Then vs Now: How the Internet Continues to Transform Traditional Marketing

Then vs Now How the Internet Continues to Transform Traditional Marketing

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When you hear the term marketing, what comes to mind?  TV commercials? Radio and newspaper ads? Direct mail? Manipulation? In the golden era of television, marketing was more of a luxury that was only accessible to big businesses. If you had a large budget, all you needed was to get your product on TV and you were a hit. While the television market did expand with the invention of cable, pay-to-play marketing was still out of reach for a majority of businesses. Mediums like radio, print ads, and mailers were the status quo. In the 90s, the internet went public. Over the past twenty years, this new form of communication has not only created new ways for marketers and businesses to reach their audience, but it has shifted the way we market across every channel.

While traditional forms of marketing can still be found nearly everywhere we look, the Internet’s impact on the industry can clearly be seen. Just having a big budget and access to “celebrities” no longer means instant success. Today’s consumer has more control over the buying process than ever before. They can pick and choose what messages they allow in, and they’ve gotten extremely good at ignoring things that don’t reinforce their worldview. As a result, businesses and marketers are having to shift their approach in order to succeed.

It’s much easier to see the transformation when you zoom out a bit. To better illustrate my point, I want to look at four core foundations of marketing and how the internet has transformed how we reach and engage with our market.

Marketing Mission: Then vs Now

Traditionally, marketing agencies and departments represented the company. Their focus was finding new customers and getting the company’s products and services in front of as many people as possible. The company called the shots and dictated the approach. Today, marketing agencies and departments are customer-focused. The user drives and dictates the approach. Pushing products at prospects is less effective and can result in a negative brand image. The goal now is to be found by your customers instead of actively prospecting.

This new idea of “being found” can be traced straight back to search engines. When a consumer has a question, the first place they go is to a search engine. All companies, big and small, have seen the power of search. This year alone it is estimated that companies will spend 65 billion dollars on SEO.  In today’s internet-driven market, it is essential for your company to have a strong search presence for targeted terms as well as for your brand.

Customer Intelligence: Then vs Now

Traditionally, marketing has been focused on the masses. This is where we get the term “mass marketing” from. The idea is simple, get your message to as many people as possible and hope something will stick. There is another term for this approach, “spray and pray.” When the customer has few options in the market, this approach works. But in a more competitive market, this approach is costly and delivers poor results.

The internet has opened the door to one-on-one marketing, or personalized marketing. Instead of trying to reach everyone with the same message, personalized marketing focuses on individual users. Technology allows us to customize the experience to better match each user’s interaction with our brand. This helps builds trust and gives the prospect the right information at the right time. It’s a win-win across the board.

In order to effectively do personalization, you have to know your audience. Yes, technology takes care of the automation, but if the content you are delivering doesn’t match the needs of the users, the process won’t work. Traditional marketing segmentation was based on demographics. They’d group messages by geography, gender, and other static data. While this data is helpful, it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. Now that we can personalize, we must understand the behavioral makeup of our audience. If you want to create marketing that engages, you have to create messages and content that move your audience on an emotional level.

Mechanics & Tactics: Then vs Now

It happens like clockwork. Every year around the holidays, more and more sales ads show up in my mailbox. Coincidence? I think not. This traditional marketing tactic is still alive and well, and not just with print advertisements. The point-in-time blast can still be effective, but timing is the key. A better approach is using your access to clients, like email, to build relationships. Trust is a currency that pays off over and over again. But trust takes time and intention to build. The internet has opened up more access to users as well as companies. Email, social media, and content marketing are all powerful ways to build trust and develop stronger customer relationships.

This access to more channels has really opened the door for small and mid-size companies to compete with the big boys. As we mentioned before, traditionally, marketing was a “pay-to-play” arena with very few channels. Today anyone with internet access can tell the whole world about their company or service for free. As the internet continues to evolve, so do the channels. Social media, search, and content sites are constantly adapting to new needs and integrating with one another to help their users stay connected. It’s critical that marketers ensure that their brand and message are consistently shared across all channels.

Measurement: Then vs Now

Traditionally, marketers and marketing departments had to rely on third-party data sources, like Nielsen or Arbitron, to track the effectiveness of marketing channels. Today we have more access to data than ever before. From Google Analytics to all-in-one marketing automation like HubSpot, marketers and marketing departments can track their effectiveness in real-time. Sadly, 45% of marketers still don’t formally evaluate their analytics for quality and accuracy or, even worse, don’t know if they do or not. (Contently)

This means more agencies are relying on their own intuition rather than the facts. Now I am all for trusting your gut. The best ideas and campaigns I’ve ever been a part of started as an idea. But, they became better and more effective because we were able to shift and adjust based on real-time data. Being able to test, track, and make decisions based on real-time data is powerful. It helps build better messaging, deliver a better user experience, and increase ROI. But it only works if you use it!

Over the past 20+ years, the Internet has made a huge impact on the marketing industry. As the public has shifted the way they interact with brands and shop for products and services, traditional forms of marketing have shifted as well. Instead of focusing on the company, the focus is on the users. Instead of mass advertising, we are now able to personalize our efforts. Instead of a few channels, we now have access to many. Instead of hoping our campaigns will work, we can test and track them in real-time with big data. The amazing thing is we are just getting started with seeing all the internet can do.

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