How long have you been in your business? For me, it's a pretty long time. I've been in the online entrepreneurship world for almost 17 years, and I owned my first business, a brick and mortar business, beginning in 1998. That seems like ancient history to me now!
Sometimes the massive changes that have occurred since I've been in business seem almost unbelievable to me, and probably you often feel the same way. The way the internet works, the information we are fed when we do a search – all of that has changed sharply but subtly over the past few years. And that is affecting the small business owner (and giving more benefit to the big guys) in ways that we sometimes don't even recognize.
Brief Background About Digital Marketing for Small Business Owners
One of the reasons so many solo business owners embraced the online world back 10 to 15 years ago was that it gave a small business owner the chance to play in the bigger world. The Internet was sort of like the American West when it was being settled – lots of opportunity for the small guy. Big companies thought the Internet would never amount to much, so they continued with their big TV advertising and media buys in print magazines. TV ruled. Radio ruled. Fast forward to today, and both of those are fairly well diluted. Big companies began to realize that the internet gave them far more reach not just into a person's home but into their pocket.
The end result of all this change is that now in the online world you are competing against the big guys more than you are competing against small entrepreneurs like yourself. You still have the advantage of being nimble and innovative – large companies are neither for the most part. But it's up to us to put on our #ceohats and realize the corner we are being painted into, so that we have a decent chance to stay out of that corner.
What To Read Right Now About The Future of Digital Marketing
There's a useful and thoughtful article by Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner titled “The Death of Google Search Traffic” that I strongly recommend you read. It talks about the changes in the search results you are getting on the internet now and what that means for you, the business owner, as well as for you personally. The gist of it in terms of what it means for your business comes toward the end. I'm quoting the author here about the changes coming for Social Media Examiner, but I really encourage you to read and think about the entire article.
Here's what he sees in the future for Social Media Examiner:
- Work on their conversion rate optimization (CRO). This means they want to improve their conversion rate of people who visit the site actually taking the action to be a newsletter subscriber (meaning, you're on their email list). This is something (building your email list) that I preach and push clients to do constantly!
- Diversity beyond the written word. If you are of a certain age, print is what you grew up with, and you are a reader. It's shocking to think that most of the world didn't grow up with print, and doesn't read. They watch. This has implications for how you share out your content.
- Beef up the written word you do into meaty articles or white papers.
What These Changes Mean For You
- Be as brilliant and good at marketing and advertising your business as you are in doing whatever you do. You've got to have two kinds of magic. Your expertise, and your marketing.
- Build (or continue to build) your email list of subscribers.
- Get into video
- Explore podcasting as either a guest or a podcaster yourself
- Share your expertise widely on channels where your ideal customers spend time.
- Don't waste your time on channels where your ideal customers are not, even if those channels are familiar to you and you personally use them.
The bottom line to you and to me is that we have to be just as smart and accomplished at getting visibility for our company as we have to be smart and accomplished at WHAT we do. We have to be good at both. In fact, I could argue that you have to be BETTER at marketing (getting visibility) for your company than you have to be good at what you do. You and I both know people who have done well financially with crap offers and products, right? Don't be that person. But also, don't be the person who is freakin' brilliant and poor.
Other Useful Articles About the Future of Digital Marketing
Another useful article I want to point you to is about Twitter. This article tells you who is on Twitter. I personally don't use Twitter much, but you perhaps should – it might be a great match for your business. This is the best analysis I've seen lately about who is on Twitter and how best to use that social channel for marketing. And you can read a quick digest of early 2019 articles about the future of digital marketing in this collection pulled together by Digital Agency Network.
The responsibility we have as business owners is to be aware. Be informed. And consider what we learn, and how that affects our businesses. Because this topic can be overwhelming, it's best to plan out what you want to try and how you will do that, so that you don't get lost in the day to day. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- What am I doing right now to reach my best customers?
- Where do my best customers hang out?
- Am I consistently adding to my email list of subscribers?
- If my customers couldn't find me on Facebook, how would I get to them?
While the future of digital marketing shapes your business, you also shape the future by how you change your offers and your marketing. That's the art of being a business owner.