Borrell Associates recently published a study that concluded that a large number of small business owners are flocking to Facebook Ads as their primary outreach to customers. The study has generated a lot of chatter, including Tom Grubisich from Street Fight who focused on the impact of Facebook Ads on community news sites. I’m usually in wild agreement with Tom on most issues as it relates to hyperlocal publishers, but I found this report (and his interviews) left me with several questions:
- One claim is that Facebook ads are easy to understand, purchase and measure. Tom suggests that Facebook’s online sales pitch is simple for a small business to understand. I don’t see many small businesses navigating through the 25+ links off Facebook’s small business page. I do think that many people will try a Facebook ad because it’s so cheap to get started. I would love to see Borrell drill down on this area and find out the average marketing spend over time and how many business owners are personally measuring the effectiveness of their ads.
- Are small business owners going with Facebook because it’s effective or easy? It’s our experience that small business owners go with what is “easy” and has anticipated payback. Most of them are on Facebook a lot so they figure all their potential customers are too. If Facebook is truly working for these small businesses, we’d like to see the analytics around that.
- Did the report look at the churn rate of Facebook ads? 62% of SMBs have done a Facebook ad, but for how long?
- Why is the Facebook Ad a better buying experience? To me, it seems that what’s better about it is that it is self-service.
If local publishers pick up just one nugget from the report, it’s that they should enhance their offerings with something that is self-service. Customers of all sizes love to be able to move at their own speed and not get slowed down by sales and marketing reps. If the only way a local business can buy from their local publisher is to physically talk with the publisher’s sales team, then you are guaranteeing a slower sales cycle and lost sales.
For me, the key takeaways from this survey were:
- Facebook is a formidable competitor for hyperlocal publishers. They are not your friend. They are laser focused on the same revenue dollars that you want.
- Facebook does not “sell” to local businesses. They offer their capabilities to local marketing agencies and have a self-service signup option. If all you have is a sales team that needs to manually close deals, you are losing opportunities. If you do have self-service options, you have a big advantage over Facebook – you can do both self-service as well as hands-on consultative selling.
- Note that Facebook doesn’t focus or talk at all about the number of clicks they get on their website; their only focus is on how many targeted individuals saw your post. The rules of the online advertising world are changing fast, and if you want to keep pace, you’ll want to show those analytics to your customers. Local marketing expertise is a must for your sales team and should be part of your sales “package”.