Traditional Marketing is Dead! What’s Your Engagement Strategy?

That was the topic that kicked off Wednesday morning at FutureM.

In a panel discussion, moderated by Constant Contact CEO Gail Goodman, innovators from across the marketing spectrum took the stage and shared their thoughts on what life would look like in the post-traditional marketing world.

The death of traditional marketing has already had a profound impact on small businesses. And, in many ways, it was the willingness of small business owners to adopt the different types of new media that led to its eventual demise.

For small businesses, engagement has become the most valuable currency for growing their organizations. And coming up with a strategy to foster that engagement will determine whether or not the smallest businesses can win in this new socially-connected world.

Here are 10 key elements that must be considered when developing that strategy:

1. Tell bigger stories

Regardless of what industry you’re in, if you’re marketing a business or organization—you are a story teller.

This is true today and will become even truer as we move into the future.

Whether it’s the content on your Facebook Timeline, the stuff you share on Twitter, or the blog posts you create—you’re telling a story to gain the attention of a target audience. And as a small business owner, you’ve got the best story to tell.

Just remember, you can’t be the hero of that story—it has to be the customer.

2. Take risks

No one is more familiar with taking risks than the small business owner.

But taking risks will become even more important in the “new age” of marketing.

The keynote speaker on Wednesday afternoon at FutureM was Marty St. George, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Commercial Strategy for JetBlue. This is a company that has taken plenty of marketing risks (check out their recent Election Protection campaign if you don’t know what I mean).

But they also recognize that risks that work on the ground, cannot bring into question their commitment to safety in the sky.

The same is true for your small business. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, but not so far that it threatens your credibility or reputation.

3. Be true to your brand

Stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t mean you want to step outside of your brand.

Your brand represents who you are, what you do, and the culture which defines your business. That brand should drive your marketing decision making and should help determine the right parameters for your business.

What works for one store won’t always work for another. And if you’re a financial consultant trying to do the same stuff as the cupcake shop down the street—you’re probably doing something wrong.

Stay true to your brand.

4. Be authentic

“We’re going to need to have a more authentic way to think about our brands.”

That was the message of Stephen Springfield, Senior Director, Marketing Strategy  & Analytics for PepsiCo/Frito-Lay at an event on Wednesday about the way social insights can deepen customer participation.

It’s a message that all businesses—no matter the size—will need to embrace if they want to drive engagement from their marketing efforts.

There’s plenty of fake or disingenuous marketing out there—don’t add to it by trying to be something you’re not.

5. Set goals for yourself and for your customers

Goal setting has always had a role in marketing, and will continue to be a defining part of a successful engagement strategy.

But just as important as the goals you set for your business, are the goals you help establish for your customers.

Gamification is a concept that is having a growing influence in the world of marketing. At its most basic level, gamification means taking characteristics of gaming (competition, rewards, challenges, etc.) and applying them to an online strategy.

As a business, you can apply the concept of gamification simply by understanding your customers have goals they hope to achieve, and it’s your responsibility to help customers move through the steps it will take to achieve those goals. One way to do that is by creating content that guides them through the process, and making sure you’re helping them celebrate their own success.

Or as Gail Goodman put it during Wednesday’s Engagement Marketing panel, “Gamification doesn’t have to only be about playing. It can also be about getting people to the next level of performance.”

6. Embrace new social platforms

As the marketing landscape changes, small businesses need to take a fresh look at the networks their using to engage with their customers.

For most small businesses (75% to be exact) the network that has been most successful for them is Facebook. But that doesn’t mean small businesses should be afraid to try something new. (Remember, take risks!)

Instagram, for example is a social platform that can not only boost engagement on its own, but can help to drive better engagement on sites like Facebook or Twitter.

Pinterest is another example. It has already driven big engagement for marketers and it enables consumers to follow brands based on specific interests—allowing you to deliver only the most relevant content.

Think of what networks you’re using and what may be worth a try for your organization. And if old networks aren’t delivering the results you expected, don’t be afraid to make a change.

7. Make it visual

If you’re not utilizing the power of rich media on Facebook—you’re doing something wrong.

That has, without a doubt, been one of the biggest Facebook takeaways from FutureM.

At a panel discussion titled, Marketing on Facebook? Tell Me a Story, Adam Benjamin, Global Marketer for Facebook, implored the audience to embrace the power of visual storytelling on the social network.

Not only will photos drive the biggest engagement from fans, but with recent changes in Facebook’s algorithm—it will be crucial to having your content show up in your fan’s newsfeed.

Over the course of the first few days of FutureM, companies like Pepsi, New Balance, TSN Canada, Oreo, and JetBlue were all referenced as brands that have taken a visual approach to marketing on Facebook. There’s no reason your small business shouldn’t add its name to that list.

8. You can’t hide from mobile — it’s already arrived

If you’re still hiding under the covers hoping mobile will just go away, you’re going to be hiding for quite some time.

Mobile isn’t on its way, coming up, or about to arrive. It’s here, and its influence is already being felt by marketers everywhere.

Here’s just a snapshot of some mobile stats that have fueled discussions at FutureM:

  • 60% of Facebook users (600 million people) now access the network through a mobile app
  • Website hits from mobile devices doubled from January 2011 to January 2012
  • 93% of the college class of 2015 will be smartphone users
  • People spend 23% of time online on mobile but mobile only gets 1% of media budgets

In a lot of ways, marketers are still playing catch-up when it comes to developing a clear engagement strategy for mobile. Don’t wait! Start thinking about how your brand can reach its mobile audience today.

9. Pick the right people for your team

“Hiring people who care about the business is the first step to creating authentic engagement interactions.”

That was just one of the messages shared by Gail Goodman during Wednesday morning’s Engagement Marketing panel.

As a company, we are committed to helping small businesses grow their business by equipping them with the tools and education they need most. And we want people on our team who share that same level of commitment.

As a small business, your staff should be an important consideration when planning out your engagement marketing strategy. That way, customers get a consistent experience and a clear understanding of what it is you represent.

10. Invest in your shared-values

The strongest relationships are built upon shared beliefs.

This was a major theme of a session on Storytelling for Businesses given by Small Army CEO, Jeff Freedman on Wednesday at FutureM.

It’s an important theme for small businesses, because those same relationships can generate some impressive engagement and social word-of-mouth.

In fact, 71% of consumers would recommend a brand that supports a good cause over one that doesn’t, and 72% would switch brands to a different one if they supported a good cause.

Think of the causes you already support, and give your customers an opportunity to get involved. Chances are you’re already a lot to better to your community and overall, make the world a better place.

Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins in a Socially-Connected World

In the socially-connected, post-traditional marketing world, engagement is the key to growing your business.

Businesses have more ways to connect with their target audience than ever before, and as a result, must rethink everything they once knew about marketing their brand.

Whether it’s telling bigger stories, taking risks, or investing in shared values—you need to find strategies that work for your organization and reinvest yourself into seeing them through.

If you’re a small business, the engagement marketing playbook has already been written for you. Pick up your copy of Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins in a Socially-Connected World, today.

We’re sharing our feedback from the FutureM Conference all week! Check out yesterday’s post: 8 Ways Customer Relationships Will Shape the Future of Marketing.