In some form or other, almost every aspect of our daily lives and the products and services we use, is transitioning at a rapid pace from "analog" to "digital". The business environment and challenges we face to be successful are therefore also constantly and quickly changing.
For small and medium sized businesses to try and keep ahead of the curve and position themselves for future success it's an overwhelming challenge.
The modern era of marketing is a very relevant example of change, and the importance of adopting this change for the purposes of business development and success is vital for the future health and, ultimately, for the of survival of a business.
Most business owners know they have to advertise in order to market their company and their value proposition. This activity forms an expense that makes up the marketing budget. When there's no marketing investment a business gradually sinks into oblivion.
With a traditional analog marketing campaign it's fairly straightforward to make decisions on where the funds are allocated - trade magazines, radio spots, maybe some TV, etc. However, it's been almost impossible to directly attribute any new business that's won directly to a specific element of an analog marketing campaign.
Business owners generally don't like investing in areas where it's so difficult to calculate what the return is and, because the ROI for traditional marketing is inherently cloudy, it's been very difficult to effectively target or maximize the return of analog marketing expenditures.
Transition Phase to Digital Marketing
The hype and publicity surrounding the latest digital marketing techniques for a business enterprise is overwhelming. However, largely because of the legacy issues associated with analog marketing, and the difficulties calculating returns on investment, marketing expense and strategy has its fair share of skeptics among small business owners. Now, faced with the prospect of digital marketing, there's a requirement to learn new techniques and the use of new platforms for distributing marketing material. For the most part, small businesses are unfamiliar with these techniques and how to effectively use social media platforms for content distribution.
As you'd expect, the less familiar with a new strategy or investment opportunity, the more hesitation there's going to be before going down such a path. This may be especially true for marketing related expenses due to the legacy issues of calculating the returns on investment associated with analog marketing.
In short, the small business owner is faced with jumping out of the frying pan of analog marketing and into the fire of digital marketing and is faced with an uncomfortable dilemma:
Do nothing - wait and see
Jump in and see what happens
Continue with legacy "analog" marketing strategies
Start careful research and figure out a plan to try and enter the fray
Of course no investments should be made without a plan and this investment philosophy must surely include the marketing budget as well as all other investments. So, to properly consider investing in digital marketing for small business, a significant investment of time is required in order to understand the field and develop a plan. This is usually time a business owner doesn't have and, even if he did, then the subject matter is likely to be outside his realm of expertise. As a result, and despite perhaps knowing better, either the business owner does nothing to learn or understand modern digital marketing techniques and strategies, jumps in without a plan or continues with a legacy analog marketing strategy. Unfortunately, none of these options are favorable for the future of a business.
Inbound Digital Marketing
Firstly, implementing an inbound digital marketing strategy should be one of the highest priorities of any business enterprise expecting a sustainable future. Secondly, it can only be fully and successfully implemented if an integrated information technology platform has been deployed.
An inbound digital marketing strategy is contingent on an "opted-in" email contact list. If an enterprise doesn't already have its customer and prospects email addresses it needs to collect and place them into a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform such as Salesforce, MS Dynamics or one of the many others that are available. Building and maintaining this database is vital if an enterprise wishes to enter the digital age of e-commerce.
Inbound digital marketing is 100% dependent on content. About 100 trillion emails were created and sent globally in 2015. If an enterprise doesn't have carefully prepared, interesting and relevant content then, even with a "friendly" audience resulting from an "opted-in" mailing list, the message will not be given the time of the day and results of the marketing efforts will be poor.
Not only is the content important but so is the strategy of the campaign. Email marketing campaigns need to include "calls-to-action" (CTAs) and the activity resulting from each email campaign must be recorded in the CRM application. Who clicked on what tells an enterprise what the audience are interested in and what the next step needs to be in terms of nurturing that lead through the sales pipeline.
For sure, a digital marketing strategy is not just about blasting emails. Blogging is vital. However, just like emailing, the quality of the blog content is paramount. The target audience will not read material that's poorly written, irrelevant or generally uninteresting. The intent has to be to establish the author as an authority on its subject matter and, that subject matter is relevant and interesting to the target audience.
An enterprise committed to developing interesting content has to develop its audience which is where the various social media platforms become directly relevant. As content is delivered to, and read, by a wider audience, then the objective is to bring traffic back to the target website. Once at the website, visitors have to be converted to leads and nurtured through the pipeline until eventually they become customers. Social media in small business and website traffic development go hand-in-hand - you won't cost effectively have the latter without the former!
Inbound Digital Marketing and the Return on Investment
Unlike with traditional analog marketing, the costs and return on digital marketing can be fully quantified. If an enterprise can successfully develop and implement a digital strategy then results of the campaigns can be quantified in ways analog marketing campaigns never could be. For example, the following activities are all measurable;
The number of readers of email blasts
Number of blog subscribers
Website visits and where they came from
What site visitors do when they arrive at a website
How long they visit and what pages they visit.
Use of this information is vital to fine-tune and continually improve direct email and blogging activities providing opportunities and measurable metrics that cannot be achieved with legacy analog campaigns.
Digital marketing has the potential to be significantly more efficient than traditional analog marketing. For example, printing and sending out 1,000 promotional fliers involves a gamble that the costs will be covered with profits from new business won.
Preparing and sending out 1,000 emails has a minimal cost and can be scaled to 10,000 emails without a significant increase in cost. Intelligent use of the data resulting from blogging and emailing campaigns means the strategy can be fine-tuned and continually made more and more effective.
Remember - efficient businesses ultimately win. A well planned inbound digital marketing campaign is infinitely more efficient than a traditional analog marketing campaign - therefore, longer term this strategy wins.
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