How Native Advertising Benefits Your Firm (and Tips to Help You Get Started)

Native Advertising

Native advertising offers a way to cut through the advertising noise and provide more depth to your firm's promotional materials.
Native advertising refers to sponsored content placed in magazines, blogs, websites, newspapers, social media platforms, or other media. The content usually appears similar to editorial content other than the fact it promotes a service, firm, or product.
Native advertising is sometimes known as an "advertorial" which reflects that the content may appear to be a hybrid of an advertisement and an editorial. According to HubSpot, 58% of publications with an online presence run native advertising. The native advertising content can take the form of articles, blog posts, editorial essays, videos, memes, or any other medium.
How Does Native Advertising Differ From Content Marketing? 
Sometimes people confuse native advertising with content marketing. Both are effective, fast-growing content strategies and there are similarities. However, there are clear distinctions:

Content Marketing 
Content Marketing refers to creating useful, value-added content that connects with your ideal client. It is not overtly promotional and is designed to subtly establish your firm's reputation and thought leadership.

As part of a content marketing strategy, firms publish the content on their own channels as part of an inbound marketing campaign. For example, a tax accountant might post an article about often-overlooked business deductions for small business owners. The reader may have the option to join the firm's mailing list to receive a bonus checklist to remind the potential client of key takeaways from the article. This strategy works on three levels: 

  1. The content attracts a prospective client to visit the firm's website through search, PPC advertising, or social media. Then, if the content is valuable enough... 
  2. The visitor opts to join the firm's email list and enters the sales or client nurturing funnel. 
  3. The firm then has the opportunity to establish trust and credibility by sharing more relevant content and promoting its services.

Native advertising is similar as both require the creation of high-quality editorial content, but has several distinct differences. 

Native Advertising 
Native advertising is promotional content placed in a publication or online media outlet. Sometimes the advertiser creates the content and other times staff at the media outlet creates the content on the advertiser's behalf. Generally, the content fits in with the publication's other editorial content and would interest that publication's audience, but typically includes contact information or a "soft sell." For example, the tax accountant we mentioned might commission sponsored content in Forbes in the form of a guide to choosing an accountant. The guide would link to a strategically selected page on the firm's website. 

According to the Content Marketing Institute, the following qualities are common to native advertising: 

  • Native advertising is paid or sponsored media. 
  • Native advertising does not interrupt the reader or viewers flow. It appears integrated into the channels feed, for example, it appears in a blog or online publications normal article feed or a social media feed. 
  • Like content marketing, native advertising usually offers information, insight, or other value.

How Native Advertising Benefits Your Professional Service Firm 

Many consumers are advertising-weary. They use adblockers to block display ads, skip commercial videos, and scroll past obvious advertising. However, potential clients might actually pay attention to native advertising if implemented well. It usually fits the aesthetic and voice of their favorite publications and may engage them better than traditional advertising. 

Other benefits of native advertising include: 

  • An opportunity to offer valuable or insightful content in the form of tutorials, in-depth editorials, guides, or explainer videos. 
  • Native advertising allows you to target specific micro-niches and demographics as you reach the channel's audience. Some sophisticated channels, like Facebook or Pinterest, allow you to reach people with specific interests. 
  • Native advertising often feels more organic and gives your potential clients the chance to see your service in the context of their lifestyle. For example, film and television product placement are common forms of native advertising. When viewers see their favorite character using a MacBook and iPhone it makes it easier for them to see how Apple products fit their own lifestyles. Native advertising for services may have a similar effect is an influencer in the field creates content featuring their use of the service. 

Tips to Get Started With Native Advertising 

  • Consider small and large channels that reach your ideal client. Sometimes micro-influencers and small publications best reach targeted niche audiences. This is why "influencer advertising" is such a fast-growing form of native advertising. 
  • Be open to suggestions. Native advertising managers know their audience and what would be a good fit. Authenticity and an organic feel are important aspects of native advertising. However, it is still paid advertising, so clearly express your expectations and make sure the content shows your firm's best face. 
  • Educate yourself about Federal Trade Commission (FTC) standards for endorsements. This applies to native advertising and most reputable publications disclose sponsorship relationships to distinguish it from unpaid editorial content, though often discretely (the word(s) "Advertisement" or "Paid Advertisement" may appear at the top or bottom of the page in discrete type). 
  • Beyond the FTC, be transparent and ethical in your use of native advertising. According to Gallup poll, 54% of their respondents reported they felt deceived by native advertising in the past. The Better Business Bureau added standards for native advertising to their advertising code. Check with your professional associations for any guidelines for native advertising. 

Native advertising is an effective and engaging way to attract new clients. This hybrid of advertising and content requires extra effort to ensure it provides value and meets professional ethical standards. However, the effort may be worth it as your firm's message connects with new audiences. Remember, it's better to inform and educate than sell.