Traditional advertising had been the “go-to” for small businesses for decades. Over the course of the past ten years however, the digital era has become predominantly favored in the marketplace, overtaking the old – newspaper, radio, magazine – style advertising. Small businesses are starting to see that the traditional channels aren’t producing the results they once did, and the cost of doing that kind of advertising hasn’t become more affordable either. That said, many small businesses have cut their ties with traditional media, and are now making the attempt to gain presence within the more modern and popular media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc..
So, what’s wrong with that? Simply stated, nothing is wrong with that as long as the small business owner is prepared to absorb a lot more of his or her time into their marketing; more than they ever did before anyways. Although social media, or the internet as a whole for that matter, has given us great opportunity in gaining free exposure through various outlets, it requires a commitment of time and a consistency of efforts in order to achieve positive results. The days of placing an ad in the paper and then just sitting back to wait for new customers is somewhat over; as today’s marketer is focused on making real-time decisions that can alter a particular ad’s effectiveness within minutes as many of the channels we use in today’s marketing have extensive analytics and live reporting available to us 24hrs. a day. That said, we have seen a many business owners make the decision to stop their traditional marketing and initiate an attempt at managing their own digital marketing. And as a result, what do you think happens next? Well, if you guessed that they don’t have the time to continuously post new and relevant content, respond to social comments, and monitor activity all while simultaneously operating their businesses, then you guessed right. The end result, no more marketing, and a lousy looking social media page that’s just sitting around doing no good for the company.
Facebook is a great example to use in discussing this topic. A few years ago, before Facebook went public, businesses of all sizes happily launched Facebook business pages. Through minimal promotional efforts, they began receiving hundreds and thousands of likes and follows. It was exciting, as this was the first time businesses had something tangible to reference regarding their audience, and in real-time. It was a race to see how many likes they could get per day. Irrelevant content such as silly contests and posts with cute animals were frequently being used to draw in the likes. It was a big deal to reach your first 1k likes, many businesses actually celebrated this event. So, what has this lead to? A big marketing misconception. Business owners that had taken on the task of managing their own marketing had unfortunately focused their energy into gaining more likes, making or sharing irrelevant content, etc.. They’ve lost focus. We’ve actually seen businesses that have “liked” their own posts just so they can show activity. Since Facebook went public, the model for free exposure has changed, and what was once a race for likes, is now a plea for exposure. In earlier days, a business might have posted in the morning and by early afternoon at least 30% of followers would’ve seen it. Today however, a business is lucky if they can get their posts in front of 5% of their followers, as Facebook has brought everyone back to Earth regarding the reality of free marketing. Think about that for a minute, if you have 1k followers, you’d be lucky if 50 of them see your post. These days you’ll have to pay if you want people to see your content. And let’s see how many business owners are willing to pay for the posting of a smily face just to get new, and irrelevant likes..
By the way, traditional marketing is not dead, it can be much more effective by way of bilateral campaigning. This basically means using one channel to boost another, (i.e.. An email goes out to 200 of your customers regarding a special promotion you’re having on a specific date. In order for the email recipient to receive the actual promotional code, they’ll have to visit this Sunday’s paper and find the “hidden message”. The first 20 customers to bring this in to your business will be rewarded with the amazing deal.. This can go anyway you can think of – Facebook to newspaper, Twitter to Radio, etc..) Creating a multi-channel campaign can be extremely effective if executed the right way.
The fact is, marketing is an ever-changing landscape that requires constant monitoring. A surprisingly high number of businesses are still not aware of the changes that Facebook made; and that’s just one segment of one channel. Can you imagine trying to stay on top of the marketing industry news while maintaining your business and monitoring that industry as well? If so, we applaud you, maybe. The idea that there is always a better way to do business, is something you should consider while determining how you will attack your marketing. Leveraging the help of a professional by either hiring internally or outsourcing can help small business owners remain focused on their core business. This doesn’t mean they should remove themselves from all the activities of their marketing, rather, we encourage collaboration as it cultivates creativity and provides company-wide buy-in.
What’s the take away from all this? Invest in your marketing, but do it smartly. If you don’t have the means to continuously monitor your marketing in determining what’s working and what needs changes, then you really aren’t securing your efforts; and you might as well be playing Black-Jack at the casino with that money instead. It’s not a bad idea to try managing your own marketing, but if you get frustrated with your results, don’t give up on it entirely; get someone who has experience in the industry, has time to focus, and knows how to monitor progress throughout their efforts. This person should have a lot of questions regarding your business in order to have a thorough understanding of your industry, customers, processes, etc.. It’s important they have a clear picture of how you operate your business in order to accurately convey your message.
Frank Sepko is the founder and managing director of Northeast Sales Partners, LLC., a business, marketing, and sales consultancy located in Northeastern Pennsylvania. For more information, please visit www.northeastsalespartners.com.