Small Business Marketing in 2017

Changing Times

“The times they are a-changin’” (-Bob Dylan, 1963). One of the most famous lines in rock history is as true today as it was over 50 years ago. Even more so, if that’s possible. This holds true for every element of our society, and especially in small business marketing. Change is exciting. And changing times create opportunities.

Look what marketing was like thirty years ago. The small business had to pay for a spot in the local Yellow Pages. They ran regular ads in the local newspaper. They put ads on the local radio station. They sent flyers to potential customers in their local markets. Most small businesses were somewhat confined to their local markets.

Expanded Market Area

The web has allowed a range of businesses to expand their market areas. Thirty years ago my family was in the building supply business in a small town. We would have customers that wanted specialty products, like custom designed arch windows. The fact that we knew where to find carpentry shops that would create these items gave us a competitive advantage. Our builder client didn’t know where he could get the work done. So he ordered it from us. Now, the builder who needs the window can search for carpentry shops and find them on the web. Then he can make the purchase and cut out the middle man. Today, this happens across a wide range of goods and services.

The Local Information Shift

As time passes fewer people are using the Yellow Pages. Local newspapers are losing subscribers. Local radio stations must create a local element to retain existing listeners. When the members of our communities are looking for goods and services, most go to the same place, the web. Many of these newspapers, radio stations and other mediums have tried to make their place on the web with websites and social media. The effort is failing to attract followers and advertisers. When the public is looking for goods and services it goes to the search engines instead, even in their search for local goods and services.

Continued Transformation

Web Changes

Ten years ago PC sales were hitting records. More and more people wanted a home computer so they could have access to the web. Millions of businesses were designing websites for those devices to provide information and to influence their share of the market. Today, PC sales are declining while the public has found less expensive and more convenient products in mobile devices.

This is a bar chart showing the decline in PC sales.
PC sales are in decline (Statista.com).

The traditional website has had to be redesigned to fit these devices. The “mobile first” strategy is taking hold. It will be considered the norm very soon.

Another element that websites must accommodate today is the offering of interactive capabilities. Al Agrawal, a contributor at Forbes.com, gives some valuable advice: “Think of ways to get readers to actively participate instead of passively consume. Interactive content can include assessments (such as the classic Cosmo Quiz setup), polls, surveys, infographics, brackets and contests” (17 Marketing Trends to Watch Out For In 2017 – Forbes) Participation is a way to connect in a proactive manner.

Change is Constant

Don’t expect the changes in small business marketing to slow down any time soon. Our capabilities in information handling continue to increase. Moore’s law certainly appears to be holding true today. That is, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles every two years (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law). This allows us to put more information into the market place through a growing range of mediums.

Be a Leader

Small businesses that don’t change will fall behind. This has been the case for centuries. Keeping up shouldn’t intimidate you. Through vendors, trade associations, trade journals and research of your competitors you can stay aware of the latest changes. Trade contacts should help you make educated decisions concerning the changes you decide to make. And those changes will make you a leader in your market.

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Why Business Websites Must Go Mobile

How Did We Get Here?

In June of 2007 Apple announced the first iPhone. Since then, the race has been on by various manufacturers to win market share in the mobile device markets. Almost overnight the websites designed strictly for the desktop lost significant value. As time passed, more aggressive businesses were redesigning their sites to accommodate the desktop as well as mobile devices.

The Mobile First Concept

In recent years it has been suggested that websites be designed with their primary focus on mobile pages. This makes sense considering that today more websites are being viewed on mobile devices than on desktops. Some ask “Why do you do this?” The answer is quite simple. Business needs to focus on their greatest market share. And today, more pages are being viewed on mobile.

Different screen size devices.
Mobile Devices Are Replacing Desktops

The Coming Shift

In the near future there will be an even more significant shift in web usage, out of desktop computers and into mobile devices. Not long ago households saw the PC as a necessity. It was their only connection to the web. Today many of those PCs are aging out and they are not being replaced. Web goers are getting everything they need from their mobile devices. So they have no reason to replace their PCs.

Handling Change

Recent generations have done well managing the changes in their lives caused by the web. Just look what has happened over the last 60 years. Baby boomers had to deal with the c prompt (C:\>) at their desktop computer. This brought on fear, literally! Members of that generation were either enthused about the power of the PC or they were frightened by it. They wondered “What do I do if this expensive machine breaks? I’m dead meat!” Today the Baby Boomers are handling their smart phones with ease.

Generation-X witnessed the advancement of the PC and the introduction of mobile devices in their primary working years. They saw the change as positive and were not afraid for it. They have managed it well.

Next, the Millennials came into the workplace with knowledge of how to operate a PC through most of their lives. The mobile device was viewed with less fascination then the preceding age groups. It was considered a normal part of their lives. They will hardly notice the shift.

In comes Generation-Z.  Born from the mid 1990s to the early 2000s, Generation-Z has had access to the Internet most of their lives.

“Today’s teens had phones when they were in elementary or middle school, compared to high school or college for their older counterparts. And that shift is already shaping behaviors. Teens are moving from texting to messaging apps and from shopping on desktop computers to shopping on their phones.” (think with Google).

The baby boomers, Generation X and the Mellennials will all see the ease with which Generation-Z is able to fill their wants and desires with their mobile devices. They will envy that expertise and confidence. And many of the older age groups will make an effort to increase their knowledge and expertise. And they will do it with ease.

The Change In Retailing

The business world is beginning to get the picture. On April 7, 2017, Bloomberg reported that “America’s Retailers Are Closing Stores Faster Than Ever” (Lindsey Rupp, Lauren Colenam-Lochner and Nick Turner – Bloomberg). And this is happening for a good reason. Consumers are getting more satisfaction with less effort when they purchase on the web. Why would anyone drive to the mall to purchase a high quality pair of binoculars if they feel there is a good possibility that they may not find what they want? If they order on-line, their options will increase and the headaches will decrease. Businesses that want to keep up with their markets will need to design and create new display and delivery systems that will satisfy Generation-Z and be friendly enough to entice the Baby Boomers to join the party. Everyone in between will fit right in. The size of that market should blow us away!

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Redesign Outdated Websites

Many Small Businesses Have Outdated Websites

Over ten years ago many small businesses were creating their websites with a lot of excitement. They were excited about getting on the web and gaining new business from those sites.  Today, too many of those businesses have lost that enthusiasm and have done very little to keep their sites up-to-date.

The Old Desktop Design

A decade ago the premium website was designed for desktop devices. But in January of 2007 Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. And we all know what happened after that.

Mobile phone visitors were able to view websites on the small screens of their phones. In the early years those websites were hard to work with on a smart phone. This created a problem for some small businesses and an opportunity for others. Those that didn’t redesign their websites lost mobile visitors. Businesses that invested in site redesigns picked up those visitors.

Website redesign in the early years was expensive. It required web designers with special skills. In effect, two websites had to be created. One for desktop devices, one for mobile devices.  As a result, many businesses did not update their sites.

This is an outdated website

Small print on mobile devices is hard to read and must me manipulated.

Redesign is Cost Effective

Today website redesign is not nearly as expensive as it was years ago. Software and code improvements have been created to make website pages automatically adjust to the viewers device. Businesses that have outdated websites need to consider redesigning those sites. This will improve their search engine positions and will help them acquire new visitors. And it won’t cost as much as it did several years ago. Improvements in technology have caused the cost of website design to go down.

This is a redesigned website.
Mobile friendly sites are easy to read on various screens.

Learn more about website redesign.

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