Online Marketing – How Times Have Changed

If you pay attention at all, it’s easy to see how the economic crisis has reached into our everyday lives. Businesses with an online presence are going through a consumption crisis. Faced with current, real issues and future, theoretical issues, business owners and consumers are taking two distinct attitudes: no consumption or over consumption. Save it all or spend it all.

Interestingly enough, much of the compulsive consumption is happening online. With affiliate marketing, optimizers’ gone wild and social media gurus popping up everywhere, consumers are constantly bombarded by messages to buy, sign up, read and engage.

How does this affect you as a small business owner? Have you become a compulsive consumer, or are you even a consumer at all, now? Are you trying to reduce your spending? Are your hours being consumed by needs a business can’t do without, but you can no longer afford to hire someone to do?

The good news, and the only real good thing about this upside down economy, is that you as a small business can partake and have a big impact. With the changes in marketing that have been happened over the past few years, you can now promote your company, values and relationships through many online venues.

I’ve recently been re-reading David Meerman Scott’s book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR (2007, updated 2009). It’s definitely a recommended read. In the opening, Scott puts it like this. He says:

“Before the Web came along, there were only two ways to get noticed: buy expensive advertising or beg the mainstream media to tell your story for you. Now we have a better option: publishing interesting content on the Web that your buyers want to consume. The tools of the marketing and PR trade have changed. The skills that worked offline to help you buy or beg your way in are the skills of interruption and coercion. Success online comes from thinking like a journalist and a thought leader.”

Robert Scoble, in the Foreword, says:

“…there’s a new medium to deal with. Your PR teams had better understand what drives this new medium (it’s as influential as the New York Times or CNN now), and if you understand how to use it you can drive buzz, new product feedback, sales, and more.

But first you’ll have to learn to break the rules.”

“The rules” are the old rules of public relations. If you’ve missed the boat, let me explain. You don’t have to have a degree in marketing or PR to engage your audience (although, granted, it does help). Anyone can market their own products, as long as they’re able to engage and interact with readers and consumers. It boils down to “Trust”.

See, unlike the days of old, you no longer have to beg the media for airtime and recognition. It’s a different world with different rules. We’ve moved away from interruptive marketing and towards an informal exchange between business and consumer. We’ve moved back towards transparency, and given consumers more informed choices on what and when to consume.

Make sure you have a user- and search engine- friendly website, easy to use and easy to understand. Take the time to reach out to your audience; try to find out what brought them to your site, what they wanted to know and if they found what they needed. Build your relationships through social media and networking.

You can be your own online marketing team, even as a non-consumer. You can succeed, as long as you keep the exchange for time and money even. When you have the time, spend it; if you don’t have the time, spend the money for your SEO and online marketing. It may be painful, but marketing can and will help you become a successful business.

Post image by Chris Keeney Photography