According to a report earlier this year by ZenithOptimedia, global ad spending is on track to grow 5.5% this year to $537 billion, with Internet advertising expected to account for almost one-quarter of that, at $121 billion. And while Google and others has lead the way when in driving Internet ad revenue, social media and ad technologies like re-targeting is expected to surpass search ad revenues by 2015.
Mary Lou Song, co-founder and CEO of video advertising platform Fuel451, shares how small business can use the power of ad technology along with their video content to help them find more customers – without breaking the bank. (This transcript has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the audio player at the end of this article.)
* * * * *
Small Business Trends: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Mary Lou Song: I’ve been in the technology space for about the last 20 years. I was the third employee at eBay, and that’s actually where I got my first taste of technology and the power of tech for small businesses.
A few years ago, I started a company with my brother and we decided to look at video and advertising technology for small businesses, and that’s what we’re working on right now with FUEL451.
Small Business Trends: Talk a bit about marketing from the ad tech perspective; because I think a lot small businesses may not be familiar with what they could possibly do with some of the video content they already have.
Mary Lou Song: A couple of years ago what we were finding was that a lot of small businesses were really anxious to try video with their business. And so they went out and invested a lot of time and energy, and sometimes some pretty decent dollars, into creating videos to promote their businesses. But once the video was made, they would put it up on YouTube and then forget about it.
So what we wanted to do was say, “You’ve made that heavy investment in the video, but the best way you can actually take that and re-purpose it would be to actually turn it into an advertisement for your company.”
Small Business Trends: Can you talk a little bit about what ad units are?
Mary Lou Song: For us, any ad unit is basically one single ad or advertisement that is used across the Internet to promote your business. So for us, the ad unit is created from all of your visual assets. We take your video, your logo, the message that you want to actually give to your customer, and we put all of those things into a single advertisement. That’s what we use to promote your business. So when I say ad units, that’s what we’re actually talking about.
Small Business Trends: Now let’s also talk about re-targeting.
Mary Lou Song: You might actually hear two different terms in the advertising space. You might hear the term re-targeting, or you might hear the term re-marketing. And all that is, is this notion of when somebody comes to your site, you follow them or track them with ads about your business.
So, let me give you an example. If you’ve ever been to say the Nordstrom website, and you’ve looked at Nike shoes, an ad of Nike shoes then follows you wherever you go on the Internet. You’re constantly being reminded of those Nike shoes. That is called re-targeting or re-marketing. Nordstrom is trying to remind you of those Nike shoes and get you back to the site.
Re-marketing should be part of the healthy advertising that you do for your site or your business. But at FUEL451 we say that’s a good starting point, but that’s not the end-all-be-all of what you should be doing to keep a healthy digital advertising strategy for your business. We actually track your customers and we track them with re-targeting first. But what we’re doing is gathering up all of the information and the data that we possibly can about your healthiest customers and use that data to inform you who your target or your new customers should be.
Small Business Trends: So in other words, the way FUEL451 works is learning about current customer behavior so that you can find more good customers that have that kind of behavior pattern too?
Mary Lou Song: That’s exactly right. I think that there are two trends every small business should be aware of. One trend is the video trend and how important that is to sales and conversion rates, and even increasing the trust factor between a business and its customers.
But the second big trend that I think small businesses should be engaging in and using to their advantage is this notion of data. What we are trying to do is wrap that into our offering with FUEL451. So what we want to do is not just stop with the video and the re-targeting. The data that we can actually gather for a small business about their customers, all of that data needs to be leveraged to find new customers.
Small Business Trends: You’re trying to keep the attention of customers that you currently have, and by using a service like yours, you’re able to do that. But you’re also able to collect more information to really help target even more customer or potential customers that could be just like them.
Mary Lou Song: That’s exactly right. Now, the idea of that is not new. That’s what big companies have been doing for years. But the way that we have built our technology, it makes this whole thing possible for a business of any size.
Small Business Trends: How long would it take for them to start seeing some of the impact that we are talking about?
Mary Lou Song: Any business of any size should be tracking their customers. That, to me, is first and foremost and actually more important than launching an advertising campaign. We tell all of our customers and our clients that regardless of your size, we want to start tracking your customers as soon as possible. So even if you’re starting off and you’ve got maybe one or two customers, or a couple of hits a day to your site, that data you’re getting about your customer base is a gold mine for you. We want to be there to help you mine that gold and use that to inform who you should be looking at next.
I know if you go to some agencies, or if you went to an ad network, they might say if you don’t get 5,000 hits a month, or 5,000 hits a day, you’re too small to be doing this. But the way that we’ve built our technology is size agnostic. We are here to help everybody learn whatever they can about their own customer base, and can use that data that they gather to really target new customers because that’s really what we’re all after.
Small Business Trends: So, you’re using a service like this to learn about your customers and learn customer behaviors in order to try to find potential customers like them. But you’re also learning more about existing customers, so you can provide better experiences for them, better interaction opportunities and better engagement opportunities?
Mary Lou Song: That’s exactly right. We are watching what they do on your site, off of your site, what interests them, what are the behaviors that characterize your business and its customers. And what we’re doing is looking for those patterns in that behavior that we can leverage and use to match other Internet users who are out there that should be targeted as potential customers for you.
Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about your service?
Mary Lou Song: Our site, which is Fuel451.com. And, of course, they can always call me or call any one of my team and we’re happy to help out.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.