Remember the good old days? Marketing used to be so direct. Whether you wanted a product sold or just aimed to increase brand awareness, you paid to place an ad on a giant billboard in a visible spot or paid for space in a newspaper or other publications. Television ads were for the big boys with big budgets. Consumers did the rest of the work.
But oh how things have changed. Increased exposure to media and an inundation of brands trying to grab their attention has been demanding for consumers. The average consumer today is far more aware and far smarter about interacting with businesses than ever before. Consumers today have a better understanding of how advertising works and they are much more careful about where they make purchases.
So a billboard may increase awareness, especially if it truly stands out as unique in some way, but that awareness is short lived and quickly gets trampled by competing brands with strong advertisements online or anywhere else a particular consumer spends most of his time.
But the oversaturation of the online marketing industry has even made the internet a highly-competitive zone. Consumers who see a good ad online may be aware of that brand, but that doesn’t mean they’ll buy it. Instead, most consumers today have learned to see through the thick clouds of advertisements and prefer to rely on personal recommendations.
As it’s turned out, social media and messaging services are so much spaces for advertisements as they are spaces for satisfied customers to spread the word of their own volition. How many times have you written in a relevant group or asked your friends for recommendations for the best supplier or service for some solution you need? You’ve probably lost count.
What does this mean for businesses? As such recommendations continue to be so valuable, how can a brand influence the conversation and reach consumers in this space?
- Keep your customers happy. It’s never been more important to offer both a good product and good service together. There are all kinds of new tools of technology that should be leveraged to find out what matters to your customers and to make sure you succeed in those areas. Accessibility is a huge piece of the puzzle. Make sure customers can reach you across the plethora of social platforms online, and use your accounts there to connect with them on a more personal level. It’s easy to make headlines with a clever joke on social media that also makes your brand personable and emotionally as well as physically accessible to consumers.
- Keep the ads going. While your primary focus should be providing customers with an experience that will motivate them to recommend your business to others, you’ll still need to maintain a presence in advertising. Without reminding consumers that you exist, it’ll be hard to get their attention on social media and you may find yourself without many customers to keep happy in the first place. Just make sure the advertising you do is efficient and narrowly focused so you can spend more resources elsewhere.
- Build a community. What this multi-pronged approach amounts to is building a community around your brand and product. That means being active where they are online. Don’t just advertise AT them. Engage WITH them. Incentive customers to return to your store and your social media pages with events, discussions and other interactive material that sparks their interest. If you sell school supplies online, don’t draw up an ad that you have the best pencils on the market, write a blog about the materials kids need to succeed in school and create a group where kids can ask for study tips and find learning resources.
The world of marketing has changed, but that doesn’t mean businesses can’t change with it. The key is a community.