One of my life lessons learned very early was that change is a force to embrace and not resist. Jobs were lost and gained, and careers continue to ebb and flow. I have experienced much in this existence that continues to be filled with wonders. When the news of an epidemic became life within a pandemic, I knew that humanity took another global shift not unlike those embedded in my youthful memories of a world emerging from a global war where nuclear bombs were used. I reflected on the books by futurist Alvin Toffler.
We are living through the fog of change on a global scale that academics will build careers upon through publishing research of minutia, business authors will publish their notions, and marketers will coin phrases to to help package goods and services. AGL clients who are experiencing growth and success through the pandemic are giving me pause for reflection on what is working.
Here's what I know. Well-designed websites for small businesses are effective windows into an enterprise, but pages must have features for immediate interaction such as contact forms and link buttons. Websites do not market themselves. Visitors must be enticed to go to selected pages where they might decide to explore other pages of a site. The best avenues to pages on a website are articles, photos and video on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google My Business. Other platforms like Instagram and Twitter help and all others are questionable! Email marketing campaigns through newsletters and bulletins are high on my list of tactics for small businesses to survive downturns in business and economic cycles and thrive. Content is used to populate social media pages and drive readers and listeners to selected corporate website pages where they can interact with key contacts. I remain undecided about the value of online advertisements. Facebook ads are inexpensive and easy to launch, but substantial conversion to sales or action of some kind is debateable. But, ads do so much more. They give detail about audiences and traffic driven to websites, and that is a good thing. Buy and sell sites for small businesses in small local markets, especially on Facebook, work very well.
Placing fences around generations
I am an advocate of understanding human behavior through culture, geography, demographics, and generational values and experiences to form tactics and strategy in marketing. For years, I placed too much faith in applying the widely-held notions of differences between Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (Millennials), and now Gen Z (iGens). I had set aside what I learned decades ago in university about how geography and culture among other things affect human behavior (use of Earth's resources). I embraced the infographics, explainer-boards, video, and endless articles about the persona of the generations that were neatly boxed and wrapped, and tied with a ribbon. I fell for the intellectual babblegab hook, line, and sinker. Yes, indeed, there are differences and social media networks with their algorithms and metrics generate very useful information about the generations, and so does learned research at universities and colleges if you take the time to read. The information, however, is most useful for North American markets and places of Europe where World War II spawned the first of the visible generations - Baby Boomers. A generation is not that easy to define when child bearing ages in all places on Earth and life expectancy and many other factors affecting birth and death vary. In North America we package the generations and marketers are making mistakes.
Online and In-Person Events
The COVID-19 pandemic has opened a new era of events, conferences, trade shows, and exhibits where attendees will have expectations of participating online or in person. Hybrid events have arrived in spades. When I was executive director of the Canadian Institute of Marketing, I began hybrid annual meetings about 10 years ago to accommodate members and guests who wanted to attend in person and those who lived in other countries who wanted to participate in the business meeting and educational presentations. When the economic downturn of the early 2000s happened, I was an executive director and held the first online annual meeting of the Canadian Concrete Pipe Association because travel to participate in a 90-minute event and a day of presentations with all the expenses of travel and event planning could not be justified. This year, I have represented clients at online exhibits and conferences using newly-created platforms that accommodate "virtual" conferences and exhibits. These platforms are here to stay and the future is a blend of online and in-person events. It is important for marketers to find ways of economizing budgets that provide an experience that has value to people attending online and off.
Marketing is a bucket of skills, experience, knowledge and credentials held by a person to help sell something. In this digital world, clients of consulting marketers are demonstrating what works best. My experience suggests that online promotion, understanding the generations affecting markets, and the shift to hybrid events are marketing tactics that can benefit small businesses in an economy recovering from the pandemic.