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October 20, 2022
5 min read

Key Strategies for Crafting Winning Offers for Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs)

Local advertising scale for publishers is influenced by four main drivers. While SMB advertisers are relevant in print and demand local print ads online, most of them do not transition to online advertising. Digital national advertising outperforms digital local ads in most news organizations. We examined over 100 offerings in Europe to uncover the secrets behind successful regional ad budget capture and the transfer of local print advertisers to digital.

Christian Scherbel
LInkedIn Logo

This article appeared first on inma.org


Small and medium-sized business (SMB) advertisers, who are crucial in print due to their relevance as a revenue source and content provider, often express interest in transitioning their local print ads online. However, the reality is that most of these advertisers do not make this transition to online advertising. In the digital space, national advertising typically outperforms local digital ads in most news organizations.

While SMB advertisers are a vital source of revenue and content in print, with readers actively seeking local print ads online, the same level of engagement does not seem to translate to the digital world. When comparing the structure of “digital advertisers” versus “print advertisers” on major regional news portals, it becomes clear that digital national advertising is more prevalent than local digital ads.

This raises two critical questions: Why does this disparity exist? What strategies can local publishers follow to resolve this challenge? Our investigation into over 100 European offerings aimed to discover the “secret sauce” that helps some offer succeed while others do not.

Through our researched identified four main drivers that are key to scaling local advertising for publishers – simplicity, efficiency, intuitiveness and communication.

Simplifying Digital Advertising for Local Businesses

Let's acknowledge that the complexity of digital advertising can be overwhelming for most professional digital marketers let alone local advertisers. This view is also shared by many local print sales representatives who maintain relationships with these clients. The vast array of options in digital advertising, such as the hundreds of ad formats or metrics like CPCs (Cost Per Click), CPMs (Cost Per Mille),CPAs (Cost Per Acquisition), frequency capping, various targeting and retargeting options, targeting pixels, cookies, and remarketing, may be suitable for large national brands and significant regional accounts. However, they are often not ideal for smaller, local businesses like restaurants or car dealerships, whose primary goal is to increase foot traffic in their physical locations, but not necessarily to get more website visitors.

Furthermore, most regional publishers have not sufficiently simplified the process of booking online ads for these local advertisers. Instead of making the process more user-friendly, they have merely reduced the number of ad impressions available to smaller accounts compared to larger ones. This approach leaves local advertisers with a staggering number of options, even for a campaign as small as 20,000 ad impressions. As a result, this all leads to unnecessary complexity and overhead in campaign management.

So, what approach has proven effective?

The answer lies in offering fewer, more straightforward options. A successful strategy has been to provide a simple bundle as an add-on to every print ad, eliminating the need for a separate sales process. This bundle could include banner and landing page creation, coupled with a fixed set of ad impressions, aimed precisely at the regional audience that the advertiser targets in print.

Consider the case of a local restaurant owner we worked with who was struggling with the transition to digital advertising. Overwhelmed by the choices and technicalities, he was about to give up on online advertising altogether. However, when presented with a straightforward package that included all necessary elements for a successful campaign, he found it much easier to digest and to work with long term. This package, priced around $100, was a perfect fit for his needs and budget. It included creative design, a decent number of ad impressions, effective targeting, and was geared towards local business owners.

For customers needing more advanced options, upselling to packages over $500 is still possible, but this should not be the starting point for smaller clients. The key finding here is that most local clients prefer a simple, effective bundle that incorporates the essential "best practices" of a digital ad campaign. This approach not only makes digital advertising more accessible for local businesses but also helps publishers capture a market segment that might otherwise be lost in the complexity of digital ad options.

Boosting Efficiency for Local Publishers

Efficiency is a critical issue many local print sales organizations face, particularly in their interactions with national online campaign management within their company. You might be wondering about why this is the case? It turns out that these local sales efforts often generate disproportionately low revenue compared to the complexity they introduce. When selling to local advertisers, offering a myriad of targeting and format options for just a few thousand ad impressions might seem like a logical way to increase revenue per customer. However, this approach often results in operational inefficiencies, as the overhead to manage and serve these diverse campaign types can quickly outweigh the revenue gains.

Successful publishers have found a solution by simplifying their approach. They have shifted to offering a straightforward bundle that includes one ad format, one clear positioning(ideally on local homepages rather than the main homepage), and one targeting strategy. This bundle can be pre-booked and replicated on the ad server as a template, significantly reducing manual work. An innovative example of this strategy is the use of tag-in-tag campaigns. In such campaigns, a single booking for "Local Ads in Region 1" is made in the ad server. Suppliers like Smartico then ensure that within this single campaign, the relevant local advertisers are displayed at the right time and place.

