"The rules of the game must be constantly updated to keep up with the expanding technology. Otherwise, we overkill the classic climbs and delude ourselves into thinking we are better climbers than the pioneers." - Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia
Regardless of your industry, your level of brand recognition or your pure stubborn nature, there comes a time for every organization when tough decisions need to be made to shift the business in a new direction or call it quits. For business owners, this realization is clearer now than ever with the modern shift in consumer behaviors and technology.
Yet, it's easier said than done. Every year, or every second, new technology, new consumer research and new marketing techniques come out trying to tell you how to change your strategy. Overwhelming is an understatement, and why make a change if you're not sure if you're reading about a trend or a permanent change?
While we don't have all the answers, we do have four reliable marketing tips for 2020 that aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Don't look at this as a list of obstacles. Look at it as a list of opportunities.
1. A.I. is Important
According to Purna Virji, the Senior Manager of Global Engagement at Microsoft, 62.3% of consumers are interested in or have previously made a purchase using artificial intelligence (A.I.), such as devices like Alexa or Google Assistant. While this might have felt like a fad at first, since its introduction to the consumer world A.I. hasn't slowed down. As such, developing an organic A.I. strategy to help your website play nicely with voice search is an affordable, easy-to-implement method to keep your business ahead of the competition.
Some quick tips to help get you started:
- Answer questions, like you would when trying to earn a place in a Google Featured Snippet.
- Ensure your content is the right length. Not so long that Alexa loses her voice, but not so short that there's a lack of keywords or useful information on the page.
- Consider combining your A.I. strategy with an ADA strategy. Many ADA improvements can also help improve your A.I. performance. Your website will wind up accessible for everyone AND everything.
Speaking of ADA...
2. Make ADA Compliance a Priority
Every day more and more people have access to the internet, and that includes users who can't make their way around it utilizing standard means. These users might have vision difficulties, hearing difficulties or difficulties moving a mouse or a keyboard. Regardless, they have the right to access the same information as every other person.
The American Disabilities Act of 1990 ensures businesses open to the public are accessible for all customers. Once the internet boomed, website accessibility (or at least an accessible alternative) was added to the mix. So, why does that matter to you? If you haven't implemented at least minimum levels of ADA compliance into your website, Google will not only let people know by giving your site a lower ranking than your compliant competitors, you could also be opening your business up to a potential lawsuit.
How do you make your website ADA compliant? The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) offer three different levels of compliance and what you need to do to achieve them:
- Level A: Websites that meet this level incorporate the most basic standard of accessibility. Stopping at Level A isn't recommended. While it's a step-up from nothing, it still leaves a lot of roadblocks for users with disabilities.
- Level AA: Most websites strive to achieve this level of compliance. Level AA guidelines create a very accessible environment for users. Also, incorporating this level of compliance now will help your company easily keep up with any changes down the road.
- Level AAA: The highest standard of ADA accessibility. Level AAA is difficult to fully implement across all content. For the most part, this level is reserved with organizations that cater to the biggest populations, like government and healthcare providers. Many of the standards are actually the same between A and AAA. Even if you can't fully meet Level AAA, chances are you'll be able to meet some of it.
To learn more about ADA compliance, check out this article by Essential Accessibility. Making these improvements now could greatly widen your potential customer market down the road. It might even spark a new user persona strategy, like this one...
3. Do You Have User Personas? Start Over.
It's no longer considered particularly useful to find the averages in your customer base and create "average" customers based on them, i.e.. user personas.
Let me back up. User personas are representations of average website users based on data. You may have heard of Danny the Dad or Connie College. Personas help designers, marketers and stakeholders understand and connect with their website visitors in a more dynamic way. In theory, this allows the messaging, images and the flow of a website to better resonate with the people using it.
Yet, more and more we're finding that averages are sometimes counterproductive. While user personas still present a great excuse for businesses to evaluate their top target markets and think from their audience's perspective, too much focus on these averages are creating missed opportunities for connecting with other potential markets.
So, what should we do instead? We should turn our focus toward in-market segments and figuring out who they are. Especially based on behavior rather than demographics. Take, for example, Google Ads. When targeting users who are in-market for your product or service, find a niche by segmenting two unrelated interests (even ridiculous ones). Then, target the people in the overlapped area. For example, you're a tourism company. You're looking for people who are in-market for travel. Now, let's say those people also should use Apple products and rock climb. Your ad is now hyper-targeted and incorporates three different parts of a person's life. What does that mean? Awesome engagement rates!
Discovering new in-market audiences takes some time, but once you find a niche that resonates with your brand, you'll never go back to relying on old user personas and they'll never go back to relying on brick and mortar companies who don't understand them. In fact...
4. Brick and Mortar Will Never be the Same, and That's OK.
There will always be a place in our hearts for the small-town businesses of yesteryear. There was a time when a shop didn’t even need a phone number. Those days are long gone. Our economy has gotten so fast-paced that it's hard to stay competitive, especially as a small, local business, without adapting to at least some modern practices.
This fast pace is heavily apparent in the on-demand and home-delivery companies that have recently taken over our lives. Netflix, Carvana, Fabletics, HelloFresh... if the idea of never leaving your house sounds appealing to you, you're living in the right time.
The on-demand economy is changing the way users research and consume products and services. Expectations are higher than ever. But rather than throwing in the towel, this could be exactly the push your company needs. No, you don't have to start delivering vacuum cleaners to people’s doorsteps (Kirby’s been there, done that). Instead, determine if there are any more fundamental changes you could put in place to align with the modern consumer. Does your website use e-commerce? Is your restaurant on OpenTable? Is your return policy easy and transparent?
You don't have to be a giant, resource-filled, on-demand company to begin thinking like one. Your customers will thank you for adapting.
Are you incorporating these opportunities in your current marketing strategy? Let’s connect and discuss how we can help you take your marketing to the next level!