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Meet Johnny Ducketts.* He’s the man in the picture above, and he’s your direct competitor. He looks happy, doesn’t he? That’s because he recognizes the world of marketing has forever shifted and it continues to change. He’s accepted the reality that audiences want useful, compelling content, not sales pitches or ads.
That’s communications, which is an aspect of marketing focusing on relationship-building, not pure marketing, which emphasizes connecting with audiences to make sales. Authentic communication requires ‘talking’ to people—engaging them in an authentic, two-way conversation—and that’s hard work most organizations don’t understand how to do and don’t want to do.
Johnny decided to figure out the “how” by getting started where he was (and hire help as soon as he could), but he knows many of his competitors have not made the transition. They’re entrenched in old ways of marketing and, like stubborn children, often refuse to change.
Johnny knows that his competitors seem to hope that things will go back to when they ultimately controlled their marketing messages and methods. Then, they decided what their audience needed and how they disseminated those messages.
This was traditionally true of law and financial advisory firms (and regulatory concerns aren’t always the issue), and it may be true of your organization. But, Johnny is taking full advantage of your refusal to shift.
Are you longing for the old ways of marketing?
If you are, Johnny knows that. He knows you probably long for the days when methods of communicating your value to your target audience were limited. You had a captive audience with few options other than to wait until you provided them the sales information they needed.
You even could decide what their needs were and sell to them based on your conclusions. That was a powerful place to be for organizations. Businesses were in control, and many loved that power.
But, that’s not today’s marketing environment, and Johnny knows that. We’re well near the end of the second decade of the 21st century, and the entire world of mass communications has shifted. Today, your audience determines how, when, and where they want to receive your message and what they want to see.
They don’t want marketing and advertising; they want useful information and communications. They want to engage with you, have you sell your services to them because you’re one of the thousands who provides the same offerings. Johnny got that and respected what audiences want so is maximizing that change to generate serious revenue.
If you don’t provide your target audience what they want when and where they want it, they will find another source—like Johnny or another competitor. You’ll either change your marketing strategy or Johnny will keep eating your revenue for lunch by winning your clients over.
Are you changing with the times or staying stuck and giving away revenue?
You may be watching your competitors, like Johnny, conquer in the marketplace. They are generating high engagement and new business at levels you find hard to believe, and your clients are leaving you for them. What they offer isn’t even cheaper or better.
But their marketing and communications strategy is, and that’s making the difference. Johnny embraced the new digital age and leveraged every opportunity using digital marketing, and you haven’t—or maybe you have but half-heartedly.
So, have you embraced digital marketing entirely or are you sending your potential or even current clients to competitors like Johnny? Here are four ways to know for sure.
You refuse to adopt or commit to current digital communications strategies.
Your mind cannot make the shift in this new marketing age as Johnny’s has. You hold tight to the idea that a “website is enough” but hope that the now necessary and related marketing strategies that he’s using remain optional.
You don’t like or use social media and believe digital communications strategies are overrated or not measurable. You want to continue using only traditional marketing tools, even if they are considerably more expensive and far less effective than they once were.
So, you won’t incorporate digital communications tactics into traditional marketing plans as Johnny has. You stick to the old school, offline marketing spray and pray you’ve always used.
Even if you “try” content marketing strategies, you don’t commit them. You “give it 30 days” or “90 days” to work rather than the 12-15 months that Johnny knows today he must invest to gain traction and see ROI.
Competitors like Johnny have made the shift, and they are reaching exponentially more of your target audience than you are. They are building digital marketing permanently into their marketing mix and winning. So, by refusing to come fully into the digital marketing age, you’re sending your target audience’s business to them.
You won’t update your website.
You’ve decided your website, in its current form, is all you need for digital marketing, so you refuse to update it, even if others have told you it’s ugly. You may have built it yourself years ago or had it professionally developed by a traditional web design firm that primarily knows how to create online brochures. You think “it’s fine the way it is.” It’s not SEO-ready or even mobile-optimized, but you think that’s not an issue.
You don’t know if you’re missing the online marketing opportunities with your website that Johnny is getting because you do not measure traffic. If you measure traffic, you’re convinced high visitor numbers means your site works. But traffic is only the beginning. If your site’s traffic is not generating substantial leads, it’s because you’re getting the wrong traffic to your site. Wrong traffic drives zero revenue.
