Traditional, Smart Marketing: Web 2.0 Will Not Take Its Place


I scratch my head when I see claims that Web 2.0 (or whatever buzzword of the day you want to prescribe to the concept) is revolutionizing marketing.  

It may be changing the scorecard for some, but for any savvy small business marketer, the concepts being introduced as “new” have been a way of doing business for decades. There will always be those who stampede toward the lottery promises and complain about their bankroll. Others just really get it.

As I hear the death knoll being chanted for marketing as we know it, I recall the same predilections in prognostications for paper (no need for hard copy documents with electronic files the rage, designers (remember when desktop publishing was introduced?), radio (with the advent of TV), network TV (cable), phone land lines (cellular technology), books (promised kiosks yet to be erected) and even grocery stores (when you can order on-line).  I don’t buy it.

Keep old principles in mind when embracing the new

Sure, technology provides opportunities that may not have been available in the same fashion as in years past, but the idea of relationship and network building (and I’m not talking about cheesy so-called networking profit-centers for the provider) has been around for a lot longer than I have.

I’m not a big proponent of rushing to embrace every technology platform that surfaces.

Facebook seems to be a total waste of time for my business, but the jury is still out there as some have indicated I need to create fan pages and groups (I’m still sceptical).  I’ll try it for a couple more months, but won’t spend considerable time here.

Many are singing the praises of Twitter.  Frankly, I find it hard to keep up with the signal-to-noise ratio. Plus, even though I’m a fan of concise writing, 140 characters really isn’t my style.

LinkedIn, however, has been a great resource for me.  So, I’ll continue to spend probably more time than I should participating in groups there and making connections with people who add value to the lives of others through their shared knowledge and participation.

The more we change, the more things seem the same

What is this really all about, though?  The initial claims were that online social networking, Web 2.0 and all the other related tools now breaking through had enabled new marketing realms that allowed you to connect directly with your prospects and customers.

I say that we’ve always been able to do this. Some have chosen not to.  Smart business owners have always understood that talking to your prospects and customers in a receptive and responsive fashion, and keeping in touch, created big opportunities.

Now some of the “online marketers” are pushing products that allow you to automate the process – it’s just too hard to keep track of all the stuff created to keep us in touch with our audience.  Stop wasting unnecessary time sending personalized messages, supplying feeds to the various (and extremely different) communities where you have a presence and create a barrage of auto replies (it’s personalized because you have a script that inserts a name) to give those 27 (or 27000 – must be the more the merrier) impressions once indicated necessary for a sale.

So much for the relationship building and responsive dialog features boasted as “new and different” by the bleeding edge crowd.

Will it last?

The more I watch this “movement,” the more I see a crash on the horizon for the silver bullet crowd. People who get it are smart in how they use the technology to enhance their following and net worth by serving others – and staying personal. When you look at most of the winners, they’re not seeking a quick and easy way around connecting directly with their audience.

In fact, they’ve done the opposite. They’ve created communities and have made themselves available in a big way. They’re building relationships, literally, one at a time. They gain huge credibility by being available, responsive, real and flexible.

Yet, the latest barrage of advice, products, offerings and focus seems to be on easy management tools that relieve the business owner (or administrator) of the burden of direct contact.

Stand on the shoulders of giants

So, yes, I think Web 2.0 as the opportunists are trying to define it, is definitely moving away from good traditional marketing precepts.

I now unsubscribe from anyone who sends me a letter filled with red and yellow ink. I ignore those who send every message in the same language out to all their Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, LinkedIn groups and other social media channels.  I get annoyed by the auto-responder messages that barrage my e-mail accounts with e-mail pitches the minute I give them my contact information.  I also get cranky about those who create a platform, but don’t bother to check into the comments for a month or more. And the latest rage seems to be affiliate programs. Ten pitches in an hour to the same program from so many minions doesn’t cause me to run to their offering. It turns me off.

If you want to make Web 2.0 (or whatever you want to call it) really work for you, I suggest getting back to basics. Limit your time to what you can handle and what works for you. Be ready to respond almost immediately (or at least within 24 hours) to those you attract. Demonstrate your interest by responding to feedback.

