In Online Marketing and Social Media things are never static. What works today can be totally useless tomorrow. What works in one situation can be totally wrong in another. What is perfect for one company might have a negative effect on another.
It is not only Google or Facebook who are changing the rules of the game constantly. There are many other changes that influence success or failure in online marketing: Changes in technology, new networks and processes rising, growing (or decreasing) brand reputation, competition, and many more can be reasons why what was successful yesterday needs a new idea (or even better: a concept) tomorrow.
Companies have to react to the dynamics of online marketing. They have to reassess their actions, and adapt. And being one of the first to act often is a huge competitive advantage. You can harvest from your success earlier and longer. If you are late to the party things will already be changing again and you can only watch others succeed while you are stuck in yesterday’s processes.
In Online Marketing It Can Be a Competitive Advantage to Be Small
That’s where smaller companies with short decision processes and startups who are used to daily changes and quick reactions can play their cards and gain ground on large and tardy competitors. Large companies often plan on a long term scale with long decision processes and implementation times.
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Most of us who have worked for larger companies have in some way been part of the usual 5 year planning. From today’s point of view as content and social media marketers, I say: Making plans for 5 years in online marketing is taking a look into a very blurry vision of the future. Can you predict what kind of online networks, forums and something totally unknown today will come up and take over a part of the online market within the next five years? Did you know in 2000 that by 2004 Google would take over the search engine market? Did you predict the rise of Facebook before 2006? I didn’t – I only joined in 2009.
How then are we supposed to make a strategic plan five years into the future? And even smaller periods of time should never be regarded as fixed: Gather ideas, make assumptions, measure success and change. The whole online marketing world is subject to change: Sometimes fast, sometimes a little slower. But one thing is certain: Change.
Most startups know this – and it is part of their competitive advantage. Since they are often building something new and do not have much data from the past to extrapolate far into the future, they can only make assumptions, test and adapt – usually in small cycles. They have to be flexible to market reactions. They know that they need to be ready to adapt and do it quickly. Every plan they make is subject to changes. Often they do not even know if they are still selling the same products in a few months.
Due to less overhead in their operations, less employees and no established processes from a time before the stone age, they can simply act, and they can play this advantage to a very high degree by constantly keeping active. Test, analyse, improve, test, analyse, improve… The words “Lean” and “Agile” have a completely different meaning for startups then they do for corporations.
This is a huge advantage for startups and small businesses over larger corporations: In large companies decision processes often take time, they need to pass several decision stages. The options for quick reactions are usually limited.
The world of online marketing is changing and developing so fast, that the ones that are able to adapt the fastest often are the ones to win.
Only Copying From Others Is Not The Solution
It is not only that you lose by sticking to outdated methods, it is also that you are missing opportunities when you are too late on the train. Your window seat has been taken, sorry – if you are lucky you get a spot in the luggage compartment. Some concepts are already outdated (or even useless) when the mass of marketers tries to copy a successful idea from others.
As an example have a look at SEO: In the not so distant past this was easy – create a lot of spammy links to your page and your page would rank well. Today – not so much (it sometimes still works, but you are always at risk of getting downranked, removed from the index or to lose the majority of your traffic with Google’s next update). SEO turned from being simple to being a highly complicated and pretty inexact science. And while this should by now be a known fact, SEO “marketers” are still selling the outdated strategies of 1999 to companies of any size.The first few of these Clickbait sites made tons of traffic (and money) with this. The last to come could only watch as the others already adapted and moved on.
(This article plays a seriously fascinating mind game – could you predict the stock market by predicting Google updates?)
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New marketing methods and concepts coming up often work best only for the first to do it. The more people are trying these methods the less impact they often bring. When the masses try to follow suit either the well dries up – or the big players like Google and Facebook pull the plug before they get drowned in spam.
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There are a few factors – apart from experience and knowledge – that decide about success in online marketing: Innovative thinking, measuring, taking the right conclusions and reacting – fast. So we all need to stay alert – and agile!
With all this talk about modern marketing one thing is becoming clear – there is only one factor that makes marketing truly modern: Agility itself.
Jonathan described this process in more detail in his article about lean marketing. It is a great opportunity for small businesses and startups to play their advantage card.