From cafes to solicitors to florists, small businesses make up 99.9% of the UK’s private sector and, over the past 20 years, the exponential growth of this market has run in parallel to that of digital advertising – reflecting a close, mutually beneficial tie between the two.
So, as we collectively navigate the economic fallout of Covid-19, how can digital advertising help small businesses weather the storm? IAB UK’s ‘Powering Up’ research shows that while the majority of SMEs use and value digital advertising, 40% aren’t using it at all and small business owners want help with how to get the most out of digital channels.
In answer to this, IAB UK has launched an interactive online tool that caters for campaign budgets between £500 and £5m. By inputting a range of information about their objectives, SMEs can access bespoke, jargon-free advice. The aim? To help small businesses unlock more value from digital advertising, particularly during this challenging time.
Of course, achieving this relies on support from across the industry and so, to mark the launch of the tool, we asked key players how they think digital advertising can help small businesses rally and recover from 2020.
David Walby, head of growth, Wolf & Badger
My advice to other SMEs at this time would be to think outside the box when it comes to digital advertising. Be nimble, make the most of digital’s flexibility and focus on forging a sense of community. Online channels have enabled us at Wolf & Badger to work with like-minded brands – such as Pasta Evangelists – to bring more value to both our community and theirs. We’ve been able to use digital’s flexibility to seamlessly pivot our content to centre on areas our community gravitate to – using social, analytics and human touch to listen to their priorities.
While the pandemic has thrown us a big curveball, we’ve been able to use our digital presence to further expand our horizons and galvanise our community – our customers, our designers and our team – allowing us to reach and engage with new audiences in increasingly authentic, experimental and entertaining ways.
Polly Chandler, strategy director, Mindshare
If there is one thing we know to be true about SMEs it’s that one size does not fit all. The diversity in business type, maturity, customer base and digital competence means that taking a tailored approach to advice is crucial. We know that since the Covid-19 outbreak, people are trying even harder to support small businesses, particularly those in their local communities. This, coupled with increased online usage in recent months, would suggest people will respond positively to digital ads from SMEs.
Whatever their start point, digital advertising can offer SMEs a boost in the current climate, particularly as the lines between marketing and commerce blur. Whether that’s first-timers dipping a toe into Google ads or Facebook for Business, physical stores shifting stock through social commerce platforms or seasoned pros honing their data strategies or bringing products to life through AR. Digital advertising is accessible to everyone at every level.
Steve Hatch, VP Northern Europe, Facebook
Small businesses represent nearly 50% of UK jobs and are critical to the economic recovery, but they will continue to face immense challenges as a result of the pandemic. Digital advertising has been a huge driver of small businesses growth in the UK in recent years and will continue to play a key role as SMEs bounce back from the downturn; enabling the smallest of businesses to compete on equal terms, to grow market share in the most cost-effective way, to protect and increase jobs and ultimately drive economic growth and strengthen communities.
In recent months, Facebook has launched a number of innovative initiatives to help SMEs – from Facebook Shops to our business resource hub – and it’s been inspiring to see so many SMEs using our platforms to communicate with existing and new customers as they innovate and pivot their businesses to trade in new ways throughout the lockdown.
Martin Smith, executive director of direct sales, Mail Metro Media
By pivoting their strategies and embracing innovation, businesses are finding new ways to reach their customers – with a particular focus on online channels. Such ingenuity deserves collective backing from our industry and there are a number of ways for us to deliver this. From guidance to grants, we all have an interest in supporting SMEs and it’s crucial that these advertisers have the knowledge and means to get the most out of the channels on offer.
When we at Mail Metro Media announced that we were giving away £5m worth of free advertising to small businesses back in May, we saw a staggering 6,000 SMEs apply for the fund in just three working days – giving you some idea of the appetite there is for support. The success of our bespoke campaigns, particularly the digital elements, targeting each SME’s specific audience and regions, is resulting in both parties establishing great mutually beneficial relationships long-term.