Why every business needs a digital strategy to reach today’s consumer.
Ah, remember the good old days? A time when a handshake sealed a business deal, a company built its reputation on spoken word and all that was required for a business to be found by new customers was a phone number in the yellow pages and a print ad in the local newspaper? A lot has changed, not only within the tent rental and manufacturing industry but also in the way that consumers search for all types of products and services.
Today’s consumer does the vast majority of their searching online, and more specifically, on mobile devices. Market research firm BIA/Kelsey found that local mobile search queries took over desktop searches in 2014 with 66.5 million to 65.6 million, respectively. That trend will continue with desktop searches decreasing by as much as 500,000 each year (Search Engine Watch, 2015). The likelihood of a business gaining new customers while staying in front of current customers after the sale has closed drops dramatically if the company isn’t visible in the places that consumers spend their time.
That’s simple enough. “Exist where the potential customers are. Got it!” But it’s not quite that easy. Most small- to medium-sized tent rental companies don’t employ marketing or IT departments. They are focused on running their business and are experts in rentals and events, not marketing. Even if they have experience in traditional marketing, the digital world can be a complicated and scary place. It evolves often, and just when it seems to make sense, the search engines decide they need to change things up. It can feel like they are banding together to say, “Good luck Mr. or Mrs. Business Owner; try to figure out this new set of rules!” In reality, that’s not happening, but it’s like playing a game where the rules aren’t written on paper and aren’t likely to stay the same.
Business owners most often take one of two paths when feeling overwhelmed with creating a digital presence. The first path is to ignore it completely. They may convince themselves that their consumers don’t spend a lot of time searching on their smartphones. Perhaps they get a lot of business through referrals, and there’s no way that their customers over the age of 25 are spending time on social media sites, right? That’s a myth! According to the Pew Research Center (2016), 84 percent of adults ages 30–49 use Facebook, and 72 percent of adults ages 50–64 spend time there as well. Most people will agree that the demographic of adults with the most buying power falls within 30–64, so it makes sense that businesses would want to be present where those people are.
The second path business owners often take when considering the digital space for the first time is blindly mixing different marketing solutions together and hoping one of them sticks. That won’t provide them with the desired ROI, unfortunately. Putting together a digital marketing strategy requires more planning, prioritizing and foundation building than other advertising mediums. In the same careful way that owners devise their business plans and product offerings, so too should their marketing strategy be thought out.
The key to building out a digital marketing strategy is deciding what the company’s goals are and what the most efficient ways to reach them will be. Add in the benchmarks of how successes and failures will be measured, and a framework will start to emerge. A digital foundation, in turn, allows other advertising more chance of success, creates new customer leads and increases revenue—the end goal! In time, owners will have a good handle on what in-house capabilities exist and what tasks to contract out to external experts, such as marketing agencies or media companies, and their strategy will be easily adaptable for future goals.
By Kate Doty, sales and marketing strategist for Morgan Murphy Media of Madison, Wis. Doty is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.