But don’t let this “new” tool rob you of critical time from your business operation and objectives. Build relationships with people you’ve learned to respect and trust – and keep them. Use these tools to find, meet, engage and help centers-of-influence. Don’t spend too much time participating in venues that may be entertaining, but don’t serve your business well.

It’s the economy, stupid

Smart small business owners tend to weather the storms. Many who already get how to make their business about others don’t need Web 2.0 preachers to tell them how to do business successfully. They listen to their prospects, customers and colleagues and implement what they need to make others feel great about doing business with them. Online connections are critical, but the mix depends on the owner and the audience.

Small businesses that are struggling and blaming it on the economy haven’t made their offerings invaluable. No amount of Web 2.0 is likely to fix this until they change their mindset.

Sadly, I’ve signed off of almost all groups indicating a sales or marketing focus. These so-called pros so don’t get it. The savvy small business owner got relationship building a long time ago. Smart ones are picking and choosing how to use the web to improve what they offer – not fix it.

Those who get the importance of one-on-one communications and responsive reactions will thrive. Those who don’t will chase the next promise, complain and blame. Which crowd would you like to join?

Nanette Levin started marketing firm, Fulcrum Communication (leveraging creative and cost-effective opportunities for small businesses) in 1989. She’s also responsible for a book publishing initiative with two tight niches in the equine and entrepreneurial arena. The Horse Sense and Cents™ series is being launched this year. Visitwww.HorseSenseAndCents.com for more information and a link to her equine blog. Entrepreneurial titles (and the associated website and blog support) are scheduled for release in 2010.

Nanette Levin

Founded marketing firm Fulcrum Communications, leveraging creative and cost-effective solutions for small businesses, in 1989. Paid marketing writer, feature freelancer and op-ed columist for a variety of business publications. Active small business advocate, including attendance at the 1995 WHCSB as an appointed delgate. Writer for equine trade magazines. Horse trainer specializing in working with young horses starting under saddle and resolving issues of those started badly. Publisher of the Horse Sense and Cents(tm) series. 

  10 comments for “Traditional, Smart Marketing: Web 2.0 Will Not Take Its Place

  1. January 16, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Thanks for a terrific post. I have to disagree with you though and my experience is firsthand.

    I just left the traditional marketing world (laid off from a magazine). After over 15 years selling print media advertising and from direct, personal, experience I can tell you Web 2.0 is the biggest threat to traditional marketing and here is why.

    When September 11, 2001 hit the auto industry I was selling classified display advertising to car dealerships. Hit with a sudden sharp decline in business, many of them shut off their advertising with the paper, or substantially reduced it. We can equate this scenario to your above statement “its the economy stupid” since that was the immediate cause of the sudden drop in advertising spending – a decline in sales.

    Getting these guys back into newspaper proved to be a very tall order and they never came back to the levels of spending they were in the past. Having explored some inexpensive alternatives, some of them involving the Internet, they were reluctant to come back at the same level they were in the past simply because they felt they were meeting their needs through different vehicles and spending less money.

    I submit the same thing is happening with Web 2.0 methods and it’s hastened by the bad economy (you might consider exploring how Ford Motor company for example is engaging with this technology). Inbound marketing is the new strategy to be used to replace interrupt marketing. A lot of people haven’t discovered this strategy yet – these are the people you refer to that are hyping social media, flinging interrupt messages into this new platform. The campaigns that are working are inbound marketing strategies – building communities around their brands and vocations. It is now about getting found, social media plays a key role in this when it is mixed in properly.

    The new method is based on win-win relationships, the cream rises to the top, and as Internet use continues to grow more and more consumers will warm to this medium to get the information they need to buy goods and services. Savvy marketers are still needed, but their thinking will have to shift. The model is changing and there is a learning curve. Even so, many of the traditional concepts will still apply, just without the interrupt technique.

    If you don’t use social media with an inbound marketing strategy in place you won’t experience the same benefits and more often will be walking away from it saying it is a waste of time.

    One final point. The market will shift because the cost relationship to marketing with inbound strategy will be substantially better than that of traditional media. It will cause a continued decline in revenue for traditional media until they find ways to adjust.

