A lot has changed over the last 20 years. Marketing used to mean shop windows, magazine advertising, word-of-mouth. Tangible, physical pictures; videos; people speaking to one another face-to-face. Trying to keep your customer details in some kind of unwieldy database. Maybe doing a mail-out to them now and then.
We still do all of that. It’s important not to forget that the more traditional methods still work or have their place.
But there’s a whole other world that’s developed. The way digital has exploded since the ‘90s means there’s a new dimension you absolutely have to work in if you want to keep up with and get ahead of your competitors or, perhaps more importantly, increase your customer-base.
Customers used to be a) advertised to through TV, radio, billboards, magazines, etc or b) might specifically look for businesses on their high street or in directories.
The rise of social media has changed things. Now there’s c) customers talking about businesses as part of a public conversation.
So if they’re on Twitter they might ‘@’ your Twitter account. On Facebook they might share a link to your Facebook page. On Instagram they might use a hashtag that’s your business name, or ‘mention’ you.
When something goes right they might take a picture of your product and share it with their friends. When something goes wrong they might take several pictures and share them with their friends!
Your customers bring you into the conversation, whether you’re willing to be taken in or not. This has totally changed how word-of-mouth works. Good and bad news alike can travel fast, and you want to be there when it happens. You need to be able to search for your business name to find when people are talking to you and make sure you are answering any questions sent directly to you. You need to be part of the key networks where these conversations are taking place or you’ll miss them altogether.
Search engines – namely Google – have replaced ye olde trusty physical directory, only instead of flicking through plumbers A-Z, consumers are more likely to look for ‘plumbers in my hometown’ these days. Getting to the top of search engine results is something you need to get your head around, but always remember that Google values quality content above all else. Remember that you are an expert in your business. If you can convey that on your website, you don’t need to spend thousands of pounds on ‘SEO’ (Search Engine Optimisation) experts.
Seeing how successful a particular marketing campaign was used to take time. Lots and lots of time. Now you can tweet something and instantly see how people react, and see how many replies or retweets you get. You can put up a new blog and use Google Analytics to get real-time audience figures. Put a video on Youtube and see how quickly it racks up those likes. You can tweak what you’re doing and change your campaign as you go along – this is hugely powerful! Finding out more about who your customers were used to be tough as well – surveys or data-collecting took time and money. Now you can use Analytics and email sign-up forms to give you a full picture of who buys your products and services.
These days, advertisers don’t just book a space, they can also book a space online until it’s reached a number of clicks, or views by customers who’ve been to their sites before. Analytics tools of all shapes and sizes help track and monitor that activity to make the most impactful and agile campaigns.
This is just the tip of the iceberg – a cliche but so true. To be successful during this time of digital revolution, you have to be able to juggle and be open to learning something new every day, so you can recognise what is changing next.
The digital world is still evolving. We don’t know what’s coming up over the next 20 years, but if you keep reading and learning, you can keep up with your customers and stay relevant to the conversation.
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