The Truth about Digital Marketing, Automated Marketing Software and Small Business

If you’re in business for yourself, you’ve no doubt scratched your head over fitting digital marketing tasks (email marketing, social media, blogging, website updates) into your already jammed schedule. It’s tempting to wish there were some integrated system to help you do everything in one place, save you time when digging for meaningful content and make your website, social media and email marketing skyrocket in popularity and quickly convert to increased sales.

A google search and a barrage of social media advertising reveals that an ever-growing number of marketing gurus have teamed up with the IT geniuses of the world to do just that. Marketing automation and social media advertising services are being touted as a magic bullet for making your digital marketing strategies easier, faster and a boost for your bottom line. I can’t help but hear the infamous infomercial king Ron Popeil saying “Set it and forget it!” while hawking an automatic rotisserie. http://scrapetv.com/

But as a small business with limited resources myself, and after many conversations with other business owners, I had to take a step back and look at these services and the philosophy behind digital marketing strategies in general with a keen eye.

Digital Marketing as the Old Bait & Switch


Is the idea that digital marketing is a necessity for all businesses simply a bait and switch by large conglomerates to “sell” the idea, then sit back and rake in the bucks? I’ll be the first to admit there is a lot of misinformation and money-grabbing going on in this arena, but like anything else, buyers must be informed and make good choices based on the best advice possible.  The marketing of marketing can be pretty damn slick, especially when it comes to websites, search engine optimization, social media and email services. In the past several years I have downloaded a pile of “free” stuff to get a feel for what’s really going on with the proliferation of social advertising and automated digital marketing strategies and systems. I wanted to find out if there was some magic bullet I could offer my clients that might help them keep their heads above the rising tide of incessant social media and search engine “improvements.”

After quite a few hours of pouring over ebooks, free trials and volumes of email newsletters about how this digital marketing strategy is better than that one and subscribing to this service or training series will fix every small business owner’s online marketing problems, I’ve come to a pretty definitive conclusion about what small businesses need when it comes to digital marketing:

Digital marketing strategy—YES.

Complex automated marketing or lead generation software—NO.

Don’t get me wrong. Many of the advertising options and automated services out there are brilliant, can save the right business a ton of time and be highly successful. But small business owners seldom are or have that person, and these companies are banking on it. I’m willing to bet for every success, there’s a small business owner that’s spent big money they don’t have (most that cost thousands per year) on a system they will never really figure out how to use (and training is often an added expense) or that will go out of business when the bubble bursts. Buyer beware.

The Reality of Digital Marketing for Small Business

Most of my small business clients will admit don’t have the skill or time to sort through the massive numbers of “how-to” ebooks, infographics, tips and trainings aimed at creating digital marketing success to figure out what will work and what is hype. They are simply focused on identifying their target markets and getting to them on any channel they “feel” potential customers are using. The approach often ends up being a combination of traditional marketing (print, broadcast, direct mail, and telephone) and a lot of “toe-dipping” in the digital world of inbound/outbound marketing. The scary part is that most of that “toe-dipping” is based on something they heard at a random workshop, from the kids down the street (they know all about social media right?) or read online from a site of dubious authority. It often ends up being a desperate attempt to keep up, and that’s where social advertising and automated systems get them. At that point the quick fix seems worth trying at any cost.

There’s No Substitute for Old-Fashioned Research and Planning

The perspective I try to bring to my clients is a balanced one. Like it or not, there are tons of legitimate studies showing that the digital revolution has changed the way people buy, AND the way businesses must reach buyers. And while it’s unrealistic for the average small business to try and play in the big sandbox of social advertising and automated marketing systems, the need for a digital strategy is REAL. If your customers can’t locate you online, they will likely pass you by. Not having an online presence is like not having a sign in front of a brick-and-mortar.

So how does a small business make a dent in the fast-paced, money-hungry online environment? By not chasing the latest digital marketing tactics and sticking to good old-fashioned assessment, research and planning when it comes to building an online presence. A well-researched digital strategy that is part of an integrated marketing approach to communicating with customers wherever they are, trumps ignoring digital channels or throwing money into systems that don’t fit the business. The formula that has worked for small, independent businesses for eons still rings true in the digital world:

  1. Know your business.
  2. Know your customers and where they get their information.
  3. Plan, execute and measure results.

A solid marketing plan will still be there when the digital marketing gurus have moved on to the next big thing. And so will your cash.

Contact us for a FREE, no obligation personalized consultation to help assess, research and plan your marketing needs BEFORE you invest in a digital marketing system. The means may not be old-fashioned, but our methods are.

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