Think back to what was happening in the digital media world of 2005, a lifetime ago for those in the fast-paced world of technology.
The iPhone had not yet been introduced, the iPad hadn’t even been imagined, and smartphones represented just a tiny percentage of mobile devices.
Bands were creating pages on MySpace to reach out to their fans, and Facebook was only available to college students.
Online ad spending, having grown for 10 years, had crossed over $10 billion.
There was no such thing as Twitter or Foursquare.
Now fast forward to today, just seven years later.
About half of U.S. mobile phone consumers have smartphones. Globally, nearly 500 million smartphones were sold in 2011, compared to fewer than 400 million PCs sold.
Facebook now has about 850 million users worldwide and is likely to hit 1 billion by the end of the year.
Despite the sluggish economy, online ad spending will reach nearly $40 billion this year, surpassing newspaper and magazine print advertising, and closing in on television. By 2016, that same amount of spending – nearly $40 billion – will be spent on localized digital marketing alone. Consumers spend more time with online media than with traditional media, but businesses have not yet proportionally shifted their marketing dollars to take full advantage of this.
There are now more than 450 million Twitter accounts, with 11 new accounts being added every second. Every second!
Why am I relaying all of this information to you? To underscore the notion that business owners can’t ignore the digital evolution, because that’s where your customers are searching for information and identifying local businesses to work with.
In my last blog post, I suggested that social media is not worth doing unless planned and executed strategically. In the same vein, retailers and integrators not only need to consider trends in digital communications when thinking about how to engage tomorrow’s customers, they need to decide which tendencies to resist and which to embrace right now.
Resist simply relying on what worked for you in the past – in marketing, in nurturing prospects and repeat buyers, and in reaching your community. This is a whole new world from where we were just seven years ago.
Also resist simply throwing away your old methods in favor of new ones. The key is to maintain momentum while shifting with consumer preferences. For example, if you are referred to a new prospect by a customer or running a traditional campaign (TV, radio, print) to reach new prospects, the most likely action by prospects will be to search for your business (or your type of business) online.
If you are not part of that online conversation, you will be invisible to today’s prospects.
Even worse, your traditional media campaign could be driving prospects to competitors who do have a strong presence in digital media. So couple your traditional media investment with a means to be found online – in search engines, on content sites, and in important directories. This is “closing the loop” and shores up your other marketing investments.
And don’t try to do everything new at the same time. Throwing all your resources simultaneously at online advertising, SEO, social media, Foursquare, Groupon and other new methods can be exhausting and dilute your efforts.
Of course, you can’t resist ignoring the mobile evolution. Ensure your digital marketing can target mobile devices like smartphones and iPads, and begin thinking about developing a mobile-friendly version of your website. Understand that tomorrow’s consumer wants more “bite-sized” communications, such as the 140-character limit on a tweet or a promotional message they can easily read on a four-inch screen in their hand.
Move into marketing channels where consumers are gathering. Increasingly, that means away from print and broadcast and into the digital realm. Interestingly, while over 90 percent of consumers use online resources to identify locally purchased products and companies, only a modest percentage of small businesses have a strong online presence (website + marketing) to harvest this demand. If you’re not part of the online conversation when consumers are in the hunt, you fundamentally won’t exist in their minds.
Prioritize key opportunities to present your business. Follow the digital media order of operations: digitize (establish a good Web presence), optimize (ensure your site is indexed for search), advertise (drive relevant consumers to your site) and socialize (nurture prior visitors and fans through social media channels).
With those key pieces done, you can then take the final step – mobilize (configure your online presence to a mobile-device-friendly format). In two years, more people will access the Internet from mobile devices than from personal computers. Build your digital presence and marketing to address that eventuality.
So what new technologies or platforms will consumers be using five, six, seven years from now? No one can say for sure, but if you adapt your marketing tactics to where consumer behavior and digital technology are converging, that will put you on the right path to tomorrow’s solutions.