Taking advantage of the digital marketplace

The national and local economy has impacted Colorado businesses and residents over the past year and a half, no doubt. As the economic pendulum swings toward recovery, new consumer preference trends are emerging and businesses are adapting to keep up with changes in the marketplace. Successful companies are learning to unlearn and challenge conventional procedures, skill sets and ways of doing business.

In my position with Comcast, I’m fortunate to meet business owners everyday who are building the next generation of their business plan around the digital and networked marketplace. Here are some of the top trends they’re paying attention to:

The (business) world is flat…and getting flatter. Thomas Friedman in his book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, asserts that the global economy is changing – the playing field has become increasingly level with the developments of the last century, in no small part due to the rise of e-commerce.

According to recent numbers released by the Department of Commerce, online store purchases have increased over the last year by more than 12 percent despite lagging consumer confidence. For as little as a few hundred dollars, you can purchase a turn-key “shopping cart” program that turns a static website into a profit center. Many business owners are also investing in photo editing software, so that they can manipulate images to display their products in the best light possible.

Email marketing, blogs and social networking sites can be easily leveraged to drive traffic to your newly-equipped e-commerce site. Once you’ve developed a following, you can further engage customers through a permission based email marketing campaign. Check out these tips for employing email marketing as a smart, cost-effective marketing channel.

Personalization. With digital technology, it’s simple for businesses to add a personal touch to their operations. In doing so, they are able to deliver additional value and create more engaging interactions for customers.

Take for example Denver-based neurologist Dr. Eric Hammerberg who has been treating patients for more than 30 years. As a Comcast Digital Cable customer, he’s personalized his business by simply allowing guests to tune to familiar televisions programs while in the waiting room. Dr. Hammerberg reports this adds a calming effect and brings a welcome distraction for nervous patients and their families.

On a similar note, I’ve heard of dentists using their high-speed internet connection to let patients select their own streaming radio station to listen to while in the chair. I think we can all agree that the end of elevator music is a welcome change!

Little is the new big. In years past, a company’s “reach” was measured by large marketing campaigns and the number of zeros in their advertising budgets. Now, some of the most powerful and successful marketing efforts are being done online with small budgets (and actions).

Popular blogger Seth Godin talks a lot about acting small and thinking big on his blog – from the decision making process to closing the gap between company leadership and the customer, small actions can lead to big results. For example, by equipping your website to handle two-way dialogue, you can create a far greater percentage of customer interactions. Little things, like promptly answering in-bound e-mails, can be one of your most powerful growth platforms.

I’m also a big fan of the use of social media to respond to customer inquiries. The services are free and, as your company experiments with this approach, the responsibilities can be shared amongst existing employees.

Work anywhere, anytime. Just as e-commerce provides consumers with more options, an online presence enables your business to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Consumers are able to access your company information, products and contact information on their time. Consider taking this to the next level by posting simple how-to videos, helpful commentary through customer service-oriented blog posts, industry trend news or even a “frequently asked questions” page. Translate your passion for your products online, and you can bring your website to life and solidify its place as a helpful resource – day or night.

One of the other valuable aspects of the modern, digitally enhanced business is the freedom it creates for employees. With wireless laptop cards and smartphones, employees are able to work from home if they have a sick child or from a hotel room as they travel across the country – the increased accessibility can improve morale and increase efficiency.

Colorado businesses don’t have to fear changing times. By harnessing the digital tools at your fingertips and capitalizing on the increasingly digitally-connected world, small and mid-size businesses can better engage with customers, reach prospects and propel their business into its next stage of growth.

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Categories: Sales & Marketing