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Advertising in Digital Media These 3 hot trends can give you a competitive edge on the web and beyond.

By Robert J. Shimonski

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As entrepreneurs, we have to either adopt--or adapt to--new methods of advertising to reach potential clients and customers. With so many of them connected to the internet with their mobile phones and/or laptop computers, it's no wonder that digital media advertising (DMA) is the new hot button for any seasoned or newbie entrepreneur.

Now potential customers can be reached 24 hours a day on many different devices all connected at once, and any customer can find your services through your digital portfolio, ringtone or podcast, or an online video tutorial. Beyond the internet, these media find their way to any medium that will support them.

These are three top trends in DMA:

Media Rich Websites
Since digital media is so easy to capture, manipulate and work with, it's no wonder that many businesses are deploying online commercials, podcasts and videos for YouTube and MySpace. If your current website harkens to a traditional bulletin board, you may want to design something new.

By embracing Web 2.0, you will find yourself in an expanded internet full of online collaboration and communication 24 hours a day. To have no downloadable samples of your product or samples to stream is to miss out on potential sales.

For example, when Chris Basile of SubSonic Recording Academy in New York came up with a new way to stream educational audio and video education tutorials from his newly deployed media-rich website, traffic increased by 400 percent within 60 days. Due to this increase, Basile closed new deals and contracts that helped increase his sales by more than 75 percent within that same time period. By putting a simple online video in a newsletter and blasting it out to his subscribers and letting them know that a podcast library was no longer available, each page got hundreds of new hits each week.

This is what makes social networking sites so popular: They are set up to function with almost all digital media methods and types, and they provide news and networking for all ages. If your company's website doesn't provide digital media interactivity, you may lose popularity quickly. If you can't make your own video look professional, outsource to a production facility. With globalization, it's easy to find facilities worldwide to make your vision a reality without breaking the bank.

Create many types of files for a large amount of digital video players, as well as many compression rates to match user download mediums and speeds. Audio can be recorded once, edited a few times and used for many different outlets. Ringtones, commercials, podcasts and audio books are but a handful of options as well as for commercials on terrestrial and online radio shows.

Success Tip:Make sure you get a .mobi and set up a mobile version of your site and mobile versions of your media.

Digital Portfolios
Gone are the days of the outdated paper business card. Even if printed on the best stock, a business card pales in comparison to a DVD or CD-ROM with your information on it.

Imagine a customer at a tradeshow looking for a production facility to make a commercial for online and TV airing. What would make more of an impression: a traditional business card or a digital portfolio? If your DVD when inserted opened a website, examples to view, video, audio and contact information ready to drag and drop into your contacts, your chances are much better than someone who just hands out a business card.

When Joan Babcock of GlobalArt Ltd. wanted to stand out, she put all of her art examples and services on a DVD, added some great packaging and handed out the DVD with a business card at trade shows, sales meetings and any chance she could get to show off her talents. After Babcock created her digital media-based portfolio, the world opened up for her. In six months, her sales increased and she can now support herself full-time on her business efforts alone.

Babcock realized that by teaming up a standard business card with a transportable DVD, she could engage a potential client almost immediately as her information was readily available. Many times, people have access to their laptops, but not necessarily the internet. Having information that could be handed out and discussed immediately gave life to GlobalArt Ltd and helped make it the success it is today.

Success Tip:Just like with business cards, don't forget the outside packaging of the DVD case or sleeve. This branding will draw the potential client to want to view the contents within.

Digital Signage
Whether in your offices or on the road on the side of a truck, taking your message to the masses has becomes so much easier. Digital media can be combined into a program that creates a sign in your store, outside it or on the road. Depending on your line of business, you can always take advantage of advertising on the road or within your store or store window. With digital signage, you can send your message from your fleet of vehicles or your own car, or these signs can be placed inside your facility or in a store window. Digital signage is helpful for menus, news, running lists of services and so on. Depending on the quality (and cost) of the digital sign, you can incorporate all other forms of digital media into the sign's cast.

For example, when Alysa Marsh of Fresh Free Fruit Inc. wanted to sell fruit smoothies and yogurt health drinks, she found that long lines at her counter could be put to better use than just looking around at her stock. Marsh deployed a digital sign and had a production house create a multimedia presentation that would run all day in her store and give her customers stock information and news along with health tips. From another 'digital sign' placed at the exit, she was able to run her TV commercial so that users realized that it existed and identified with it more when they saw it at home. With very little cost upfront and with very little time and effort, Marsh found that with an investment of less than $1,000, she was able to increase her sales and recoup her initial investment within two months.

Success Tip:Digitally enhance any graphic with tools such as Photoshop, Gimp or Creative Suite. Kiosks can be set up in your company lounge area for both employee and customer help, and for advertising. You can use audio, video and still images together in the kiosk or digital sign.

Robert Shimonski is a digital media expert who has helped build and develop media packages for thousands of companies worldwide, including Microsoft, Elsevier, Wiley and Syngress. He helps startup companies break into Web 2.0 and currently resides in New York.

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