    I submit that traditional media may undergo an evolution in how they monetize the busineses (if they survive and I hope they do). As I posted on my blog a few days ago, newspapers are still a strong source of news but they aren’t the powerhouses they once were for marketing. Why? Because consumers can now get that news and tune out the advertising, even more so with Web 2.0 Remember, businesses don’t need everyone – they just need a percentage so if they can get a strong percentage with a better ROI why wouldn’t they use it?

    It will just take a little time for the business community as a whole to catch on to the deeper strategy but be assured, web 2.0 and the advancing technology sure to follow is going to forever change the way we market goods and services.

  2. January 17, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Lisa,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    Personally, I’ve never been a proponent of tradtional advertising for small businesses – most don’t have the funds to make it work effectively for them over a sustained period. Given your experience, I’m sure you will attest to the fact that any advertising (whether done through print publications or the internet) is best done over the long term with consistent messages that speaks to the consumers’ emotional issues (vs. itemizing features of a product).

    I’m not sure we disagree as much as you suggest. There are segments that will be stung by the proliferation of internet tools and opportunities, and I agree with you here. Some print publications are thriving by adapting (our weekly business publication still has strong circulation numbers and a large advertising base, as an example – but they are responsive to the readers, and frankly, always have been), others are failing. The same could be said about automobile manufacturers, by the way :-) . I wouldn’t consider either of these small businesses who are traditionally able to be more nimble and clearer about their client’s needs, if they choose.

    I think what you lost as the point of this article is that the claim that Web 2.0 has introduced relationship marketing is fallicious. This has been going on for a long time and just because there are new tools to consider as techology presents them (I never said to dismiss them, just don’t get carried away by the hype), doesn’t make the basic concepts landmark. To use your terms, I do not believe interupt marketing has ever been effective for savvy small businesses. They’ve been using inbound marketing for decades.

    Lisa, I really appreciate your comments, and agree with most of them. I wish you a speedy job search and find.

  3. January 17, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    I agree with you across the board, Nanette. I think your post leaves a lot of room for both new and traditional marketing practices and really advises readers to use common sense with how they apply their time marketing their respective enterprise. However, common sense isn’t necessarily common (I think that’s the saying I’m looking for).

    Despite their seemingly unusual business names, Facebook and Twitter do appear to provide traditional business with some interesting new marketing tools.

    When people join Facebook, they generally reveal a lot of personal information — after all Facebook enables those who join to communicate with any number of geographically-dispersed friends, family, associates and so forth who are also Facebook members. The follow on is that since your cohorts use Facebook to communicate with people they have long known, it’s in their interest to be truthful with the information they provide on Facebook.

    Businesses buying ads on Facebook are able to capitalize on the detail of this information. The info. allows for unprecedentedly precise ad targeting — age, sex, age, profession, and on — on a huge 400 million and growing mass of people.

    In my opinion, Facebook is a winner as a business if it ever goes public; it’s just very important that it never alienates its millions of users. I think businesses small and large may benefit from using it. (Fan page is probably not a terrible thing either for businesses large and small; I think all businesses, large and small, could benefit from the kind of targeted advertising enabled by Facebook)

    When you join Twitter you shed a lot of the communications obstacles/inefficiencies inherent with traditional email/mass email communications. And it’s much more of a 2-way, mass-communications channel for its users.

    To me, interesting people/companies/groups would seem to rule Twitter; of course people’s interest vary and the activities of a small company, contrary to what it might expect, might be quite interesting to a great many like-minded or simply interested followers on Twitter. This could translate well for its business.

    Personally I think Twitter and Facebook are great if a business is in great marketing shape already. I also think they are great for new companies or groups trying to grow. But if a company’s business model is bad, if its marketing plan is bad, if its resources are limited, or if its operators are already in the red on time-demands, then obviously venturing in to Twitter or Facebook might not yield great results eye-to-eye the value of the time invested.

    (Nanette: I think your post wins the prize for longest comments generated thus far :-) )

  4. January 17, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Maybe I need to shorten my post length :-) .

    Thanks for the expansion on Facebook and Twitter, Chris.

