To most observers perception is reality, but in marketing, measurement is critical, and in big business a return on investment must be identified.
Local businesses, however, don’t often invest heavily in marketing with 78% spending less than 10% of revenue (Nielsen Online Custom Survey and WebVisible, Inc., 2008) and many spend little time with their online effort.
Consumers, on the other hand, are increasingly using online means to find local products and services, while relying less on print and other traditional advertising mediums (tv, radio, direct mail).
In speaking with a business associate recently, we got to talking about the local weekly space. My community has two of them, one is independent, the other is owned by a regional daily newspaper. Each have light content in the way of announcements and heavy doses of advertising.
They are both free and rely on advertising from local business and independent contractors. The circulation is around 30,000 and they are direct mailed to households in a specific geographic area and put out in stores and shops in an even broader area.
The perception is that local business must advertise in these publications, because people use them to find services they need. Undoubtedly, they are used and read.
The advertiser gets focused on having done it before, everyone else does it, and the circulation, which looks great, but none of this measures the return on investment.
Online, measurement is granular. You not only know how many visited, but the pages visited, where they left and how long they stayed. You know if they came directly to you or were referred from another site.
And this is the problem. If a small business or independent contractor compared the perception of getting 30,000 households viewing his/her advertisement with detailed web analytics showing a significantly smaller number, which space do you think they will spend their limited dollars?
Over two years, small business usage of local newspapers for advertising has decreased 24%, while consumer use in finding local businesses via these publications has decreased 15% (Nielsen Online Custom Survey and WebVisible, Inc., 2008).
As consumers shift online, local business will need to follow (read my post on this shift) and when online, perceptions will give way to reality.