Adapt or Die: The Revolution in Marketing

Digital is changing marketing even more fundamentally than you may realize. Here's how you need to respond

Written by Jeff Quipp

We’ve all seen how profoundly the Internet has disrupted industries such as music, travel and even florists. But what’s easy to miss is that it’s not even close to finished yet. In fact, the Internet’s impact is just getting started in most other industries. And it’s also revolutionizing business practices across all industries.

One of these is marketing. Yet most companies have no idea of how big a change digital is bringing, and they certainly aren’t prepared for what’s coming.

As with any such change however, there are opportunities as well as threats. The companies that are aware of the transition and find ways to use it to their advantage will be the net beneficiaries. Those that do not are likely to slowly fade into obscurity.

No Longer the Heart of the Action

For the vast majority of us, we’ve always defined marketing as the media we buy in order to gain awareness and exposure. I may buy newspaper, radio, magazine or even paid-search ads. Alternatively, I may pay to set up a booth at a trade show. The reality is, I’m paying a fee for exposure for a finite period of time. When I stop paying, my marketing is discontinued. So, in essence, we’ve been conditioned to think of marketing in terms of campaigns with finite time spans.

But the Internet is changing all of this. And for most of us, it’s changing it for the better. Imagine marketing campaigns with an almost infinite work life—ones that never stop working for you. This is the new reality for companies that adapt to the new system, and there is a distinct advantage if you’re an early mover.

Have I piqued your interest yet? Let me explain in more detail. Think of the new world of marketing in terms of three concepts:

Paid media: This is our traditional view of media. It’s media we pay for, and when we stop paying, the ads stop.

Earned media: This is media attention that we earn, generally in the form of press coverage or word of mouth. If someone feels very strongly about the quality of our products or services, or a particular piece of content or news, they may share it. In these cases, we as as a company have “earned” the attention.

Owned media: As a result of the internet and social media, we now have our own publishing platforms that we control, such as an email list, blog, Facebook page or Twitter profile. In essence, we can build our own media and circulation by building out our owned media list. For example, if I have an email list of 100,000 (of prospects who have opted in, not a list I’ve purchased), that’s more than the circulation of many small-city newspapers. Even better, the people on this list have prequalified themselves as being interested. This was not possible just 15 years ago, unless you were willing to do direct mailings, which are terrifically expensive.

The Advantages of the New Media Mix

For most companies, the old, pre-Internet marketing mix largely consisted of paid media, with very little earned media and little or no owned media. Today, those companies that are in the know are rapidly building out their owned media circulations, by exchanging content for email addresses or Facebook and Twitter likes.

The advantages of this approach are enormous: it costs you virtually nothing to send an email to your subscribers, and there are no limits to how much information you can include, as there would be in a newspaper, radio, TV or magazine ad. The key to making the new mix work is to ensure that you add value with every email you send subscribers. If you instead just inundate them with sales, they’ll unsubscribe quickly.

But now the crucial question is this: how can you ensure that this effort continues to perform indefinitely? The reality is, if you build the list and market correctly to that list by adding value with every email you send, you can condition your recipients to look forward to receiving your emails—much as I do Canadian Tire’s weekly e-flyer).

The larger your list becomes, the more business it will drive. Also, the more content you create to post in your owned media, such as blogs, Facebook and email, the more that content will attract even more prospects to your site, and the more will subscribe to your owned media. At the same time, often it is this content that gets shared, which increases your earned media presence.

2 Keys to Adapting to the New Era

The implications of this marketing revolution are that:

  • Companies need to start viewing and using paid media differently. Now, I’m not suggesting that you eliminate paid media from your marketing budgets. Instead, I suggest that you don’t use it merely to create awareness of your company or its products and specials. Instead, you should use paid media to drive your owned media. That means requiring ways to drive customers and prospects to your website, where they can exchange their contact information for quality content.
  • Companies must understand and accept that owned media, and the content that fuels it, is of critical importance. You must establish a routine in which you continually create content that (a) encourages prospects to provide their contact information in return for this content; (b) attracts more prospects; and (c) conditions prospects to look forward to your next email. These emails can consist of ebooks, white papers, newsletters, primary research papers, lists, blog posts, infographics.

This article details changes to the marketing concept that are creating new threats and opportunities for all companies. As with any change of this magnitude, some companies will adapt and others will not.

In my upcoming series of columns, I’ll spell out in a detail a more defined process for how companies can adapt to the new realities of marketing and harness the Internet’s disruptive impact to build rather than destroy their business.

Jeff Quipp is an expert on search and social media marketing. He is the founder and CEO of Search Engine People Inc. (SEP), Canada’s largest digital marketing firm, which has been on the PROFIT 200 ranking of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies for the past four consecutive years.

More columns by Jeff Quipp

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