In many ways, marketing today is vastly superior to even a generation ago. Back then, marketing was an endeavor that relied more on hope than it did on skill, for example:

 

  • You could put an ad in the paper, but would hope that it showed up on page A3 and not buried somewhere in the back.
  • You could pass out 25 business cards at the chamber mixer, but would hope someone might look at it later and decide to call.
  • You could buy an expensive internet banner ad, and would definitely hope someone would click-through on it.

 

The good news is that if you do it right, marketing in today’s digital age relies far more on knowledge and skill than it does on hope. This begs the question: Just what does “do it right” mean?

 

Here are 5 tips:

 

1. Cast a wide net: Consider all of the different ways you can market your business in the e-age. You can

 

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  • Have a website
  • Create a video
  • Start a blog
  • Blast out an e-newsletter
  • Engage in social media
  • Have a podcast

  • Check out pay-per-click
  • Try mobile marketing

 

And that list is just for starters; each one of these offers even more choices (e.g., SEO for your website, drilling down into the different social media sites, etc.)

 

Maybe the best news is that trying these different methods does not cost much at all. Marketing today is vastly less expensive than when small businesses had little option but to rely on mass media like television and radio. Yes, things like SEO and podcasting take time, but it’s relatively inexpensive.

 

So my first tip for marketing in the e-age is to cast a wide net and try out as many of these affordable ideas as you can.

 

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2. Test, test, test: Again, a comparison with an earlier era is illustrative. If you ran a television ad back in the day and it didn’t work, you wouldn’t know until you had spent a lot of money and it was too late. That was the nature of the beast. Marketing in the e-age is more effective, far easier and more affordable to test and see what works.

 

Take pay-per-click for example. You can create some small PPC ads that show up on a Google result or a Facebook page and know instantly whether they are working or not. If not, you can tweak the headline, or the call to action, or you can try different keywords.

 

3. Be different: Some people call this the “Age of Distraction” and it is not hard to see why. Whether it is checking that darned phone all day long, the constant onslaught of media we’re surrounded by, or the never-ending rash of advertising coming in from all quarters, people are distracted.

 

Your job is not an easy one. You must be heard above the din. And the best way to do that is to be different. Zig when everyone else zags. Go black and white when everyone else is in color (or vice versa.) Be different.

 

4. Remain customer-centric: Not only do you have many more choices in this brave, new digital world, but so do your customers. At the click of a mouse, your customers have the ability to promote or destroy your business. Get some good Yelp reviews and you will be thrilled, but get some bad ones and you will see why it’s called Yelp.

 

The answer is to double-down on customer service, and that means branching out digitally. Engage with customers on social media and reach out to them on your blog and e-newsletter. If you get a bad review, respond to it immediately. Encourage people to email you and respond to what they say.

 

Customers these days like interacting with brands and expect to be able to do so.

 

5. Remember, content is king: Content is not prince or duke, it is called “king” for a reason. As you know, there is no shortage of content available today and most of it is free. This offers you both an opportunity and a challenge.

 

The challenge is to create content that people like, and when I say content, I am speaking broadly. Whether it is a clever pay-per-click ad, social media post, or a valuable e-newsletter, the key is to offer people something of value.

 

The opportunity is if you market your business with these e-tips in mind, you won’t need to hope that you will be will be rewarded for your efforts. You will be.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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