In the era of information overload, consumers are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages every day. A logo on a T-shirt, a radio ad, or a TV commercial may not stay in a consumer’s mind very long because the next wave of advertising messages is a few seconds away. Consumers have adapted to ignore newspaper ads, and they instinctively change the radio station when their music is interrupted by local promotions. The change in the way consumers react to marketing messages has forced brands to reconsider using traditional media.
When rethinking traditional marketing at my company, we first analyzed our current methods — such as newspaper ads and fliers in coffee shops — and asked if that was where potential customers would look for tutoring and test prep services. Was it effective to leave it up to "chance encounters," hoping that potential customers would stumble across our flier and also happen to be looking for our services at that time? The answer was “no.” We wanted to ensure our information was available to students and parents whenever and wherever they were thinking of tutoring or test prep, and this meant investing in digital messaging.
As traditional methods become more and more obsolete, small businesses have the opportunity to leverage new digital marketing methods that are more effective and affordable, especially for a small business’s budget. Some of these methods include:
Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+)
Being where your customers will be (we’ll get to that later)
Why Digital Marketing Is Superior on All Fronts
For small businesses especially, these new, untraditional methods of marketing are optimum — there are no barriers to entry and there is little risk involved. In addition, digital marketing is built to target and connect with a niche or local audience of a business as these techniques are more deliberate, engaging, valuable, and affordable than traditional methods.
More deliberate: It is far more effective to target your message to where you know your audience will be (e.g., their mailbox or Pinterest page) than to blast out a commercial and simply hope your target audience sees the message and then buys something. Digital marketing lets you control where your message is being delivered. Additionally, you are able to review the reach and effectiveness of each message.
More opportunities to engage: These new methods give small businesses multiple channels to engage and create a relationship with potential customers. Rather than viewing a lead as a “one-off” potential purchase, you have the opportunity to invest in building a relationship with your leads. For example, a local bakery could post photos of that morning’s freshly baked goods or blog about the local events that the bakery is sponsoring. By letting people see that you are an active small business that's "alive," you are differentiating yourself from other companies that appear impersonal.
More valuable: Not only are you engaging with your customers by using digital marketing, but you also have the opportunity to become of value to your customers. For example, a small business can create a video tutorial about something in its industry or area of expertise that consumers will find truly helpful. Or this same business can write a blog post that gives readers insider information on how it makes its product. This gives people a reason to keep coming back to you.
More affordable: This is one of the biggest advantages to these new marketing methods. A lot of digital marketing is free, yet it still reaches a larger audience than physical promotions. It’s free to set up a Twitter account or get your business on Google’s Places for Business. This gives you the opportunity to experiment with different methods without a high risk of losing money.
How to Implement These New Methods
Implementing these methods will differ from business to business and will depend on the specific audience you want to reach. Small businesses, such as my tutoring company
, need a thorough understanding of their target market, including what social media sites their customers are primarily using and the type of marketing message they are most likely to engage with. This understanding may require some experimentation to arrive at the platforms that work for you.
Another important aspect to remember when reconsidering your marketing techniques is that it’s not necessarily a question of “new” versus “traditional” marketing; rather, it’s a question of being where your customers are. This could mean being seen on Instagram, but it could also mean being at local events in the community. For example, the local bike shop may find it effective to get exposure at regional athletic events such as 5K races or high school sports games. These are events where potential customers — those interested in recreational sports — are likely to be present.
As customers change the way they consume information, businesses should reconsider what used to be tried-and-true methods of advertising. A small business needs to look at methods that allow it to be where the customer is, and for some, this could include traditional marketing. For many small businesses, including my own, digital marketing has provided a boost to both our sales and our budget. These new methods have allowed my business to affordably target and connect with potential customers on all fronts, enabling it to break through the clutter of traditional advertising.