Are you benefiting from the paradigm shift in small business marketing?

tug-of-warMarketing has undergone a huge shift in the last few years, as the Internet and social media have claimed a bigger share of people’s time.

The old practice of “push marketing” has been replaced. What is push marketing? It is when companies push information at people, often through the mail, newspapers, telephone books, radio, television and billboards. The intent was to cajole people into acting on a need that the push marketing identified. Thinking about it now, it seems rather silly. But with no alternatives, small business owners had to participate.

And while these approaches can and still work in some instances, they are being replaced by pull marketing, where people pull or gather the information on a need they have at the time they have it. They send out Twitter requests, compare prices and features in the store by swiping the bar code, and scour Urbanspoon to satisfy their tastebuds.

Tips at fingertips 24/7

Everything from Yelp and FourSquare to Twitter and LinkedIn now provide their users with recommendations and tips 24 hours a day. Since much of this information is coming from the average consumer, people are far, far more likely to read the recommendations and tips – and follow them.

Put another way, what people can find and what they say about businesses is carrying incredible weight.

This paradigm shift is huge for several reasons. First, it points toward the need for virtually every business to have an updated, active website. Yet, some estimates suggest that 40% of small business owners do not have a website. To be without a website now is to be without access to where the customers are. It is the equivalent of being a business paying for space in Times Square in New York City, but refusing to place a sign outside the door or to uncover the windows.

The paradigm shift also points to the need for business owners to monitor what people are saying about them online, both to ensure accuracy and to obtain valuable feedback that might not be forthcoming any other way. The comments of people, both good and bad, are invaluable tools for improving a business.

 

As an aside, to think that not being in the world of social media or online would prevent such comments is silly. The discussion is happening, everywhere, whether a business owner likes it or not. By joining in, the owner can share his or her story, and respond to positive and negative feedback.

Third, since much of the action in this pull world is centered around a company’s website, business owners can keep tabs on results. Website analytics, when analyzed correctly, can be extremely useful to small business owners. By tracking the areas from which people visit a website, the time they spend, the pages they visit, the response to a website’s call to action, business owners can tweak the site and its offerings quickly and easily. Try that with a print ad or a direct mail campaign. They also can better figure the ROI on their investment in the website and its updates.

The world of pull marketing is still unfolding, and success in it often requires the help of professionals, who have studied it and worked within it. In many cases, the money spent on obtaining that small business marketing consultant can be much less costly than the push campaigns that often failed.

 

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