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Katleen RichardsonBy Katleen Richardson

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As a small business, keeping your existing customers is easily as important as gaining new ones. In either case, it’s important to understand both what your customers are looking for, and what they expect in terms of marketing message. In the past, one-way advertising was king, but in the age of the internet and television on demand, a lot has changed.

According to Mashable, today’s consumer nearly always skips over TV ads. On the internet, consumers can do all the research they need to do to make the buying choices they want to make, and in addition they have instant access to thousands of brands at the click of a mouse. This is a huge wake-up call for those who have been clinging onto outdated marketing models that once may have been more effective.

As a business owner and marketer, it’s a change-or-die situation when it comes to following what consumers want from you. Simply put, if you don’t do things their way, they can easily find someone who does. Studies are showing that consumers are turned off by online advertising and will even leave sites and go elsewhere if ads are present.

This means that more than ever, content is king. You have to provide sufficient value to an enlightened audience that expects more than just advertising slogans. They want interaction, control over marketing message delivery, and most of all, they want fresh, unique content.

So this shift in focus will probably require you to try some new and different things with your marketing strategy, but the good news is that on the internet, you can pretty much get instant feedback through stats and social media interaction. If what you’re doing isn’t working, you will know it much sooner than you would have with traditional marketing. Be warned, though, that this compressed time scale works both ways – consumers will also have a lower patience threshold, because they can so easily shift their attention (and their business) somewhere else.

It’s a great idea to have a look at your current marketing strategy to see what changes could be made to accommodate newer models of consumer behavior. Here are a few things you want to make sure you have:

Unique, valuable content – why is your site so much better than those of your competitors? What will visitors find that will make them want to stick around?
Consistency of message – your brand identity is of utmost importance. Keep communications, both visual and written, as consistent in tone and message as possible.

Supporting evidence – testimonials from real people (especially people in a consumer’s own social circle) are become more important than ever. Encourage organic product or service reviews wherever you can, and maintain a high standard of service to ensure the reviews will be good.

If you’d like to expand your knowledge of how to meet today’s consumer halfway, check out Katleen’s strategy paper on the subject and learn more about what consumers expect from you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Katleen Richardson (www.marketing-advantedge.com) is an experienced leader who builds integrated strategies combining research, data analysis and creative thinking. She has delivered successful solutions for the publishing, financial and telecommunications industries, as well as for conference and training companies, and professional associations. Her approach is to design customer focused, cost-effective solutions based on cross functional collaboration and results-based metrics.

Mike Poynton

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