Are You Getting Out-Marketed by Your Competitors?

One of the great things about Google is that it levelled the playing field for small companies that were trying to compete again Goliath. Now that the internet and a website is the marketing tool of choice, small companies can look big online and they just need sounds strategy not deeps pockets to effectively compete.
Do you know what your competition is doing to get customers and how much they are spending?
This week, Forrester Research issued a great report in conjunction with Marketing Profs about where the emphasis will be for companies in the coming years with respect to spend and tactics. While the data is US-based, it provides a good bench mark for the popularity of today’s marketing tactics and the changing nature of the marketing department.
Here are a few things your competition is likely paying attention to and you should be too. The time your customers are spending on the Internet has, as predicted, eclipsed the time they spend watching television. As a result,

  1. Traditional marketing tactics such as advertising, radio and TV are waning in popularity and results.
  2. The search bar continues to be the tool of choice for consumers when researching or choosing a product or service.

Here are some suggestions to ensure you are not getting out-marketed this coming year:

  1. Plan your budget based on what your customers are doing, not on past spending. Look where customers are hanging out online and what they need to get and stay engaged with your business. Don’t just look at budgets past. Every year you should assess what is creating engagement and decide if you are spending too much or too little to acquire a customer that becomes truly engaged with you over the long term. Online tactics can help you achieve this in a more powerful way that traditional media ever has. Spend your time and money here.
  2. Use your data. Too many business owners ignore the obvious information right under their noses that they could be using to plan their next marketing activity. Trends on a website or webpage with respect to visitors, time on page and over all interaction is a good indication about whether people care. If they don’t care or it’s too complicated to figure out content or next steps in any marketing activity, you can bet they won’t do anything. No one is running out to buy something after receiving an email or getting a phone call. The data that lies hidden inside your website or email analytics are good indications of whether your programs are working and what your next campaign should be.
  3. It’s not about promotions or daily deals. No one cares about getting 20% off something or a gift with purchase. Today’s precious commodity is time. People care less about saving a dollar and more about saving an hour. If your marketing is educational, intuitive and easy to understand, you save your customers precious time in understanding how something works or their choices. Value-added content or simple-to-use is what people want most today. (Think Apple.) People want it to be easy. Help them save time in a real way and your customers will love you.
  4. Email is still king. I am amazed at the number of businesses that still don’t have a decent email marketing platform or program for their business. Email is what connects the universe online and one of the best investments your company can make is to invest in a program that allows people to engage with your business ongoing. New email compliance laws coming into Canada in April 2012, will make it harder for spammers to annoy us. This also means that business owners should be working right now on creating true, opt-in lists of people they can interact with online (not spam) regularly.

It might be easy to think that with the popularity of online marketing finally taking hold in the small business community that your competition must be on top if it. You’d be surprise at the number of businesses I encounter that have ignored the simplest of activities that could be producing huge competitive advantage for their business: communicating simply and often so that people want to hear from you. Layer on the ease of use and cost effectiveness of today’s online tools and you’ll be out-marketing your competition in no time.


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