It’s hard to believe it, but local business owners, as we found in talking with them, are very sensitive people.
Not the kind of sensitivity that makes you want to watch “The Notebook” on repeat, but a different kind: the anger they get when being “sold” an online advertisement.
About a month ago, a few members from the Local Fourth Business/Revenue team ventured into downtown Evanston, Ill., to chat with businesses about their advertising preferences. At first, this exercise was designed to add to our research – we were looking for more information about advertiser needs, a major portion of our final report and presentation.
What we found was a lot of built up anger – anger toward online advertising. One local business owner was so distraught that we used the words “online banner ad” on our written survey that he almost refused to fill it out. After a minute of calming and consultation, he finally agreed.
Despite all this angst toward the idea of spending money on an “online banner ad,” there was something interesting we learned by accident through this survey. You see, one option we asked business owners to rank was named, “Full-page sponsorship ads.” At the time, we semi-stole the idea off the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, whom was selling a form of advertising themselves under a package labeled in a similar fashion. We thought we could mimic the idea – turn the conventions of an “online banner ad” into something a little larger, slightly more prominent on a website that gave the impression of being more important. In essence, as we understood it, a “Full-page sponsorship page” was nothing more than a slightly exaggerated “online banner ad.” Yet, as our survey results showed, business owners loved this concept.
Sales can sometimes center around perceptions. Learning the connotations and meanings that business owners dislike about a certain style of advertising on the Web could mean a big difference in a sales approach for a hyperlocal publisher. When we set out to conduct out survey that day, we had no idea that we were going to learn this type of information – that language counts when classifying advertising on the Web.
This just goes to show how important primary market and advertising research can be for a hyperlocal. Taking the time to conduct this sort of thing that open up ideas that could help lead to revenue generation.
It has become the focus of the remarks we are planning on making during our final presentation this Thursday evening (which, if you haven’t already heard, is taking place at the McCormick Tribune Center Forum on Northwestern’s Evanston campus at 5 p.m.): Sometimes finding a sustainable revenue-generating model in a hyperlocal space is about putting aside what you think you know, and learning a whole lot of little things you never knew about a market. Sometimes, as we surely found out, information you weren’t looking for will arise – and become increasingly valuable.
Main lesson: pay attention to how advertising sales are perceived to local businesses. Perception can be everything at times, and creating a positive relationship with businesses can lead to a fruitful, long-term partnership.
Something both sides can profit from.