Marketing is the bedrock of business growth. Typically, a significant portion of a company’s annual operating budget is earmarked for marketing strategies to enhance brand-building efforts and drive sales. In the pre-internet era, traditional channels defined the ways that products and services were presented to consumers. The internet has broadened this playing field, increasing the ways that businesses can reach their customers.
Traditional Marketing Strategies
Some of the most recognizable slogans of today came from marketing campaigns of yesteryear: “Breakfast of Champions” for Wheaties and “A Diamond is Forever” from De Beers, and of course “Just Do It!” from Nike and “The Real Thing” from Coke are still part of the modern American lexicon.
Brand recall for these slogans is outstanding because the companies involved used every available marketing channel and sustained these efforts over the years to entrench the brand in public consciousness. There was certainly nothing offhand about it. The Coca-Cola Company spends upwards of $3 billion – that’s billion with a “b” – yearly on global advertising of their products, and they do this despite the fact that 94% of the population of Earth recognizes the logo that spells their name. But Coke is in it for the long haul. They want to make sure your children and your children’s children grow up with Coke.
Traditional marketing channels include broadcast through television and radio. TV spots were once the gold standard in advertising because commercials can be infused with realism and color. Media researchers use a sophisticated system of measuring advertising impact. Production and placement costs for TV ads can be astronomical especially for startups and small businesses, but advertising spots in local programming may be a viable option.
Radio spots are generally more affordable. Lower production costs and more options for localized placement can boost marketing efforts.
Print media includes newspapers, magazines and billboards. Collaterals refer to other printed promotional materials such as brochures, catalogs and coupon flyers. Direct sales and similar promotional programs that take the products or services directly to consumers also count as traditional marketing strategies.
Extending the Reach of Traditional Marketing Channels
There are other tried-and-true methods of reaching customers that would still fall under traditional strategies because they involve person-to-person contact. These strategies include:
• Participation in local events – If the target customer is local, these events will provide important face time opportunities that could convert to sales and brand building. Interacting with customers is also an effective way to get feedback and enhance word-of-mouth marketing, which is one of the more effective strategies to build name recognition.
• In-person networking – These events include Chamber of Commerce events, meet-ups and other industry-related meetings that would give entrepreneurs a chance to talk about their business. The audience may not include target customers, but interfacing with other business people can provide valuable leads and marketing tips.
• Trade shows and conferences – These special events are old-school methods, but they are proven methods of meeting customers and mentors. Trade shows provide the perfect opportunity to meet and observe the competition and learn from their marketing practices.
• Onsite promotions – Businesses with a brick-and-mortar presence may benefit from hosting onsite events that would bring in foot traffic. Special sales, product demonstrations with raffles, and celebrity appearances are proven crowd magnets to draw attention to a product, service or physical location.
• Printed and promotional materials handout campaigns – Depending on the type of product or service, customers may not be susceptible to on-the-spot decisions. Handing out informational brochures and multi-functional promotional items with the company’s name and contact information will ensure that your information stays in front of the customer. Functional promotional items are marketing materials that work 24/7 with minimal cost to the business other than the initial outlay.
Digital Marketing Strategies
The internet has opened new avenues to reach customers. According to a study conducted by Constant Contact, a marketing specialist, finding new customers, enhancing repeat business and gaining referrals are the top concerns of small to medium businesses (SMBs). Given the limited resources of SMBs, marketing strategies should be scalable to current needs without restricting room for growth.
By its very nature, digital marketing should be adaptable and flexible. These are strategies that are flexible enough to realign quickly as the market changes.
• Internet Presence – Build a website (or multiple websites) with relevant and search engine optimized content. Stake out your own corner of the internet, populate it with information that users can use and ensure that the website can be found by users. Dynamic websites will include a contact form for customer queries and feedback. The website should be designed with opt-ins for subscriptions, special offers and information on other relevant programs.
• Email Marketing – If you have access to customers’ email addresses, use it to forward information that could be useful to them. This could come in the form of newsletters, white papers and surveys. Information should be presented in a format that can be scanned quickly. Limit the frequency of email messages and avoid spamming at all costs.
• Social Media – Social media platforms have caused a seismic shift in the way businesses approach marketing. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have created two-way traffic between businesses and their customers. SMBs that can leverage their social media presence to build their brand and keep their name in the forefront stand a chance of being noticed in a crowded marketplace.
• Review Sites – Customer feedback is a tool for growth, provided businesses have a system in place for generating feedback and managing responses in a public space. Review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Google and Yahoo are some of the more popular ones. Angie’s List requires a minimal paid membership and includes customer support and a complaint resolution system.
• Referral Sites – Services like Thumbtack and Home Advisor offer a medium where companies can bid on customer inquiries and requests. With some research you can determine which sites to experiment with and see what works for your business. There are also quite a few services that specialize in lead generation in specific fields. These are worth looking into as long as you gauge the cost of the lead vs. the return.
• YouTube and Video Marketing – Videos are effective teaching tools because they are engaging and interactive. With more consumers researching the product or service online, it pays to use videos to present product demonstrations and maintenance tips.
Integrating Traditional and Digital Marketing Strategies
Clearly, entrepreneurs are best served by studying the market they wish to penetrate and tailoring a marketing plan that will put their product or service in front of the targeted audience, engage this audience and convert them into loyal customers. Integrating traditional and digital channels for your particular business, when done right, can be cost effective and productive. Social media engagement and website maintenance do not require as large an outlay as TV ads, but the company’s internet presence can lay the groundwork for major campaigns.
In the new marketplace, each channel, whether traditional or digital, has a role to play in the marketing game. Instead of choosing one over the other, determine which combination of traditional and digital strategies works best in expanding your sphere of influence. And don’t forget that market research – as well as a certain degree of trial and error – is all part of the game.
With an abundance of opportunities, the marketing mantra for entrepreneurs might as well be: BE BOLD. BE CREATIVE. AND BE RECEPTIVE TO CHANGE.