Direct mail, cold calling, email newsletters, TV, radio, websites, and social media… all are synonymous with marketing. But do these forms of marketing really work at a level that is profitable for small business? Or, have the times really changed in such a way that there is a requirement or demand that we change our approach to how we get business in 2014 and beyond?
I’m convinced that many of us in small business have no idea what is happening in the marketplace nor do we necessarily care… until it’s too late.
It’s no longer about trends; it’s about where our prospective customers are finding what they want and how they want to find. It’s about their context (which I will get into later in the article)
If this were the 1980’s there were only four primary places you would advertise:
Each one of these formats was very expensive and the less crowded for space the advertisement was the more expensive it got.
Now, the key here is that in the 1980’s – early 2,000’s most businesses were taught the importance of mass market saturation. Meaning, we talk to everyone with our story in hopes of reaching a few who will buy from us.
That would be direct mail, magazines, radio and TV. There were more but these were the big four.
Think of how expensive that was back then! Shoot, it is still expensive now.
Businesses starting in those days had to raise funds from their families, friends or investors. There was a start-up cost and marketing and advertising was a part of their budget before they ever started business.
Compare that with today where there is many times a very low if zero barrier to entry, especially if you’re starting an internet based industry.
If you were a really successful business in the 1980’s, you had a TV commercial. It was the best way to reach the masses. With only a handful of stations to watch programming, almost the entire country watched TV and you could tailor your marketing messages based on the type of programming:
- Kids programming
- Live sports
- News (do you remember when there were no 24/7 news channels?)
- Daytime TV (predominantly women who watched soaps)
- Primetime programming
By the 1990’s and early 2000’s marketing expanded into billboards or many companies like the airlines created partnerships. If you fly a lot you might remember hearing about “The one world alliance?”
They were nothing more than strategic partners. It was made of airlines like American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay, Finnair, Japan Airlines… etc.
If you’ve read my blog much or watched my videos, you will hear me often talk about aligning yourself with partners who server the same audience you serve, but in a different way.
That’s exactly what the airlines did in 1970’s and 1980’s. It was a very effective means of helping partner companies make money from one another while also protecting their territories.
Marketing Was Profitable Until 2008
The point is that marketing was very limited and it was expensive, but it was also very profitable if done right. You had no choice when watching TV but to watch to the commercials. Try changing channels and you get more commercials, lol… I still think the TV networks were colluding on the times commercials aired.
In the newspaper industry, advertising soared from around 1985 – 2005. It was lucrative, easy money for the industry. But for the advertiser things got tougher and tougher into the 2000’s.
By 2005, things were beginning to change and these changes are so powerful that they are changing entire industries.
Because of the prevalence of the internet and how consumers both consume information and entertainment as well as how they buy products and services.
These changes are so foundational and happened so fast that we have lost the capacity as business owners to keep up with all of the changes. Let me restate that, we’ve refused to keep up because we are working so hard to survive doing the wrong things that we don’t have time to examine what we are doing and don’t want to add one more thing to our plates, even if that means improving our situations.
However, it’s not just small businesses that are struggling. It’s also the big marketing companies that are struggling to keep up with changes and consumer demand.
- Major and local newspapers are going bankrupt and are struggling to survive both offline and online as sales continue dropping.
- Traditional over-the-air TV stations are losing audience share every year and their profits are sliding.
- Radio stations are getting less and less listening in to their scheduled programming.
- Magazines are too expensive to print and distribute and readership is in decline.
Here is what is interesting… certain industries are buckling down and spending more money per lead in traditional advertising.
According to the Radio + Television Business Report; “local” advertising revenue is going up through 2018. In the article they stress;
“The primary sources of revenue for local television in 2013 were automotive dealers ($3.5 billion), wireless telecommunications ($772 million), hospitals ($652.7 million), and full-service restaurants ($558.3 million). “
What Does This Mean for My Business?
It means you’re losing market share if you’re doing the same advertising and marketing methods that were done in 1995, 2005, 2010 and even in 2013 and you’re in trouble. Notice the industries not buying traditional media? It’s the overwhelming majority of them.
Think about it, if you’re advertising on TV how many commercials do you personally watch? Probably not many. In fact, you’re probably more like me. You record it via your DVR and watch it later. Are you going to watch the commercials?
How many are listening to radio? Not many… in fact how many of you have your songs on your wireless device or your favorite music app and you listen to what you what, when you want it, wherever you want?
How many are consuming news online versus a physical newspaper? How easy are your online banners and ads to see and how many are really clicking them? Worse yet, how ticked off do you get at the obnoxious pop-up or drop down ads when you’re reading something?
The Real Issues are Time and Attention
If you’re trying to market your company you realize quickly if you’re paying attention that you may be a hypocrite.
HOW MANY OF US ARE MARKETING IN A WAY THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE WAY WE LIKE TO BE MARKETED TO?
