The Future of Digital Marketing: Five Trends to Leverage a Small Business Opportunity

Jameson General Store was a historical treasure in the small North Carolina Community. Jim Jameson, the owner, had been part of the family legacy over 100 years old. The company had seen bad times, including The Great Depression. However, their hard work and customer loyalty had sustained the company’s success.

Even when a neighboring community got its Walmart’s Marketplace Store, their customers remained loyal. Jim did not believe in utilizing online advertising and social media platforms. He believed that these activities were only a fad. Yet, their customers gradually started shopping online because Jameson General Store was limited in its product offerings.

In fact, most of the business that Jameson Store lost was not to local competitors, but online sellers. Jim was adamant about resisting the temptation about shopping online. Yet, when he saw his own 10-year-old grandson purchase a difficult item to locate in the area online at significant costs, Jim had to ponder his current marketing strategy with the changing landscape in the nation.

Today’s customers can purchase a variety of items online with minimum effort. Given this scenario, brick and mortar companies are fighting to stay alive with the fierce internet competition. According to a 2017 survey conducted by Square and Mercury Analytics looking at 1,164 U.S. business owners, the following observations were made:

  • 96% of Americans with internet access have made an online purchase in their life, 80% in the past month alone.
  • 51% of Americans prefer to shop online.
  • 67% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Xers prefer to shop online rather than in-store.
  • Millennials and Gen Xers spend nearly 50% as much time shopping online each week (six hours) than their older counterparts (four hours).
  • 51% of seniors have shopped on marketplaces, 66% at large retailer sites, 30% on web stores or independent boutiques, and 44% at category-specific online stores.

Marketing professionals understand the importance of the internet and how to effectively leverage this power. According to Socialmedia.com, 90% of marketers use social media for their businesses. Sadly, many small businesses do not recognize this fact. Many businesses had opted to bury their heads in the sand in hopes that this ‘internet thing’ will go away. It hadn’t!

In fact, e-Commerce is growing more than 23% annually; however, 46% of American small businesses do not have a website according to Square and Mercury Analytics research. This article focuses on how small businesses can leverage digital marketing to achieve greater success and enhance their market opportunities.

Digital marketing should be a tool that every serious small business should utilize. Digital marketing goes by many names such as e-commerce marketing, online marketing, and internet marketing. Digital marketing can be defined as “the marketing of products or services using digital channels to reach consumers.” The key objective is to promote brands the usage of the internet.

Digital marketing extends beyond internet marketing to include channels that do not require the use of the internet. Some digital marketing channels include websites, social media platforms, email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, podcasts, and online advertising to name a few. Beyond technology gimmicks, businesses should know their customers and their core competencies. Digital marketing is not a silver bullet. Digital marketing is a tool for the savvy business professional.

Catherine Juan, Donnie Greiling, and Catherine Buerkle, authors of Internet Marketing: Start to Finish, suggest that effective digital marketing requires plenty of careful planning. They add, “The heart of getting real traction out of your internet marketing program is to tie marketing and sales data together, with metrics. Track what you’re doing, track the impact, and track the resulting sales.” Looking at the landscape of technology and internet innovation, small businesses should think strategically about the following five digital marketing trends:

Artificial Intelligence – Some people develop elaborate doom-day scenarios of machines to control the world. However, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a way of life in marketing. AI can be defined as ‘the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.’ Voice Activation technology like Amazon’s Echo is bringing AI into public attention. By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their purchases without interacting with a person.

Internet Searching – Buyers are more knowledgeable than ever with access to the internet. In fact, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making big purchases. Thus, exploring how to utilize search engine optimization and getting your business at the top of searches is an invaluable step.

Mobile Communications – Most Americans have grown accustomed to instant gratification and easy access to technology. Mobile and tablet e-commerce will reach $293B by 2018. Smartphone and tablets are part of this wave of innovation. Mobile will account for 72% of the U.S. digital ad spend by 2019. Marketers recognize that mobile marketing is an untapped business tool.

Social Media – Social media platforms, like Facebook, allows buyers to connect with each other virtually. 65% of business-to-business companies have acquired customers through LinkedIn ads. Marketers realize this value.

Web Content – Good content will attract customers. In fact, customers are more likely to purchase from sellers with good, relevant videos/photos on their website. 52% of marketing professionals globally name the video as the type of content with the best ROI.

Faced with the tenants of competition, small businesses need to utilize digital marketing. Some small businesses may be hesitant to explore digital marketing due to their lack of trust and understanding of the internet. Philip Kotler and Kevin Keller, authors of Marketing Management, note “Top firms are comfortable using technology to improve the way they do business with their business-to-business customers.”

This article demonstrated that today’s small businesses can utilize digital marketing to enhance their market opportunities. Hopefully, gaining this knowledge will help business owners so that they will not continue to bury their heads in the sand. The internet is here to stay. Pray that you are listening to this message.

© 2017 by DD Green

What’s Haunting Your Business?

Lot’s of businesses have ghosts of things past that haunt them on a daily basis. In fact, there are probably a few ghosts or goblins hanging around your company. Even when you don’t see them, they can hide in plain sight and hold your business back from reaching its full potential.

These are not real ghosts (if there is such as thing) but shadows of poor decisions, past employees and customer relationships that died a slow painful death. The shadows of these events color employee perspectives, inhibit risk taking and undermine motivation.

Like most entrepreneurs, I’m an optimistic and prefer to look on the bright side rather than dwell on the past. If you feel the same way, you may find it challenging to think about exorcising the demons you can’t see when there is a new deal to chase or a fresh opportunity on the horizon.

