It used to be oh so simple if you wanted to target your customer with your promotional messages.
If you had a big budget, you did television, then radio, then print in that order. If you wanted more direct marketing, direct mail was definitely the go.
And for ‘directory’ advertising, you couldn’t go past the ubiquitous Yellow tomes that arrived on our doorstep every year, almost literally!
Sure there was a cacophony of promotional outlets for more specialised requirements, but non-primetime TV, radio, print and directories were the big four as far as SMEs were concerned.
So you didn’t need to be a rocket surgeon to work out how you were going to promote your small business for any given year.
But how times have changed…
A myriad of new promotional outlets
So fragmented is today’s ‘promotional’ arena that no matter how similar they are, no two businesses will conduct the same promotional strategy.
Where your marketing or promotional mix may not that long ago have comprised two or three fairly failsafe communications media to give you the desired result, nowadays it’s not uncommon for smaller businesses to be working between six and ten different promotional activities occurring in unison.
This has occurred because our customers are no longer so predictable when it comes to identifying their preferred communications media.
Some have stuck to their guns and use the traditional media the same way they always did. But a growing number of others are likely to be immersed in several newer media simultaneously.
For example, they may be listening to their iTunes player while playing games, while responding to social networking and even getting sports results updated via a website or app.
They are literally consuming multiple media simultaneously – making it harder than ever for your message to cut through to them.
Because they are less likely to come across mass media the way they once did, there is now greater emphasis on capturing their details to your email list or social network of choice so as to replace mass promotion with low-cost direct marketing.
There is a second prize
In other words, there is now a viable and valuable ‘second prize’ if you don’t get their business or custom immediately.
You get a relationship.
This relationship is now more affordable to maintain than ever, due to the low cost of perpetuating it via email and social networking.
To direct marketers, this is virtual manna from heaven.
But how are they communicating?
Even if you do adopt social networking, which of the social networks are your customers using? If they are predominantly mobile, Twitter may be their network of choice. But if they prefer tablets, laptops or desktops, Facebook is more likely to be their preference.
If you are business to business, LinkedIn will be among your armoury – even though Facebook is starting to make its move into this market.
And what about the niche players like Pinterest, Instagram and others that have burst onto the scene since I started writing this blog?
It’s really no wonder that time-poor smaller business operators have decided that it’s all too hard and just returned to the tried and true media they’ve known and, if not loved, respected.
The problem is that just like the old watering holes we used to frequent when we were younger, the old crew has moved on, and it just isn’t the same any more.
But there is good news amongst all this confusion.
Waste reduction rules
First is that it’s now far easier to precisely target your audience than ever before. The targeting tools used by Google and Facebook can pretty much send your message precisely to the age, location, income, interest and other lifestyle factors you want.
Their ad targeting engine can literally give you a campaign to reach 35-year-old females in Surrey Hills that like cricket. Not only that, it will tell you exactly how many of them there are and when they are most likely to do their social networking.
Even if you don’t take out a campaign with them, it’s worth setting up a campaign with Facebook just to get an insight of how targeted their advertising is.
In turn, what all this preciseness means for you is that your advertising spend is far more cost-effective, as it pretty much eliminates the waste that most more traditional advertising suffered.
Hundreds and thousands at your fingertips
The other great news is that the cost of reaching several thousand customers is far less than any time before.
For example, this very blog piece goes out from my humble desktop to what amounts to hundreds of thousands of people – all for the price of some homework (on which websites and social networks are best to appear on), some pitching (to have my blog featured by premium business websites) and no more than 90 minutes of my (research and writing) time a week.
And to the marketers and entrepreneurs amongst you, that fact should be very exciting indeed!
Craig Reardon is a writer, educator and operator of independent web services firm for SMEs, The E Team.