Just think about that question for a moment. Things have really changed and time is the one commodity that we all want more of and will work to protect.
We don’t pay attention much to invasive TV commercials, radio commercials or ads selectively placed in the middle of articles on websites.
In fact, it probably harms you more than it helps you in the eyes of your prospects and readers.
Netflix is a great example. In 2005 Blockbuster had a great opportunity to buy them for only $25 million. Where is Netflix today and where is Blockbuster?
Blockbuster had all kinds of data that told them people wanted to touch the DVD’s and experience the store.
That apparently was a sad story they told themselves. What people really want is convenience at the touch of a button and watch what they want to watch, when they want to watch it without being interrupted by commercials and advertisements.
Uber is another site revolutionizing an entire industry. Taxi’s can be a real pain and really expensive in many cities. Waiting in the weather to get their attention is no fun at all if you’ve ever had to do it. In many cities it’s hard to get around without them.
Until Uber came along two years ago and made it possible to see who is available nearby to catch a ride with; and you just give the person going where you’re going a few bucks to help cover gas. It’s quick, easy, and convenient and the best part; IT SAVE TIME!
Every Industry is Going To Be Changed By the Internet
It doesn’t matter what industry or business you’re in. If you haven’t been affected by the internet yet, you will be. It will only take one person with an idea.
So this brings us back around to the real question; are you still marketing like it’s 2010?
In 2010 the online world was dominated by Google search and the web was taken by storm with the advent of Facebook and the explosion of Twitter. It was a revolutionary time of change that only now is it feeling like there is some maturation happening. I cover more on these two articles;
Content was king in 2010 and it was the rise of business blogging for many
Recently, I saw video where Gary Vaynerchuk explained that the problem succinctly; content is abundant and we have to start thinking about context.
I want to elaborate on that. You can find content anywhere and everywhere on any topic or subject on the internet. According to WordPress.com tens of thousands of new WordPress sites are created every day. There hundreds of millions or billions of blogs in existence. How many are used are another story… but you can find what you’re looking for.
You can find content on articles, blogs, video, podcasts, ezines, email… should I go on?
The former CEO and Chairman of Google was once quoted as saying that we create in 48 hours more content than in all of human history up to 2003.
Content is no longer what people are consuming and buying.
Now it’s context!
In other words, it’s not the content but how the context in which they are consuming the content.
It’s up to you to create your story because that’s the context in which people are now buying. This is why it’s so important for you to know and understand:
- What business you’re “really” in
- What problems you “really” solve
- Who you “specifically” solve them for
- How your products and services are part of the solution
This is how you tell your story. Gone are the days of business owners thinking like business owners. You can no longer communicate what you need from your point of view. Consumers no longer care if you need them or not because it’s not about you, it’s about them.
You must learn to think like your prospects and customers and communicate to their point of view.
What is the Context for Your Prospects and Customers?
We’ve mentioned one already; time!
How can you save your prospects and customers time or give them time back to enjoy their lives, hobbies, families, and other interests. In the course of a day, how much time is wasted on:
- Waiting on the printer?
- Waiting on transportation?
- Waiting on websites to load?
- Seeing trivial posts on social media?
- Reading through blogs that don’t really say anything or help me in any real way?
- Being misled to open links that have great headlines that when opened are only sales pages?
- Watching TV commercials?
- Listening to radio commercials?
- Sitting in rush hour traffic?
I bet I could on? Maybe you have a few that you have thought of? If so, please share in the comments section below? I would love to read your ideas.
Another context might be money. For one person it’s saving money and getting a deal but for another it’s not about money it’s about convenience, quality or luxury; and they are willing to pay for it.
Finally, a last context is relationships. One of my clients was just sharing with me this morning that he is involved in a business community where business owners hang out weekly and talk. He doesn’t have much of a portfolio to show anyone but he is getting work and referrals from this group. He was kind of surprised because of the lack of portfolio as a start-up.
I explained to him that there are two types of people; 1) the person who doesn’t know you who is buying based on competency then relationship; 2) the person who’s gotten to know you and buys on relationship and then appreciates your competency afterwards.
Context is the key to everything and if you’re stuck in your business then the only real context you have is you!
You must understand the three levels of context I explained above and why people consume your content and then buy from you:
I am willing to bet that the majority of business owners have never thought about this on the surface let alone deeply. And you’re left wondering why your website isn’t really converting, why you don’t get more engagement on your blog comments and why people don’t talk with you on social media?
If you’re going to start marketing in the world we live in today, you have to start thinking about your blog, email, video and social media content in terms of context and quality.
Innovation is coming to your industry if it hasn’t already. Your business is at serious risk if you’re not paying attention to the internet and you’re not engaged on it. If you underestimate it you will end up like Blockbuster and the Taxi companies.
So what do you think? Is it time to wrestle with this?
If you’re ready to learn more, visit the Begin Here page of my website and learn more!
If you have an idea, thought or comment I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below and let’s learn from one another.