Change or Be Left Behind!
The Web is bringing fundamental change to how many businesses operate. If you have a small business, you need to understand those changes and how they will impact you–and leverage them to build your business. Here are some of these changes and their impacts.
In the past year, Macy’s on-line sales rose 41%, to account for most of the store’s growth year to year. Nordstrom had year-to-year growth of 7.1% for their stores, but 37% growth in their on-line sales. These companies realize what’s happening and they are staking out their territory. On the other hand, J.C. Penney’s on-line sales declined by 32%. The company’s explanation? That people on-line shop for price and delivery, and “that makes it hard.”
Inbound vs. Interruption Marketing
With traditional marketing, we pay to interrupt something our prospect wants to do with our message. They are reading the paper and we put our message alongside the news copy. Or they are watching TV and we pay to interrupt the program they want to watch with our commercial. All the while, we hope they will pay attention to this totally unsolicited message that may not be of any interest to them.
On the Internet, we work so that our site will be found by prospects who are looking for what we offer. We organize our sites so that they provide these people with the information they need in order to engage with us. We are not interrupting them, and we are not printing hundreds of thousands of copies of our information and hoping that a real prospect will see it. That’s why this approach is called “inbound” marketing.
On the Internet, if we rely on old-fashioned outbound techniques, we may miss the real prospect who is actually looking for what we have to offer! We have to find ways to ensure that this person will find us.
Remember when every block in the city had at least one travel agent? And you went to one to buy your airline tickets? Most of them are gone now, with only a few who serve specialized niches remaining. The airlines realized they could make flight information available directly to their customers; this process is called disintermediation, and it’s happening everywhere.
How can you deal with this? Expedia realized that they could consolidate flight information from many airlines so that flyers wouldn’t have to visit multiple sites, and they’ve built a thriving business. They did it by looking at the trends and adding value, not by bucking the trend.
Remember, in your business, if prospects don’t find you while they are doing their own research, they’ll never come to your store or read your ads because they’ll make up their minds without your input.
We’re all sympathetic with the newspapers that we love and the financial problems they face. But the trends are clear. Their circulation is declining and the cost of print advertising in newspapers and other periodicals keeps increasing. Paying for millions of pieces of paper and then paying to put ink on the paper and then paying to distribute that paper to people who mostly won’t read your ad costs a lot more than preparing your Web site to be found by prospects who want what you have.
If you have relied on print advertising for years, you’ll need to continue it, but at the same time increase your Web presence and the use of social media that are appropriate for your business.
The Bottom Line
It’s time–now–to make the change from interruption to inbound marketing! Use the Web and social networks to get your message in front of prospects who are interested. Begin your transition away from interruption advertising.