Local TV ads and online marketingDavid WaxmanInternet advertising, search engine marketing, target audience The winning one-two punch Online advertising has taken off since 2000 and has been embraced by mortgage professionals looking to market their products and services. It can be a relatively affordable and effective way to reach customers, especially ones who are at a critical point in the purchase-making process. People often use the Internet to research a product or service, or to look for a place to buy it. Yet, despite all of the buzz about Internet advertising and search engine marketing, it still represents a small percentage of the overall advertising market--about seven percent in 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence. What many people don't realize is that Americans continue to spend more time watching television (nearly 4.5 hours per day on average) than they allocate to all other media combined, including the Internet, according to TNS. The Internet has yet to penetrate the American marketplace as pervasively as TV, and TV reaches many more American adults on a given day than the Internet does. In addition, TV offers the unique capability of narrowly focusing on a target audience, both geographically and demographically. That doesn't mean mortgage professionals should forsake Internet advertising. Utilized together, TV combined with Internet advertising offers an opportunity to deliver a powerful one-two marketing punch. The big brands have figured this out. They promote their company, products and services to their target audience with TV ads, and they pull those same prospects in with the Internet in an integrated fashion. Despite the benefits of combining Internet advertising with other marketing efforts, nearly 60 percent of small business respondents to a recent Spot Runner survey indicated that they were not integrating their campaigns. Here's why you should (and, more importantly, how you can) maximize your use of TV and Internet advertising to drive business and gain new customers. Why TV: Getting your name out Before people are moved to buy from your Yellow Pages, print, direct mail or online ad, they usually need to know something about you or at least recognize your company's name. As an advertiser, you have to distinguish yourself from dozens of businesses in your phonebook category, any given day's batch of mail or a crowded search-results page online. TV is one of the most powerful ways to raise awareness for your business, because it merges video and audio to grab people's attention in a way that is impossible through advertising media like print, radio or even the Internet. Global brands, of course, spend a great deal of resources establishing, perfecting and promoting their market differentiators or separating themselves from each other through TV advertising. Local businesses, especially those whose products are commodities, are no different, and they must somehow differentiate themselves from the pack, be it through advertising, a commitment to exceptional customer service or another approach. For many businesses, airing the right TV ad on the right channel can make all the difference in creating and perpetuating their brands. TV advertising can be quite affordable, even for smaller businesses. It can cost as little as $1,500 to run a four-week campaign on premium cable channels such as CNN, Fox or HGTV in most U.S. markets. This is because TV allows advertisers to efficiently zero in on their target demographics and target geographic markets in a way that no other medium can. For example, a Mortgage Broker whose main customers come from within a 10-mile radius could target that area using local cable, and if the business wanted to primarily target families, it could choose to only run ads on certain channels, such as CNN, HGTV or TLC. This ability to target at the hyper-local level and by customer demographic is still lacking on the Internet. TV advertising is essentially made up of a three-part process: commercial production, media planning and media buying. There are generally four ways you can get on TV: retain a traditional ad agency, retain a media-buying firm, do it yourself or work with a self-serve online ad agency that automates the process. Even in this era of multiple media choices, TV is by far the number one advertising medium because it is still unmatched for building brand awareness, preference and sales. Why the Internet: Pull customers in When someone sits down to look online for a new loan or any other business in his neighborhood, he is already in the market for that product or service and probably close to taking the next step, be that calling a consultant, visiting a lender or requesting a loan. So for many Americans, if they can't find your business online, they may never find you. Online ads (whether in the form of text-based or graphical ads that appear on Web sites or search-result pages, or banner ads that appear at the top of Web pages) help you reach customers at that pivotal point in their decision-making process, at which they're actively extracting information from the Internet about your business category or product type. An effective search engine marketing campaign will ensure that when consumers are searching for products or services that your company offers, your company will be on the first one or two pages of the search results. You can manage your online advertising campaign by working directly with search engines and Web sites to track the popularity of relevant keywords and your search results (paid and organic), as well as which format your ads should take and where they should appear--or you can pay a firm to do it all for you. How to integrate your campaigns Used separately, TV and Internet advertising are important media to help drive your business. Used together, these two media can be a powerful combination that will take your marketing campaign to the next level. When developing your TV and Internet campaign, create Web-conscious TV ads, but try to keep the online message you convey on TV simple and easy to remember. Use straightforward voiceover language, such as, "Visit us online at www ... " and make sure your Web address appears prominently in your TV ad. Viewers will visit your site to get more information, such as your address and hours of operation. Keep the overall message of your TV ad clear and simple to avoid overwhelming viewers. When it comes to running an integrated campaign, timing is everything. Make sure you run your TV and online campaigns at the same time and have them overlap whenever possible. In other words, if you've advertised locally on CNN, consider running targeted local ads on Yahoo! News to hit your news-minded prospects with a powerful one-two punch over a short period of time. Make sure your Web site is easy to navigate and visually appealing. Take another example--BizFilings, a 30-person company out of Madison, Wis., that helps entrepreneurs create corporations, LLCs and non-profits. BizFilings ran a local TV ad campaign targeted by ZIP code at the same time it ran an online and direct mail campaign. In six weeks, BizFilings had increased its monthly sales numbers in all five geographic markets that featured the ad (350 percent in one region). The bottom line Businesses (particularly small businesses with limited brand awareness) that invest strictly in online marketing may get passed over on search pages, in favor of companies with more recognizable or familiar names, while businesses that invest strictly in TV will concede their spots in the world's most trafficked marketplace. With television, you have the ability to drive your brand image into the hearts and minds of customers and hone in on your target audience where and when you want to reach them, unlike any other channel that exists today. However, you only have 30-60 seconds to convey your key messages and points of differentiation, so use it also as a way to introduce current and potential customers to your Web site so they can go online to spend even more time to learn about your company's product or services. Use your Internet advertising to make sure customers can easily find your site if they are searching on Google, Yahoo! or MSN, and provide the tools they need to make the next step, whether it's to visit your store or restaurant, make an online purchase or pick up the phone. Whatever you do with your advertising budget, don't let your target audience get overwhelmed by choices. Help them remember you by running an integrated advertising campaign that reaches them at various stages of the buying process. David Waxman is the co-founder of Spot Runner Inc., an advertising agency based in Los Angeles. He may be reached through his company's Web site at www.spotrunner.com.