July 20, 2017 | By: Rustin Dodd

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Is Your Marketing Failing in the Twenty-First Century?

It’s quite amazing to step back and look at the dramatic shifts that have occurred in our society over the last couple decades.  The rise of the internet has given way to unprecedented access to information, unparalleled levels of communication, and even self-driving cars.

In this time, the marketing landscape has also changed drastically.  A landscape once dominated by TV, radio, and print advertising has witnessed the rise of digital marketing with its unrivaled level of targeting and sophistication.

The bottom line is that if your approach to marketing isn’t changing with the times, then you will most likely start to see your bottom line start heading in the wrong direction if it isn’t already.

In this post, we examine the best tools in the modern marketing tool belt and why so many small to mid-sized businesses fail at effectively using them.

First off, know what you don’t know

Before we dive into specific tools that you may be underutilizing or not using at all, let’s address the elephant in the room, you.  As a business owner, you’re probably familiar with the term “know what you don’t know.”  But for so many small to mid-sized businesses this concept is completely lost when it comes to marketing.

To be fair, if you’re operating a business that is even moderately successful then you probably A) have a pretty good grasp on the big picture of marketing, or B) are very good at a specific aspect of marketing.  Either way, this can often become your Achilles heel.  Your success at certain levels of marketing has lulled you into believing that you know enough not to need expert help.

I would also extend this to your employees as well.  It’s important that you know what your employees don’t know.  For example, putting your office manager in charge of your social media simply because he or she is a millennial and uses social media in their personal life will not be an effective social media marketing strategy.  That’d be like the New York Times making me a columnist just because I read the newspaper.

It’s very important to recognize that more often than not, jumping into a marketing strategy or channel without a working understanding of that channel or strategy will result in poor performance at best and an utter waste of time and resources at worst.

3 Must Use Tools and How They Might Be Failing You

Ok, we’ve got the uncomfortable self-reflections out of the way.  Let’s dive into the three commonly used and abused twenty-first-century marketing tools and how to avoid common pitfalls.

web and ux design

Web and UX Design

It’s just not possible to explore the changing marketing landscape without immediately addressing web and UX design.

If you don’t have a website, well, I’d say it’s high time that you got one.  It’s the most important piece of any marketing plan in the twenty-first century.

There are any number of web design companies that exist to serve businesses of all sizes and with all budgets.  You don’t have to spend an exorbitant amount of money on your website, just keep in mind that you will get what you pay for.

For those who currently have a website, there are many common mistakes that can lead to its poor performance, these include:

  • Not responsive, or mobile friendly
  • Poorly branded
  • Complicated or poorly designed navigation
  • Visually unfocused or overwhelming
  • Lacking appropriate calls-to-action

When I’m speaking with clients, and I use terms like UX design or responsive design I can often see their eyes start to glaze over.  Don’t let industry terms turn you off to the discussion.  The best way to approach your website as a business owner is to work with a designer to build a website that is attractive and useful.

Too often business owners try to build a website that is focused incorrectly in one of two ways:

  1. It’s a singer – as in “Me Me Me.” A singer website is all about what the business owner wants a user to do and gives no consideration to what the user actually wants to do, which is why they are there in the first place.
  2. It’s a painter – as in an art project. A painter website is quite often beautiful, but rather ineffective as it lacks the common navigational or user experience oriented features that lead to conversions.

If you think of your website as a tool and not an art piece and focus on a balance between why the user is there and what you want them to do, you will most likely end up with an effective marketing tool in your tool belt.

digital advertising

Digital Advertising

Oh boy, where to begin with digital advertising?  The power that digital advertising can provide a small to mid-sized business is immense, but all too often it feels like some sort of black magic that drains your account without showing any returns.

If you’ve experimented with digital advertising of some kind or another only to turn it right off again believing that it’s just not a good fit for your business, then you are not alone.

Digital advertising can seem so simple, after all, you just pay for people to come to your website.  But in reality, digital advertising is a specialty in and of itself.  The experience and expertise necessary to truly run an effective digital advertising campaign that is focused on the right outcome and targeting the right audience can be complex.

The most common mistakes that businesses make when trying digital advertising for themselves are:

  • Not spending enough to see results
  • Not properly targeting their ads
  • Not A/B testing their ads
  • Not choosing the right advertising platform (Google, social media platforms, etc..)
  • Not creating effective ads

The reality is that digital advertising is different than traditional print advertising.  Traditionally when you ran an advertisement, it was pretty cut and dry, X dollars for X people to see your ad.  Digital advertisements can be delivered in a number of ways to an audience that can be sliced up in a million different segments and targeted with unbelievable accuracy.

The most common mistake people make is that they set a small budget, turn on their ads without properly targeting them and then run through their budget way too fast and without getting any results.  The conclusion they draw is that it wasn’t a good fit for their business when in reality, it was just poorly executed.

If you work with a digital marketing firm, you should be able to see results from digital advertising of some kind, regardless of business model or industry.

branding and design

Branding and Design

Ok, so branding and design aren’t exactly twenty-first-century concepts, but the way we build brands has changed, and the importance of good design has never been greater.

Too often when we say “brand,” the brain goes straight to logos.  It’s true; your logo is part of your brand.  In fact, a good logo design is a critical component of your brand.  But in the modern world, your brand is so much more.

You brand consists of everything from its visual representation to your company values to your brand story.  A strong brand is something that you carefully construct and actively continue to reinforce.

For most small to mid-sized businesses, branding is a major reason why social media marketing has become a growing focus of their marketing efforts.  Social media marketing allows you to use influencers to spread your message, respond to feedback, and showcase your company personality and values.

More than ever people want to engage with brands that they share values with, and that present themselves as credible and trustworthy in everything that they do.

For that reason and much more, it’s important that any time you do anything that is public facing you approach it with your brand in mind and execute the design in a way that reinforces your message.  Take no marketing piece for granted; they are all important.

The Take-Away

There are a million small things that almost all of us could do better in our marketing efforts on a day to day basis.  For the most part, the easiest way to improve your marketing is to change the way that you approach it.

We could cover a thousand technical ways that you could improve your website performance, but if you focus on the right things, you’ll find that a lot of those issues will work themselves out.

Know what you don’t know, and for the areas where you’re not an expert, find one to work with that you trust.  Finding the right marketing partner can change the way you feel about marketing altogether and transform the way you do business.

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About Rustin Dodd

Rustin Dodd, a marketing strategist with MARION, has more than a decade of marketing experience in both the B2B and B2C industries. His experience includes graphic design, front-end web development, e-commerce management and digital marketing. He has worked on projects for various clients as a freelancer, within an agency setting, and as a member of an in-house team.