    Of course, that also begs the question, how many people look at Facebook ads (case in point, I recently had trouble finding an associate’s contact information because it was put in a spot I’m used to not seeing as ad real estate)? And if you would, could you please tell me how on earth anyone can run a business and maintain timely two-way communications on Twitter at the same time (I’m serious, I know many are doing it, I’m just clueless as to how and welcome any pointers). I’m talking small businesses here (I get large corporations may be able to delegate staff time to the task) who traditionally have work product to deliver during work hours (that usually span more than a 40 hour week as it is).

  5. January 17, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    With Facebook you definitely know a lot about who you are targeting. However, their state of mind and interest in what you are advertising is a different story.

    Facebook makes me think of magazine advertising but on a massive, yet more highly detailed scale and with lower cost barriers for the small business person. As to how many people look at the ads, I’d say good question — a small percentage probably.

    As with magazine advertising, ad copy for Facebook is probably very relevant. The good news is that you know for sure the demographics of the people who are looking at what you are advertising.

    Dealing with 2 way communications on Twitter, the small business person is left with their desktop, laptop or phone. I think people who can delegate 2 way communication end up less frazzled than those who try to it all, obviously.

    If you, as a small business person, can pull off 24-48 hour response times on Twitter, I think that’s probably more than adequate. I think you’d probably want to use Twitter, but keep your rate of use in line with how your business operates.

  6. January 19, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Thanks, Chris.

    I hear you on tightly targeting the message (and audience) on Facebook. For consumer products, this is probably a good venue in some cases. Not so much for service businesses. There just seems to be too much expectation from many of the users there that all information should be free.

    I appreciate the pointers on Twitter too. There are apparently good tools to manage the flow, and time will tell if this is a good venue for me as I introduce a product that has a relatively low purchase price (honestly, my use has been sporadic, so I haven’t given my service business a fair test, but suspect it wouldn’t net great results). I think here too, product sales are easier to make happen than service contracts, but that can be tough to gauge as well with the varients in the relationship building process.

  7. January 19, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Very interesting article. In some ways, I think that traditional and “new” marketing are simply different sides of the same coin. On the other hand, it seems to me that web 2.0 tools are very efficient at customer/client outreach and communication. They’re not direct sales tools (in my opinion), but ways of making you and your business more accessible.

    An effective social media campaign is very labor intensive, for all that the tools are free. It also requires a great deal of patience, since you’re essentially building client and customer relationships.

  8. January 19, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Margy,

    You’re so right. It’s always a matter of throwing time or money at a challenge, isn’t it? And I, too, agree, it’s more a semantics issue than a strategic one. It still comes down to the message and intent, though, doesn’t it? No tool, no matter how impressive it may be, will be effective if the user doesn’t get how to communicate effectively with their audience. And, that’s the rub with the Web 2.0 convictions :-) .

    Here’s a story about a small business owner who’s been able to leverage Facebook in ways that are creating a demand, following and buzz for her offerings (hope the formatting and links show through from this NAWBO Smart Briefs feature):

     Italian carry-out restaurant offers daily “Facebook special”
    Crista M. Makdouli uses Facebook to promote daily specials at Italian on the Run in Watertown, N.Y. The specials are usually small, like a free cookie or drink, but customers are calling every night asking for the “Facebook special,” she says. Watertown Daily Times (N.Y.)

  9. January 20, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Twitter talks to bloggers, the press and important content producers. It talks to others too. But the gold for business owners offering professional services is in developing relationships with people who have an audience they can introduce you to as an expert. But you have to prove you’re the expert they need. They have to trust you. Here is a video from an Emmy winning TV journalist that talks about it here, http://bit.ly/5uFMZI.

  10. January 20, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Doug,

    Thanks for the great video link. This serves not only as a good basic primer on inventive uses for Facebook and Twitter, but also as a wonderful rudimentary instruction guide on how the broadcast media works.

    Would you consider offering e-mail delivery options for your blog? I think you’re doing yourself a disservice by only allowing FeedBurner (now Google) as a subscription mandate. Would have signed up on the spot if blog post broadcasts were available via e-mail. For what it’s worth.

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