Advertiser Roundtable Discussion

On May 21st I met with a group of eight local advertisers in the Ft Wayne market to discuss the challenges they face in digital marketing.  We agreed to speak about the following three broad topics:

  1. What changes each is experiencing in marketing their business
  2. Changes they see in their customers’ expectations
  3. How they are reacting to the observed changes

There were a wide range of businesses represented.  There were two agencies, an orthodontist, the local tourism advocacy office, a large regional hospital, a family-owned power equipment retailer, and a bicycle sport retailer.

While the session lasted almost 75 minutes, there were a number of interesting comments that illuminated the impact digital is having on local businesses.  My take is that digital is impacts how every SMB does business today.  We heard a lot about how they are placing effort against quality website content, how spending on traditional media has either been reduced or eliminated, how their next gen customers use social media to find them and how search/search re-targeting play a bigger role in their marketing plans.

I’ve summarized some of the better insights made by attendees below:

  • One of the ad agencies mentioned that programmatic now represents almost 75% of their media buys because it enables them to buy more targeted audiences.
  • The Orthodontist said that print buys have gone “by the wayside”
  • The local tourism office said that they are heavy users of search, re-targeting, and fresh website content.  The power tool retailer echoed this approach.
  • The large regional hospital relies heavily on direct marketing via text messages and email.  The bicycle retailer also uses these tactics.
  • The local tourism office had no digital staff five years ago.  Today they have a full-time digital marketing manager and a staff that focuses on search and site content.
  • The hospital’s website is now controlled by the marketing department where it was once managed by the IT department.
  • One of the agencies said they spend much more time now accessing campaign data because their clients expect them to be more accountable with their digital dollars.
  • While social media was not initially mentioned by attendees as something they spend money on, everyone agreed that social’s impact on their marketing message has been profound.  We heard several stories about how social discussions had wrested away the SMB’s ability to control their message.  One attendee said, “the best method for countering negative social feedback is to constantly produce and publish your own quality content.”
  • Regarding search, one attendee was very high on Google webmaster tools.  He said that the Google queries tool enabled them to only purchase adwords for those terms against which they ranked low and to focus organically on those they did well against.