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

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.

  1. Joachim Coste
    June 18, 2015

    Hey Lara,

    I find these two points to be contradictory : “Make technology more understandable” and avoiding complaints about “creepy, Big Brother stuff”. If we’re talking about retargeting, the understandable version would be “When a user comes to your site, we place a file on their device. We can then show the device ads, anytime we recognize the file we initially put there!”

    Or do you mean going with an approach that says “forget how we do it, just know that we will be able to show a user your ads wherever they go”?

    1. Lara
      June 18, 2015

      Hi Joachim,
      It is really about the person on the receiving end of the conversations. Many small business owners do not fully understand file on the device and if we need to simply this, we should. With local based advertising, retargeting is actually much simpler because it is not about any file on any device but about knowing that a user visited a location based on them sharing their location and then using that information to drive them for repeat visit.

      1. Joachim Coste
        June 18, 2015

        So basically don’t talk about the tech, and focus discussion on the end result : visitation?

        1. Lara
          June 18, 2015

          In the end results are what drive businesses and what most business owners understand. In terms of the tech – it is putting in their frame of reference. If they are tech-savvy – then they might understand some of the intricate details. If not, then it really comes down to the numbers which in their world is – does this investment drive incremental returns for my business

  2. June 22, 2015

    Hi Lara,

    Great article. Just would like to add that in this vertical world we tend to forget that both consumers and local merchants are asking for a new breed of solutions that bring together both parties in an engaging conversation.

  3. Roger Callahan
    November 17, 2015

    local business community loving new business starters can join us in improving the local business reach & relationships with their customers by joining Fillipp as a partner – We have integrated Digital technology from Social, Emailing, Messaging & other marketing mediums into a combined, effective and easy to use platform thru the Franchise Business model & we welcome all interested in starting a small business with low investment to check it out. We are at for more info on our business opportunity.

  4. Neyar Mandram
    February 25, 2017

    Local merchants have not knowledge in new marketing technology, So many of them invest the non profit advertisements methods, Online marketing and social media is best way to reach all over the world

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