locations across the country or just a few regionally or locally.

Harnessing online and offline data puts small business owners in the driver's seat—pushing sales to locations that need it most and easing the time, money, and resources demanded of you when employing traditional advertising techniques.

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image of Gretchen Joyce

Gretchen Joyce is chief operating officer at MaxPoint Interactive.

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