Small Biz and Big Tech: How to Connect Local Merchants With Today’s Ad Technology

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Small Business

At a conference earlier this spring, I was struck by the dazed looks on several local business owners’ faces as they listened to multiple sessions discuss polygons, look-a-like modeling, and beacons. In conversation, I repeatedly heard complaints about the “creepy, Big Brother, NSA-type” of stuff being discussed. I was left with the impression that none of the strategies discussed felt like it mattered within local’s “world.” Undoubtedly, this is a misconception. From where I sit, it is not the local application of ad tech that is the problem, rather it is the way in which we present ad tech strategies that is causing the disconnect.

Local businesses need help to utilize, understand and apply the latest and greatest tech so they can better focus on building relationships with their customers. How can we simplify the tech so it’s more digestible for everyone, and allows local business owners to get the most use out of what’s available and applies to them? The answer is that we need to better link it to foot traffic for local businesses, and make ad tech strategies more attainable, accessible and applicable.

1. Make Technology More Financially Accessible
Price is only a barrier if results cannot be proven. Many local business owners are wary of taking a financial risk or investing when there isn’t a guarantee that they’ll generate business. Local businesses will search for validation or assurance that an investment will generate business, and may want to start small with a low-cost test. Typically, a small investment on a large scale of the global tech world will most likely not translate well. A small test, however, that is scaled and structured for local businesses presents a real answer to this problem. Risk can be minimized if tech companies can shift gears and focus on a results-oriented conversation. The technology will be then be accessible and attainable for these businesses, and also suit the solutions they need.

2. Make Technology More Understandable
How do we translate big tech terms so that information is digestible, applicable and local businesses can feel comfortable that it will generate results? We need to begin by speaking a language that local business owners will understand. This means presenting ad tech as a solution to the challenges that they face daily, and changing the message from complicated and high-tech, to straightforward and precise. When discussing local advertising strategy, it is important to focus on real-world results instead of technical jargon. We need to break down the verbiage so it’s simple and relevant to the challenges advertisers face on a local level, so we can better manage their expectations.

3. Make Technology Applicable Locally
We as an industry need to ensure that our message is clear and applicable at the local level, but it’s equally important that we highlight how ad tech can apply to local advertisers’ marketing strategies. Messaging and pricing aside, it is most important to address the needs and challenges that face local businesses. As opposed to national brands, local shops are not necessarily focused on scale as much as they are on maintaining loyalty in their community. Improvements in tech enable local businesses of today to build online communities to better serve their customers. This is the crux of what ad tech can do for local businesses and why we need to make it accessible for them – the impact on the community. In a world where everyone today is online, it is important for small businesses to understand how to utilize technology to implement their online strategy in order to stay relevant.

You can’t love what you don’t understand and the same holds true at every level of strategy – from local to global. We already know geo-targeted advertising campaigns equal success; it’s only a matter of jumping the hurdle of understanding before local businesses know it too. As technology providers and an industry, we need to be clear about not only the benefits, but also about any perceived issues – privacy and cost, for example. Building relationships is the greatest step toward any successful business. We simply need to show local businesses how they can do what they’ve always done, but on a pinpointed scale. Once local businesses understand how advertising technology fits their needs and their business plans, they’ll be more open. It’s our job not only to supply the tech, but to educate about it too.

lara headshot high resLara Mehanna is U.S. General Manager, VP Sales & Business Development of SONATA, the first global mobile advertising platform focused on connecting online advertising to offline results. Prior to SONATA she was GM of Mobile at DataXu. Follow Lara and SONATA on Twitter or learn more here.