This article is not intended to minimize the current economic climate and how it has impacted small businesses. However, small business owners have little control over the economy. Someone once said (maybe one of my readers), “Life is not about waiting for storms to pass… it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” And what I am writing about today is learning to dance in the rain. That means taking charge of the things which are under the control of small business owners.
Actually, large and small businesses alike are suffering. As I consult with these businesses, I find that their strategy is to go “back to basics” and multiply their sales efforts. But there are two major problems with this strategy. First, the prospect is bombarded with cold calls. So, they quit answering the phone and taking appointments so they can insulate themselves from sales people. The only people they are willing to speak to are those with whom they have a previous relationship. Second, going “back to basics” is not the right strategy because marketing has changed over the past few years. The old methods are longer as effective as they were in the past. Allow me to explain.
Many things have changed over the past few years. The economy is just one example. Marketing, in particular, has changed dramatically. It is rapidly moving, or has already moved, away from a traditional mechanical model to an emerging organic model. For centuries we have been using a mechanical model of best practices in marketing and until recently it has served us well. However, many innovative changes in technology have rendered this model virtually obsolete. Those who have not adapted to these changes are struggling more than necessary in this economy. Those who have adapted are securing new accounts and taking business away from those who have not.
So let’s take a close look at the differences between the traditional mechanical marketing model and the new emerging organic marketing model.
Traditional Mechanical Marketing Model
- Consumer exposure through print, outdoor, radio, and/or TV ads
- Company has command and control of the message
- Message is broadcast (one-way) to the consumer
- Message is direct (hard sell) “buy from us, because…”
- Designed with a “call to action” to generate immediate revenue
- Declining consumer response to messages delivered in this way
- Measures “outputs”
Emerging Organic Marketing Model
- Consumer exposure through internet, blogs, social networks via PC, smart phones, MP3 players, Kindle, etc.
- Consumers control messages
- Message is delivered via e-conversations (two-way) and face-to-face networking between consumers and the company as well as each other
- Central message is indirect (soft sell) “how can we help you”
- Designed to build relationships and trust with consumers and communities for future revenue
- Consumer response to messages received in this manner is growing like wild fire
- Measures “outcomes”
There are other differences as well and I am hoping readers will mention them below in the comment section. The main objective of this article is to raise awareness about the change from a mechanical to an organic marketing model and to encourage small business owners and entrepreneurs to change their practices to match this transformation if they wish to succeed.
Why is it important to change?
The most important reason is that the mechanical method is becoming less effective with every day that passes and the organic method is becoming more effective every day. There are 55 million people on LinkedIn (with almost 500,000 groups), 350 million on Facebook and over 100 million on Twitter. Chances are there are many face-to-face networking events in your community. If you want to catch fish, you have to go where they like to swim.
When is the best time to change?
A couple of old adages come to mind… “The time to dig a well is before you are thirsty.” And “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” I think both of these adages are apropos when it comes to small business marketing today.
It takes time to build networks and communities. Actually, it takes a lot of time. And even when you have built sizable networks and communities, it takes time to build trusting relationships and convert these into revenue. The one thing small business owners don’t have is time. So what is an entrepreneur or small business owner to do?
It is a dilemma, to be sure, but considering the mechanical marketing model is losing its effectiveness with each day that passes, I don’t see any other option than to move to an organic marketing model. So here are a few suggestions.
Making the Transition from a Mechanical to an Organic Marketing Model
- Start Now – The Chinese have a saying, “A thousand mile journey begins with a single step.” Understanding the organic marketing method is the first step to developing an effective strategy. This is the one thing that has not changed. The tools may have changed but you still need a solid marketing strategy.
- Learn About Web 2.0 Tools – The organic marketing model encompasses much more than LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. These are just a few of the tools in the organic marketing model (click here to read a series of articles that will give you an overview of the many tools available to build a great marketing strategy). You should learn all you can about each tool. If you live in a community of any population, there are probably workshops being held on at least some of these tools (be sure to check and see if your local SCORE office offers any workshops on this subject). There are blogs, websites and webinars if you search the web for them. A Google search of “Web 2.0 Marketing Overview” produces 25 million results. A Web 2.0 marketing consultant can also help you.
- Build Your Marketing Strategy – Once you understand each of the many tools, build a strategy that will work for you. A specific tool may work well for one small business but not for another. The good news is that you can pick and choose the tools that will work best for you. Be sure you don’t limit your strategy to a specific social media tool or just social media in general, as the other organic tools are effective as well if used correctly. There are many consultants (some better than others) that can help you build your marketing strategy. A LinkedIn consultant may be able to help you with a LinkedIn strategy but might know very little about blogging, email marketing or autoresponders. The more you know about Web 2.0 Marketing, the easier it will be to select a good consultant.
- Commit the Time – Considering the alternative, you must find the time no matter how busy you may be. New web-based tools are being developed everyday that makes it easier and reduces the amount of time required. Yet there are several ways to accomplish this. If business is slow, you may be able to implement the strategy by yourself. But, unless you are a marketing guru, there are probably more profitable things you can do with your time. If you have employees, possibly they can help you implement the strategy. There are also services available that will implement the strategy for you for a fee. The funds you save as you migrate away from mechanical model can be used to defray costs you incur in moving to the organic model.
- Track Results – You can and should track results by measuring your sales results, but, many things can impact sales. Look at your results today compared to 18 months ago. The difference in part may be that you are still using the less effective mechanical marketing model. But of course, you have to also factor in the recession and other things as well. There are ways to track your results for organic marketing just as there is/was with mechanical marketing to insure the highest return on time and treasure invested.
Often times I have found that employees are more in tune with organic marketing than their employers. After all, they are probably among the millions that have joined social networks (mostly virtual but also in-person). If I were expanding my sales force at this point in time, a part of my evaluation would be the size and quality of their social networks and communities that they could bring with them when they join the company.
As a small business owner, the power of organic marketing will be multiplied by the size of the networks and communities of your current and future employees. So, why not look them up on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. during your interviewing and selection process to see what they can bring to the table.
Yes, our current economy does make it difficult for small business owners. Yet, those who transition to organic marketing will be miles ahead of those who don’t, and will be far better positioned when the economy recovers.
Future articles will go more into depth on the most popular Web 2.0 organic marketing tools. You can follow this blog by clicking here and entering your email address. Each time there is a new post you will be alerted by email and you can unsubscribe any time you desire.
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Posted by: Mike Clough