What an exciting time to be in business! The Internet has revolutionized the way we shop, socialize, learn, work, and interact with each other on a personal and professional level. Gone are the days when you would consult with one or two people, a phone book, and a BBB directory when trying to find a service or product. And then have to sit through several sales presentations before selecting the right company or product for you.
Now, you can ask hundreds (or even thousands) of friends and associates for advice (in mere seconds), read customer reviews, and compare choices, options, benefits, etc. from candidates’ web sites, all from the comfort of your home, office, or while you are waiting in line somewhere. And then, make your decision to buy from a company without ever having had a single interaction with a salesperson or the company.
People have become jaded and don’t trust traditional advertising messages. Overwhelmingly, your customers are using search engines, social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), and blogs to learn about the products and services you, as a business, have to offer.
If you were to Google your business’ name or top keywords for your products or services, does your business appear in the listings? How about monitoring what people are saying about you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp!, or blogs? Does your business have a presence there? Are you mentioned at all? If so, are the mentions positive?
For a lot of businesses who have been around a while and are used to more traditional forms of marketing (such as trade shows, radio / tv / newspaper ads, and direct mail), this changing landscape can seem very daunting and intimidating. It is a radical shift from pushing marketing messages onto potential customers to pulling customers in and engaging with them where they are, on their terms.
But, it is also a very exciting time, full of opportunity for those businesses who decide to jump in and embrace it. The playing field for large and small businesses has been flattened. The high cost of traditional marketing methods which created a barrier to entry for many small businesses, are no longer an issue. The key is to consistently create online content and optimize it so that it appears on the first page of search results when your customers search for you or the products or services you sell. The ease and low cost of publishing via blogs, videos, podcasts, forums, and social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, mean that you as a business can reach your customers directly with relatively little cost.
So, are you ready to jump into this new marketing landscape and take your business to new heights? Before you get going, make sure you have a solid understanding of your target market and the customers you are trying to reach. Creating a customer profile or buyer persona is a great way to do this.