Before the digital age, businesses relied on traditional advertising to reach their customers. Stores set placards on the walk outside their doors to invite customers in. On occasion, a clerk would stand outside the shop, offering samples to passers-by. News of the latest sale or the newest product spread by word-of-mouth and the Sunday paper advertisement.
Today, many businesses forego such tactics for more technologically-advanced methods: digital boards, T.V. ads, radio blurbs, and social media. While these methods can reach a broader audience at any time of the day, they are lacking in one particular area. As Bernadette Jiwa notes in a recent post, “Our focus on efficiency and scaling has taken us further away from our customers and made us less courageous marketers.”
Jiwa asks us to consider how we would market our businesses if we could no longer use digital methods. “My guess is you’d start with people,” she says. “You’d double down on serving the customers you already had and talk with, not at, people who were not customers yet. You’d get very good at explaining what you do and how it helps your customers.
When a business has a storefront, it’s easy to bring back the more personal touches of traditional, relationship-centered advertising. Yet online businesses also should pay attention to how they create connections, even if their customers don’t have an actual door to walk through.
One way to cater to online customers is writing content that solves their problems in the least path-resistant way. Streamlining a business’s website so that customers can quickly and easily find answers to their questions will prevent customers from becoming frustrated. Styling blog posts with headings, bullet points, graphics, and common phrases will also help readers see right away whether or not the content is pertinent to them. On the plus side, as Zara Altair explains, using such content-driven tactics will also lead to better-optimized search results than just focusing on keyword searches alone.
Unlike brick and mortar stores, online businesses have to get a little creative with how they connect with their customers. Focusing on reach and numbers is not enough. Simply providing information about products or services is only one part. To leave a lasting impression, online businesses must make their experience inviting, helpful, and genuine. They must remember why they exist and whom they serve. As Jiwa would say, they must “be brave.” And in so doing, they must leave the distant, impersonal side of digital marketing behind.