Until we launched the SF network, I knew nothing about advertising. I mean zero, zilch, nada. Really absolutely nothing. This was in spite of having previously worked in Marketing. Mind you, that was back in the days when client details were stored in card indexes and the only person with a PC which 'did' graphics was the 'designer' and my, how we used to spend hours staring at her screen saver. It moved and everything.
Since then I've moved on a bit. And since SFN really took off, I've had to hit the ground running. Whilst I'm no expert, I've learnt a fair bit along the way and I thought it would be useful to share my findings with my less, ahem, technologically aware friends...
Setting up any new business is hard and getting a small business off the ground in France with all the attendant complications, is harder still. Clearly your business needs to advertise but the last thing you need is to waste your hard earned cash.
So what do you need to be aware of?
Obviously you are going to make sure that the site is geared towards the kind of people you want to target. You also need to check that those people are actually visiting the site. Don't take the site owner's word for it, because, wait for it, people tell lies. Sad but true. In the same way that any reputable breeder will show you the puppy with its mother, so too will any honest site owner be more than happy to show you their stats. And if they aren't, that should ring alarm bells. You can check out SFN stats here and if you are interested in advertising with us, you can do so here.
Be very wary of any claims such as "We are in the top 1% on Google". You probably already know of all the sites that are. Think Viamichelin, Natwest, SNCF, Sony etc. These sites are highly unlikely to be offering you discounted advertising for your dog food import business for the next six months....
Equally, stay clear of any client testimonials which say things like "We couldn't believe it when we googled ourselves and found we were number 1!" Well yes, if you google your own company with the correct web address you will be. This doesn't mean anyone searching for you without that correct address is going to find you. That is quite different...
Then you need to watch out for so-called social media experts. Ten years ago customer service assistants called Clive, crossed the channel and reinvented themselves as general builders. This was because they needed something to do and they had once installed a deck and exterior lighting at their sister's house in Bracknell. (Apologies in advance to anyone reading this, called Clive, who is a registered builder and from Bracknell.) These days Clive and their ilk are all transforming themselves upon arrival in France, into web designers and social media experts. The phenomena is such that I suspect that there is a special room on the cross channel ferries where you can go and get yourself teleported, Dr. Who style, into a whole new career.
If you want help in this area, go with someone like Nikki Pilkington - who has a track record and knows what they are doing. Nikki is well worth following on FB or Twitter and always has some useful insights to offer.
Ok, so there is a whole lot more than this to be said on the subject and hopefully, this post will trigger some useful debate, but the main point I wanted to make is Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware!