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60% of U.S. SMBs say their top business challenge is attracting new customers. This isn’t surprising: their prospects are spending more and more time on digital, where the way they consume information, engage with advertising, and make buying decisions follows a whole new set of rules. Yet most local businesses have not adapted their digital strategies accordingly.

If you really want to help your advertisers tackle this challenge, you need a better understanding of how digital audiences behave. What are their habits, preferences, needs, and expectations? What resonates with them, what makes them run for the hills? Then, you can provide marketing solutions that give the people what they want.

So what do digital users want and need, exactly? Let’s get into their heads…

They’re ultra-sensitive to information overwhelm.

Display ads are probably the biggest offenders of the info overwhelm trifecta: cluttered copy, flashy design, and competing calls-to-action.

These ads might as well flash “Scroll right past me!” or “Exit the page!” in big neon letters. People are either totally desensitized to them (known as banner blindness) or find them annoying enough to install an ad blocker. Both are losing situations for your advertisers.

Digital audiences gravitate toward clarity and simplicity. Here’s what will grab their attention:

  • Clean design: Keep the visual elements to a minimum and the layout simple. A nice balance of high-quality imagery, modern type, and negative space will draw eyes on the web.
  • One clear value prop: The purpose of the ad should be apparent within one quick glance. Don’t bury the lede! If the user can’t immediately identify what the ad is offering, they’ll gloss right over it. Your advertiser’s primary message should be clear, punchy, and—most importantly—unaccompanied by other info. The customer does not need to know the business’s phone number or email address right off the bat. Those pieces of information are only relevant to the user once they’ve decided they’re interested in the offering and have engaged with the content.

And these rules don’t just apply to display ads. They should inform every aspect of a local business’s digital marketing stack—from their website to their email communications to their social campaigns.

They’re big on instant gratification.

OK, so they’ve grabbed their prospect’s attention. Now they have to keep them engaged. This is one of the biggest challenges for marketers, because digital audiences are notoriously impatient. They’re time-starved and distracted. They will abandon an ad, webpage, or email if it doesn’t give them what they need. Immediately.

To keep digital users engaged, ads and other content must:

  • Load quickly: And we mean quickly. Every second fraction of a second counts—47% of online users expect a page to load in two seconds or fewer, reports Kissmetrics. If it takes longer than that, they’re gone.
  • Flow intuitively: People want answers and solutions on the web, and they’re not willing to waste any time digging for them. As soon as the user is hooked by that initial value prop, they’re going to be looking for the next piece of information. It’s the marketer’s job to anticipate what that is and guide them right toward it. If the user can’t find what they expect to find right away—or if they have to ask "now what?"—they’ll get frustrated and leave.

They want to be told what to do. And exactly how to do it.

As we've already covered, digital users have short attention spans, are easily overwhelmed, and aren't into guesswork. So if a business expects a prospect to take action on the web—whether it's claiming an offer, subscribing to a newsletter, calling their store, or clicking on pretty much anything—they need to really spell it out for them and make it as easy as possible for them to follow through.

To convert digital users into leads and customers, a business's call-to-action should be:

  • Specific: Steve Krug, author of Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, says it best: "I should be able to 'get it'—what it is and how to use it—without expending any effort thinking about it. Your job is to get rid of the question marks." Digital users are much more likely to take action when they know exactly what are they getting and exactly what do they need to do to get it. Specific does not mean lengthy. As with everything on the web, simpler is better.
  • Convenient: It doesn't matter how much a user wants to take action—if they have to work for it, they're not going to do it. Digital users expect convenience, and their standards are high. Advertisers should eliminate extra steps wherever possible. For example, let's say the call-to-action is, "Call now for a free quote." The business has a couple options: they could list their phone number, which would require the prospect to manually dial the number. Or, they could make the action seamless with a click-to-call button. The latter option will win every time.

So, there you have it. Driving better digital marketing results is all about creating an optimal experience for the end user. Keep these three truths about digital audiences in mind, and you’ll be able to help your advertisers get those new customers they're after.


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