Change. It’s inevitable and yet we will sometimes do everything in our power to stop it.
I get it. Change can be scary and it can be hard but running from it or trying to prevent it never works. It just prolongs the inescapable and can put your business at a serious disadvantage.
Over the last ten years, there has been more change in marketing than the last several decades before it. Public relations (PR) hasn’t been spared. It too has seen its fair share of change.
I know somebody who thinks that PR could be extinct in a few years if its practitioners don’t change. I don’t disagree with her. In fact, I think she is right.
Change is here and it’s not going away anytime soon. It’s actually accelerating. The crossroads are right in front of you and ignoring it could eventually kill your business.
Things didn’t use to be this complicated. It used to be simpler. Before the internet marketing activities took place in very few channels but of course the world changed and marketing changed with it.
Who Needs Ads?
My father started selling cars in 1977 at a small dealership in Wyoming. Five years later he was the sales manager and helped with the advertising.
A few months ago I asked him what they did for advertising. It was a small town so I knew TV would have been out. It had to be ads on the radio or in the local paper.
He told me the radio was expensive and he avoided it. He said he thought the print ads weren’t particularly that effective so they used them as little as possible.
Sound like a deathwish? The dealership was one of the most successful in the area and Ford gave him two diamond rings for sales manager excellence.
In 1994, he and a partner started their own car dealership. He told me he didn’t run any ads in the six years he ran the business. He depended purely on his reputation.
The business thrived but the relationship with his partner didn’t. He eventually sold out and moved on.
The Rise of the Internet
I became aware of the internet in 1995. By 1996 I had AOL. I remember they had different forums where people could post. They were all organized by interest.
Being a young person, I spent a ton of time in the entertainment forums but I recall business forums as well. I visited them on a few occasions where I saw what I now recognize as early versions of online marketing.
With this new online thing, we were no longer bound by geography. One could market to people all across the country with ease.
In 1998 I made my first online purchase. I bought a CD from Amazon. At the time, I had a friend who was working for a distribution company that filled orders for them. Frankly, it was the only reason I made the purchase but soon I came to find that Amazon had a much better selection than any of the local retailers.
I obviously wasn’t the only one.
Change the World
In 1998, purchasing something off the internet was still kind of a novel idea for many people. Jeff Bezos may have seen the future but I bet most of us didn’t.
Blogs and social media were born and were adopted by a mass audience. Google became the dominant search engine that helps us find things. Music, television, and movie distribution went online.
Smart devices arrived allowing us to access the internet on the go. My iPhone is much more powerful than the first Mac I got back in 1996.
We can now literally buy almost anything on the internet. Clothes, shoes, appliances, and even cars right from our phone.
It didn’t just change the way we consume, it changed marketing as well.
Online ads were born in the form of banners on websites. Then we had pop-ups that seemed like they were trying to make the online experience as annoying as possible but marketing on the internet has grown up.
The Analog World has Gone Digital
Television ads are still around. They are also still expensive and consumers do everything they can to avoid them.
Radio offers ads but they are also expensive. Billboards haven’t gone away. Print ads in newspapers and magazines are still alive but depending on the print medium they too can be expensive.
None of the above mediums are measurable as far as impact. They only offer reach and impressions meaning they sell the opportunity to be seen.
These mediums likely won’t go away but they are losing eyes to the online world in which people have become accustomed.
When I was a kid I had a magazine subscription to Sports Illustrated and watched cable television. My niece and nephew and watch Netflix and magazines are foreign to them.
While I talked to my friends on the phone (which was plugged into the wall), they talk to their friends via text or via messages on Snapchat or Instagram.
Generation X were young people when the internet became a thing and experienced the move from analog to digital. Millennials were the first generation to grow up online. Generation Z is growing up online and many have never known life without a smartphone.
Why should you care? These three generations make up the majority of the country and their influence is only going to continue to grow.
Customers are Different
The bottom line is that your customers have changed. Yes, I know, some people still want to call on the phone or respond to a television ad but they are growing fewer.
People expect businesses to have an online presence. They want to be able to access information on demand and it needs to cover all stages of their journey. If your online content can’t answer their questions, they will move on to another company who can.
Being found is important so you better be practicing good SEO and have an online presence. Referrals are still with us but they likely won’t be enough to grow your business in the long term.
Companies are no longer in control. The customer is and they do business on their own terms and if we don’t adjust, we won’t survive.
I didn’t set out to offer digital marketing services. It happened after I read about the PESO model. I knew it was the present and future.
Digital marketing isn’t a novelty anymore. It doesn’t matter whether you are a small business or a large multinational corporation. It’s a necessity in a world where people increasingly live their lives online.
Change is here and it’s not going away. Everything in the foreseeable future points to continued change in how we market. Don’t be left behind.