Even if the right traffic is landing on your current site, they hate it, are disappointed, and you lose credibility with them. Your target audience sees your old site and thinks, “Well, if they won’t even update their website, can they provide my business with updated products or services?” They also aren’t finding content that proves you can help them on your site.
Like it or not, today your organization is judged by the aesthetics and usability of your website as well as the value and immediate usefulness of its content to your visitors. Your site’s visitors expect more than an online brochure of about you, pontificating on how fantastic your business or practice is. They expect you to provide them with a customized experience.
They also want to see if you can solve their problems, and your content must show you can provide quick but lasting solutions. If your website is still marketing like you’re in the early 2000s or is all about you, not your audience, then your visitors are going to your competitors. They are going to sites like Johnny’s because he has invested in an updated website with excellent, regularly updated, content. They are becoming his clients, not yours.
You won’t listen to the communications professionals you hired.
Like Johnny, you’re an absolute expert in your field and highly-respected by industry thought-leaders and clients as such. But, you are not a marketing expert, and you realize that. So, reluctantly, you hire communications consultant or manager or consultant to create and execute communications strategy (or some aspect of it like editorial content writing). Then, because you’re so smart yourself, you become convinced you should tell them how to do their job.
Worse, you veto or refuse to implement most of their ideas. Not wanting to trust them as professionals, you tell them to find ways to make tactics you think still should work be successful.
You’ve set your communications consultant or manager up for failure and, of course, your communications efforts fail. Your marketing doesn’t generate anywhere near the results Johnny’s is. Worse, when your communications campaigns are not successful, you blame the communications professional you hired rather than your refusal to take their expert advice.
That’s like paying big money to see a medical specialist and ignoring their advice. Your business stays sick because you won’t listen to the professionals you hired to help make it healthy.
Conversely, Johnny is listening to the communications professionals he hired, and you know he is because he’s eating your bottom line like energy bars. You see how effective the messaging strategies your marketing or communications pros suggested you implement are for him because you’re watching them in action.
Congratulations. You’ve been sending your prospective clients—and the revenue they represent—to your competitors, like Johnny, by refusing to listen to the communications professionals you’ve hired. They’re frustrated and ready to quit (and find a client like Johnny), and you’ve wasted your investment in them, too.
You’re refusing to act to make changes.
While this seems repetitive, it’s not; this is a different issue from those above. You recognize it’s past time for a change in your marketing strategy. For the most part, you’ve accepted that marketing is markedly different today from yesterday’s traditional methods, and you’re moving toward change. You have the resources to invest in digital marketing campaigns, and you may have used some of them to hire a consultant or employee. But, you’re refusing to leap.
You say you’re about to go all in, but you’re planning the perfect time to execute the new strategy you’ve paid thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to have created. But, you’re not executing. You may be waiting to see if another strategy will succeed if something better comes along or if you can get better pricing on tools.
Or, you’re a bit commitment-phobic so have developed planning paralysis because you don’t want to make any mistakes. Whatever the reason, you have not made significant changes in your marketing efforts.
There is a very high cost of inaction, and you can see it in your bottom line if you’re willing to look. Your marketing experts have shown you what the cost of inaction is so you know the numbers.
But, your competitors have acted, and they are winning the target market you know you should own. Again, by refusing to move, your prospective—and even some of your current—clients are going to competitors like Johnny.
Stop Losing the Communications Game to Your Competitors
Change is hard, and there are multiple moving parts to the continually shifting target that is today’s marketing. However, if you refuse to change for reasons other than lack of resources, you might as well write a check or hand the amount of revenue you’re losing by not evolving directly to competitors like Johnny.
That’s, effectively, what you are doing but that’s probably not the business strategy you intend to execute.
But don’t resent Johnny. If you haven’t made the shift, just do it before it’s too late because your organization exists only on borrowed marketing time. Refusing to act when you means your competitors will force you out of business because they have committed. So, what will it be? Will you move now while there’s still time to succeed or continue to send competitors, like Johnny Ducketts, your revenue?
(* Johnny Ducketts is a fictional character and the account of his business entirely fictitious. This post was adapted from one I posted on LinkedIn Pulse in November 2014 and have updated several times since. Please review this website’s Content Disclaimer to learn about both content strategies.)
(c) 2014-2018. Dahna M. Chandler for Get Money Moxie, Inc. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in whole or in part without express written permission of the author.
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