Case Study: Connecticut Pub Casts a Wide Net With Patch Ads

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Like many entrepreneurs, Daneen Grabe, owner of Little Pub restaurant, has little time to research all the advertising platforms that are available in her town of Ridgefield, Conn. She now spends most of her marketing budget on ads in six local Patch sites, in the hopes of attracting some of the hyperlocal news network’s most plugged-in readers. Here’s why. 

What made you  decide to start advertising on Patch?
We use AOL in our house, so I was aware of Patch’s local news feed on the AOL homepage. I had never really consciously paid attention to the ads while looking at local stories, but as they grew and got more local, I started paying more attention. The folks from Ridgefield Patch had just started operating and they came in to Little Pub one day for lunch. We got to talking, and the rest sort of worked itself out from there.

How did you decide on the size and placement of your ads on Patch?
We’ve moved our ad around a lot in our time on Patch. We first started in one of the upper slots solely based on visibility, but as we got more experience—and as the space got more crowded—we went wide with our coverage. Now we advertise on six local Patch [sites], but we take the lowest position for more cost-effective breadth. Little Pub draws a lot from the surrounding towns, so it made sense for us to do that.

How do you gauge whether the ads you’re placing online are effective?
That’s the 4-cent per impression question. Honestly, it’s hard for us to gauge [since] we don’t have a marketing staff tracking and analyzing this stuff. It’s a rough feel based on business growth during the time we’ve advertised and a rough feel for what’s effective. We get reports on the click-throughs and people say they saw us on Patch, so we know it’s working. Certainly the local news feed helps because there are so many people using AOL. Patch’s editorial [content] about things to do in the area for weekends, holidays, or whatever is also a benefit.

How are online readers different from the people you reach via print newspapers or other mediums?
By and large, online readers want their news right now. The local newspaper reader is happy to get local news once or twice a week. We do very little in the way of print ads. We don’t do a lot of traditional advertising, per se. No TV, no radio. It’s basically all online. We invest a lot of time in social media; Facebook, Twitter, and all the food blogs. But we look at that more as Little Pub community building, rather than advertising. That said, we will do the occasional insert in regional papers, but even that is becoming more infrequent.

Is online advertising a good value for small businesses?
I think so. Based on the cost per impression, and the ability to target ads and track click-throughs, you get a better sense of what’s working. In a print ad, what do you do these days anyway? You put your website on it on hope people A) remember it, and B) enter it correctly into their browsers. With online advertising you get the immediate click to your site, plus you can change the ad easily and you get some data to review.

Have you encountered any challenges when it comes to running your ads on the Patch sites?
Not too many. They made the ad up for us and got it running right away. I’d like to be able to edit the Patch page on Little Pub a bit more than they let me, but that’s a technology issue for them. What’s a bit frustrating is my own lack of time to really use the system in the best way. Ideally you can target each ad for that specific market, [but] I don’t do that because every time I sit down to do it, it seems overwhelming. That’s my fault, not Patch’s.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.