Consider the story of a small-town newspaper struggling to keep up with the demands of digital advertising. They were spending excessive time and resources managing a complex mix of digital ad campaigns for local businesses, from the local bakery to the car dealership. The introduction of a simplified ad bundle transformed their operations. By focusing on a single, effective campaign template, they were able to streamline their process, reduce overhead, and provide better service to their local advertisers. This change not only made their digital advertising more efficient but also more attractive to local businesses, who appreciated the straightforward approach and saw better engagement with their ads. This example illustrates how simplifying digital advertising strategies can lead to greater efficiency and success for both publishers and local advertisers – a win-win scenario for both parties.

Enhancing Intuitiveness in Digital Advertising for Local Advertisers

Intuitiveness is a crucial aspect for local advertisers, as we've learned through our observation. For many of them, the process of creating print ads is often integrated into the sales process, sometimes as a complimentary service. However, when it comes to digital advertising, they find themselves passing through unfamiliar territory, having to create banners and landing pages that effectively convert, often without the required assistance or knowledge.

This disconnect extends to the way advertising reach is communicated. In print, gross reach is typically discussed, whereas online advertising focuses on net reach, clicks, and click-through rates. This creates a perception of two distinct worlds: in print, the emphasis is on capturing "attention," while online, it seems to revolve solely around "clicks" (a concept further elaborated upon in the next paragraph).

Some tactics that have significantly improved intuitiveness for local advertisers involve aligning the currency and billing aspects with print advertising, while keeping the design and ad serving aspects as digital as possible.

An effective strategy employed by many publishers was to offer bundles that included banner creation and a fixed price for the banner, landing page, and regionally targeted impressions at exclusive spots on their news portals. The pricing of these bundles was then scaled according to the size of the corresponding print ad, with the understanding that larger advertisers require more attention (in the form of ad impressions) than smaller ones. Ideally, there should be a direct correlation between the size of the print ad and its online equivalent.

Company (“Unternehmen”) banderole with all local advertisers of a specific region with one regional publisher from Germany who successfully scaled local ads from the existing print advertiser base to 500 per month

Rethinking How Publishers Communicate with SMB Advertisers

Communication is a vital aspect of advertising, and our experience has taught us a crucial lesson: avoid focusing on clicks or, even worse, click-through rates (CTR) when communicating with local advertisers (that’s what Google managed to convince people to believe in). These metrics are often misunderstood and local sales representatives struggle to provide sufficient context. For instance, explaining why a 0.5% click rate is actually above average and considered good can be challenging, especially when the advertiser focuses on the fact that 99.5% of the users didn't take the action.

Local print advertisers are primarily seeking attention for their offerings, and successful publishers have learned to translate this need into the digital realm. However, "clicks" do not equate to attention, as evidenced by local campaigns on platforms like Facebook, where buying cheap clicks often results in high bounce rates, thus hurting the engagement rank of the advertiser. True attention is measured by engagement metrics such as time spent on the offering, like on a landing page, slider interactions in carousel ads, scroll depth, and button clicks on call to actions, among others. Shifting the sales narrative from clicks to trackable attention metrics has unlocked potential with advertisers. This approach is particularly effective with local sales representatives who appreciate having a compelling online story that goes beyond mere clicks. After all, clicks on platforms like Facebook and Google will always be cheaper. The local newspaper's value lies in quality and intuitive communication, which needs to be effectively conveyed.

Vendors like Smartico have become instrumental in this shift, offering full-service packages on a "per ad" basis. These packages include the creation of banner and landing page bundles, utilizing web research and print ad templates to deliver quality results efficiently and within budget. This approach not only simplifies the process for local advertisers but also ensures that their digital presence is as impactful and engaging as their traditional print ads.

Print advertisers need different KPIs to be reported than CTR. Attention on the landing page in terms of “minutes spent” is a great example of that


To sum up, the transition of SMB advertising from print to digital presents both challenges and opportunities for publishers. By focusing on the key drivers of simplicity, efficiency, intuitiveness, and communication, publishers can effectively support local businesses in navigating the digital advertising landscape. Simplifying the ad process, offering efficient and intuitive advertising solutions, and communicating the value of engagement over clicks are essential strategies. These approaches not only make digital advertising more accessible and effective for SMBs but also enable publishers to capture a significant portion of regional ad budgets.

I am happy to share more details about business cases, publisher names & contacts, supplier names, sales materials, links to creatives, etc.

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