6 Must-Know Trends for Your 2012 Ad BudgetAs you plan where to spend precious advertising dollars for your local business in 2012, here are six must-know trends to consider:

1. The Hottest Action Is Online

Back in 2009, a typical small business with an ad budget spent less than 25% of it in the broad category known as Internet Advertising. That includes Internet yellow pages, banner or display ads on websites, pay-per-click (SEM) or other online listings, web-based directories, social media, daily deals and coupon sites, mobile ads, and other offerings. That figure has now jumped to 40%. If the industry prognosticators are correct, it will hit 70% in the next three years. For a local business, this trend means one thing for sure: Your competitors are spending more ad dollars to connect with consumers online and you should too.

2. 2012 Looks Like “The Year of Mobile”

Growth of mobile commerce has been nothing short of phenomenal. By next year, most of your customers will have a high-powered computer (that is, a mobile smartphone or similar device) in their pocket, purse or the palm of their hand every time they do business with you. And make no mistake: the mobile explosion has huge implications for local businesses. The latest consumer research shows that over 30 million Americans use their smartphone for some type of shopping-related activity. This creates important opportunities for local business owners who get in the mobile game now.

3. Daily Deal Fatigue Is Setting In

Despite the growth of daily deal sites such as Groupon, there’s mounting evidence that many local businesses are pulling back and assessing whether offering such deals actually contributes to longer term growth and profitability. If you offer deals on Groupon, Living Social or other daily deal websites, beware. Detailed new research shows that for scores of local merchants, a hidden side effect is an increase in bad online reviews that can damage your reputation. (That’s why it’s always a good idea to actively monitor and manage your online reputation.)

4. Business Owners Can Afford to Be Picky

Every local business today has a multitude of marketing options available. And it’s all too easy to get bogged down with so many different choices, and waste time and money with products or services that don’t work. The trend today among local businesses is to work with one major marketing partner that can do the heavy lifting for you and get you the leads you need without the fuss or bother on your part. That partner should provide the widest distribution possible for your ads, including print, online, mobile and other digital offerings. Most important: That partner should focus on getting you new business leads, regardless of where they come from. Such partners will also invest time in learning about you and your business, and how to make the most of your budget.

5. Local Joins Social

More and more, local businesses are carving out at least a small piece of their marketing budget for social media. First and foremost, that requires understanding what social media marketing is all about.

6. Print Remains Relevant

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the yellow pages demise are premature, to be sure. Despite the (well-deserved) hype over social media and mobile, print yellow pages remain a proven, reliable and cost-effective lead generator for millions of local businesses. Vastly more people still find local businesses via yellow pages than through social media (74% compared to only 32%). The trick is to integrate or sync your traditional marketing with online and social media.

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