Insight for SMEs: 10 Ways to Make Digital Advertising More Cost-Effective

Digital advertising continues to grow, and for good reason.

Our data shows consumers are most likely to discover brands through online ads, followed by in-app. This highlights the need for brands to be more present online, regardless of size.

For SMEs, the benefits of having a strong online presence are clear, but with increasing demand comes higher costs.

Luckily, there are ways to keep costs low and ensure the right spend is allocated to the right audiences, in the right ways. Here’s how.

1. Validate your targeting.

Exploring behaviors across time, location, devices and platforms in minute detail helps you fine-tune your targeting.

This information not only tells you you’re targeting the right people, it ensures you’re using the most cost-effective approach by not putting spend where you shouldn’t.

By investing in fully integrated tracking tools like GWIQ Analytics, you can consistently paint the most complete picture of your audience.

Key takeaway: Don’t waste money targeting the wrong audiences.

2. Analyze their online activities.

With granular consumer data, you can start analyzing the online behaviors of your target consumers.

Identify the social channels they spend their time on, what they use them for, which websites they prefer, and what their purchase journey looks like.

This tells you exactly which channels are worth the investment, minimizing waste in those less relevant to your audience.

Key takeaway: Only invest in the channels that are right for your audience.

3. Focus on the right social media platforms.

Once you know which social media platforms your target audience prefers, focus on those.

Having an effective, all-encompassing social media strategy doesn’t have to involve significant budget and manpower.

Once you narrow your strategy down to the most essential networks for you, you can ace your engagement where it counts. By building a loyal, engaged social following, you’re getting the benefits of word of mouth, as well as better, more targeted results from your online ads.

Key takeaway: Focus on the social platforms that will give you the best return.

4. Know what journey stage they’re at.

Having a clear idea of your target consumer’s path to purchase is crucial for any small business to succeed.

By staying ahead of your audience at each stage, you can figure out how to best target and engage them.

Key takeaway: Don’t rely on assumption. Get reliable insight into the purchase journeys of your target consumers.

CASE STUDY: OLIO


Having uncovered the insight that one third of all food produced globally goes to waste, OLIO is on a mission to revolutionize how we treat our food and household items.

According to the Hubbub foundation, 81% of us would be happy to receive food from a neighbor.

With this knowledge at hand, OLIO connects neighbors with each other and local businesses so leftover food or household items can be shared rather than thrown away and wasted.

Using a number of tactics, creating in-house seasonal campaigns, and partnering with industry giants like Sainsbury’s, OLIO has so far facilitated the sharing of over 400,000 food items across 41 countries, and has accumulated 260,500 users to date.

5. Don’t just rely on the what.

It’s not enough to know what your target audience is doing online.

To avoid wasting spend and blindly following them, you need to understand why.

Using an extensive data source like GlobalWebIndex, you can dig deep to find out why your target consumers do what they do.

This gives you insight into the motivations, preferences and attitudes that define them, and enables you to form more consumer-centric ideas.

Key takeaway: Use robust data to find out why your consumers do what they do in the digital space.

6. Explore their interests.

To maximize your reach, it’s essential to go one step further to understand what interests you should be tapping into.

This will tell you which topics your consumers care about, unveiling new opportunities for engagement.

Influencer marketing is a tried and tested approach, closely tied in with consumer interests. Here’s an example of how it can be done.

AUDIENCE SPOTLIGHT: Generation Z


Gen Z (internet users aged 16-20) are no stranger to social media.

Looking at their top social platforms, YouTube that stands out above the rest.

Virtually every single Gen Zer is visiting/using the video site each month (95%), giving it a reach like no other.

But what makes them so susceptible to influencer marketing?

Over 40% say they’re easily swayed by the opinions of others and they over-index considerably for following celebrities on social media.

With this knowledge at hand, any small business looking to target this audience would do well to incorporate relevant influencers in their advertising strategy.

7. Analyze their device usage.

As shown in the chart above, 22% of online consumers are likely to discover brands through ads in-app, on mobiles or tablets.

Combine insight like this with data around your target consumers’ interests, and you can shape a strategy to fit, investing only in the devices that are right for your audience.  

Key takeaway: Don’t waste money optimizing your campaigns for the wrong devices. Find out which ones your consumers use most and put your spend in the right place.

CASE STUDY: Monzo


UK smartphone-only bank, Monzo, has more than 600,000 users globally.

It has found success by always incorporating its user base in critical decisions. Knowing today’s young consumers value transparency and a sense of community, users can submit requests and suggestions via a number of channels.

The brand has also kept its users at the center of its digital campaigns.

In June 2016, the company launched a campaign to rename the bank after the original “Mondo” name was challenged.

Leveraging their ever-expanding subscriber base to help them make the decision, the bank also had over 2,500 user photos submitted across its channels.

According to Bailey Kursar, head of marketing at Monzo, the brand’s resulting paid social media campaign, featuring a selection of these user-generated photos, outperformed its usual creatives.

8. Tailor your message.

For your message to hit home, personalization needs to be at the very heart of it.

By combining insights around your target consumers’ behaviors and interests, you can create a truly personalized message that’s sure to resonate.

Key takeaway: The more personalized you can be, the better. Use deep consumer insight to put it into practice.

9. Invest in the content they want.

It’s all well and good knowing what channels and content are most popular – but are they right for your audience?

To compete, small businesses need to get smart about what they produce, leading with data as opposed to educated assumption.

Find out what kind of content your audience is interested in by analyzing the latest trends.

This way, you can tailor your content strategy to fit.

Key takeaway: Content marketing is key for small businesses, but the most effective strategies are driven by data.

10. Evaluate the effectiveness of your campaigns and retarget with care.

Know that what you’re doing is working. This is the only sure way to see the real ROI, allowing you to tweak and optimize as needed.Retargeting can be an effective way to capture leads already familiar with your brand. But bad retargeting can result in a bad brand image.

Start with ads that appeal to your audience’s needs, behaviors and interests by combining behavioral analytics with deep consumer insight.

Key takeaway: Before you start retargeting, make sure your data is reliable.

Leading with Insight

There are endless opportunities for SMEs in the digital space, despite fears of oversaturation and a perceived lack of budget.

Smaller businesses can reap the benefits by leading with robust consumer insight.

With this level of understanding, you can tailor your online ads, both in creative and placement, to fit the consumers you want to reach.

This means no more wasted spend and a data-driven strategy that ensures you get the most out of your budget.