Even so, it pays to take some time periodically to go ghost hunting and you can free your business from these pesky and potentially painful echoes of your business history. Things that can haunt your business include the ongoing effects of…

  • A bad-apple employee who undermined trust and disrupted your company culture.
  • A poor manager who was divisive and created lasting walls between team members.
  • A customer relationship that soured, leaving bitter feelings behind.
  • A partnership that derailed, unraveling business opportunities and hurting revenue potential.
  • Legal issues that contribute to a culture of fear and reduce risk-taking or innovation.
  • Financial challenges that undermine investment opportunities and inhibit growth.

To get rid of these ghosts for good – or stop them from taking up residence in the first place – try this:

Discuss and debrief. When a business faces a setback it is tempting for employees and management to deal with the issue by pretending it never happened. A healthier approach is to acknowledge the event with a debrief session that allows people to express their feeling and observations. Sharing the impact of the experience allows people to unburden themselves rather than dragging extra baggage around and suffering from the excess weight they’re carrying..

Learn the lesson and move on. Every situation holds lessons to be learned, but in the rush to “get back to business” its easy to lose sight of them. Use your debrief sessions to uncover that was really learned by your team, even if this process requires some probing, poking and prodding. Once you find the lessons, work on internalizing what you’ve learned so you don’t end up stuck in the past, repeating old mistakes.

Undo the damage. Even after you learn the critical business lessons from these events, the damage can echo on. Watch for ripple effects that linger. These may include subtle cultural shifts like hyper conservative decision making, employees fearful of retribution when risks don’t pay off or a general reluctance to stretch outside the norm. If you notice your team is boxing itself in to avoid repeating a painful past, tackle the problem head on. Address the issue openly and encourage a return to a healthy environment.

Life Is an Echo: The Extraordinary Zig Ziglar

He lived well…

I came across a quote by Zig Ziglar today which led me to Life is an Echo. It’s an excerpt from See You at the Top. It was rejected by 30 different publishers before it was ever printed. The publishers weren’t impressed with this humble salesman. Before today, I knew so little of the history of this self-made man. I’m so blessed by taking some time to learn more. I hope you will feel the same.

Zig Ziglar was born…

in the tiny Alabama town of Enterprise in 1926. It’s one so small that you really have to be looking to find. Blink and you’ve missed it. It’s the land of cotton, soy beans and corn. It’s most known for a Boll Weevil Monument and peanuts. Moreover, Dale County is the Peanut Capitol of the World. It’s as Americana as it gets. I’ve passed through Enterprise a hundred times over the years, always on my way to somewhere else. You’d think I would have seen the sign saying “birthplace of our most famous son.” But this is where Zig lived his first five years. I can’t help but think of the influence this land had on him.

When I read Life is an Echo today, Enterprise ran through my mind. See You at the Top is about kindness and striving to do the right thing. It’s about treating people the way you’d like to be treated. It’s about HOPE. It’s about anticipating good things from people. If you know of Zig, then you know this is his theme song. Zig had a strong belief-system that started back in the red, Alabama clay.

Reap what you sow

Zig’s dad was a farmer. It makes me think of my relative who farm’s a few miles from his birthplace. I have learned so much from him. He is very wise. He can repair and build anything. In fact, he could have been any number of things. He loved that red clay he was born on and chose to be farmer. I’ve seen him throw on a suit, meet with a banker in town, and finance next year’s crops despite a “very bad year.” He made me realize farming is hard work. I know that farming is a lot like life. “You reap what you sow” has true meaning to both farmers and life. Tending. Patching. Watching. Waiting. Praying. Repairing. Studying. Resting. Adjusting. Testing. Crying. Rejoicing. Working. Working. Working.

Less than 2 years after the start of the great depression, Zig’s father relocated the family to Mississippi. He moved them so he could manage another farm in very bad times. A year later, when he was just 6 years old, his father died of pneumonia. Two days later, his little sister died. He was one of 12 children then raised by a single mom in a slow-recovering country. Can you imagine the pain for that little guy? And yet, he accomplished so much. If anyone had a reason to live a negative life, it might as well be him.

Black Monday

I know this story well. My grandfather died exactly 2 months after “Black Monday.” At 27, he left a young widow with 3 small children at the worst possible time. The oldest was my 5-year-old mother. She and her siblings were all separated and forced to live with relatives. My grandma returned to her parents’ home for several years. She made and sold queen-sized, hand-pieced, heirloom quilts for $2 each to survive. (I’m blessed to have 3 of her quilts. They are each works of perfection.)

My mother told endless stories. People who didn’t farm were starving. Mom learned to cook complete meals and do difficult farm work while her mom worked the farm. At 5, she could kill, clean, cut up, and cook a chicken by herself! I know how this impacted my reality: I was raised by two depression babies. Knowing all this, Zig’s positive nature intrigues me even more.

I’m including Life is an Echo below. Read it. Reflect on the countless masses of men and women Zig Ziglar helped over the years. He was the college drop-out who became the world’s most famous salesman. Life is an Echo was more than his “swan song.” As you read it, think about his simple beginnings during the worst financial time America has ever seen. Here’s my takeaway: DO YOU have a good reason why you can’t succeed THIS year?

Zig Ziglar, Life is an Echo

Life is an echo. What you send out comes back. What you sow you reap. What you give you get. What you see in others exists in you. Regardless of who you are or what you do, if you are looking for the best way to reap the most reward in all areas of life, you should look for the good in every person and in every situation and adopt the golden rule as a way of life.

It’s a universal truth that you treat people exactly like you see them. It’s also true that all you have to do to find “good” or “ability” in a person is to look for it. Once you find that “good” or “ability” in the other person, you treat him better and he performs better. So it’s good “business” and good “humanness” to be a “good finder.”

Well said, Zig.

Are you struggling to succeed in a sluggish economy? If so, share some of your stories or tips that keep you motivated and positive like Zig. Just leave a comment below.