9 Tips for Selling Ads to Local Businesses


This week’s Street Fight Summit in New York City brought over 300 tech vendors, small businesses and representatives of large sales teams together to discuss the biggest trends in hyper local organizations. After hearing from Venture Capital partners, Buzzfeed editors and snazzy start-up founders, I’ve distilled the most valuable lessons of the day into:

9 Tips for Selling Ads to Local & Small Business Owners

#1 – Fragmentation is the present and the future.  

Radio alone isn’t the solution. Neither is Facebook. Business owners need a multi-pronged approach to advertising and customer outreach—from local TV spots to direct mail to Instagram to yelp. The more channels you can help them with, the more valuable you’ll be. And even if you can’t sell all of those channels, you should frame your product (ie a 30sec tv spot or website pre-roll) in the context of that larger media landscape.


#2 – If it ain’t broke…you should still fix it.

Help the owner understand that what worked before is unlikely to work again. Things change, and they change fast. Earlier this year Google announced that mobile searches have topped desktop, and Yellow Pages moved away from print publication. Last year’s strategy will need some drastic changes if it’s to be successful in 2016.


#3 – Make it short. Keep it simple.

Put yourself in the small business owner’s shoes, and understand that they’re very busy. Very, very busy. They’re overwhelmed by all of the tasks before them, including scheduling services, hiring employees, managing customers, creating marketing campaigns, evaluating new PoS software… Don’t expect to win them over with lengthy white papers. Instead, try actionable tips, easily shareable insights and remarkably simple visualizations.


#4 – Address their concerns head-on.  

Street Fight research shows that small businesses’ top budget investments are Mobile Commerce (40%), Social Media (37%) and Native Ads (29%). They need to focus on driving revenue, either by loading the top of the funnel or reducing churn. How are you uniquely positioned to help them realize that goal?


#5 – Speak their language.  Or, at a minimum, try not to speak yours.  

Most small and local business owners don’t know much about APIs, Programmatic or Indexes. But they do understand profit, and you hold the keys to helping them make more money than they could ever imagine. So save the jargon for when you’re back in the office.


#6 – Focus on in-store sales.

Businesses need to do everything they can to get people into their stores. Clicks are great, but web traffic is no substitute for foot traffic. 93% of sales still happen in-store, accounting for $4.5T each year. So make sure your product is designed, from content to delivery, to drive foot traffic.


#7 – Help them go hyper local.  

On average, 80% of the money you spend is within 20 miles of your home. So do everything you can to help the business owner understand that 20 mile radius. What other businesses are in that space? Which are growing? Which are contracting? What media outlets have a finger on the pulse of that 20 mile radius? And how can your experience working with other businesses in the region help each of your clients be more successful?


#8 – Work with all available data.  

Most small and local businesses know their customers well—when they’re most likely to stop in and how much they’re likely to spend on each visit. But they probably don’t know much about them outside of the store—where else they shop, how much discretionary spending they do each month, and where to find more people like them. If you have access to the leading syndicated data sets (think: Nielsen, Experian, Acxiom, Comscore, Rentrak, IHS, Kantar, and more) then you can share lots of information with the small business. You might just hold the keys to reduced churn, increased revenue and where to find the elusive look-alike.


#9 – Understand the pressure that small & local businesses are under.  

If yesterday’s Street Fight Summit is any indication, owners are getting 40 calls per week from companies trying to revolutionize their business: transform them into an on-demand service/product provider, wire them into a connected store, implant beacons throughout their location, modernize their transaction technology and more. There’s a lot of fancy tech out there.  Be thankful you’re not selling something shiny or trendy. You’re selling ads and ROI—which is exactly what the small & local business owners want.