For small businesses looking to improve results in a tough economy, online marketing became even more essential in 2012. Venerable print standbys like yellow pages, newspapers, and direct mail continued to decline in usage. If you didn’t have a reasonably current website (optimized for Google keyword searches on both desktop and mobile devices), a LinkedIn page, and a Facebook page, you were missing out on orders you could have received at an attractive ROI. Many small businesses found Facebook posts and Tweets drove word of mouth, and pay per click (PPC) campaigns resulted in increased lookups and new order flow. Daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social drove trial for many businesses (though buzz about online coupons cooled). And if you didn’t use E-mail marketing or text messaging linked to a database or customer relationship management (CRM) system, you lost repeat business and learned less about your customers than you could have and should have. The bottom line in 2012 was that consumers spent more time using computers, tablets, and mobile devices than ever before to make local purchasing decisions and small business marketers who delivered their message when and where consumers were ready to receive it got rewarded. The trend will only grow stronger in 2013 so small business marketers must adapt or risk losing ground to more savvy national and big-box players. The good news is that many online tools are inexpensive to use and in fact should level the playing field between small businesses and the national players with whom they compete. The key for small businesses is to find an online provider or consultant whom you trust and to get started — now.
Since the advent of the consumer Internet in the early 1990s, the forces of creative disruption have wreaked havoc on the business models of huge industries and countless companies. The first industries to feel the effects were those where digital media or online search provided a clearly superior or less expensive experience: newspaper classifieds, printed directories, encyclopedias, photographic film, travel agencies, and music and video labels, retail outlets and mail order clubs. I had the vantage point of working in three of those (newspapers, directories, and mail order clubs). This process of creative disruption is far from over. The spread of broadband and the explosion of the mobile internet will render other companies or business models obsolete. Already internet pioneers like AOL are struggling to replace obsolete business models. Who’s next? And how can you reinvent your company to succeed amidst change occurring at light speed? IBM is often cited as a company that reinvented itself successfully (and Eastman Kodak as one that did not). In coming blogs I will focus on companies that reinvented their business models successfully and point out strategies you can use to make sure your company continues to thrive amidst unprecedented change.