Remember the days when you secured your Yellow Pages listing in the "telephone directory style" publication that was actually printed and physically distributed to millions of people around the country? You probably do, it wasn't that long ago, and it was perhaps one of the methods you counted on for potential customers to find your business.
Yellow Pages are still around, but, as a company, they've evolved into the digital world, and we don't see their directories dropped off at our offices and homes anymore. However, while Yellow Pages may have become, many small business customers have not. This is undoubtedly the case for many independent office product resellers who have largely failed to establish a digital footprint and are disappearing from view.
"After spending many years immersed in information technology and developing trends in the use of social media and digital marketing, I've concluded that most small business owners don't understand how all the pieces of the digital world fit together, or where to start to try and take advantage."
Undoubtedly, trying to make sense of the digital world is an overwhelming subject, and it's understandable why small businesses are lagging.
Advertising in the Yellow Pages was easy; you had to pay your money, and someone else took care of all the details for you. Same thing if you decide to place an ad in the local newspaper. Invest a little in your copy, and your sales rep will handle everything else. You could never be sure how many leads or customers could be attributed to whatever you invested in this "analog" marketing. But .... bottom line is it was easy and became a habit, despite potential misgivings on the ROI!
In the context of historical analog marketing methods, inbound digital marketing, email marketing, and social media audience development and engagement are not easy, which explains why it's being neglected.
Once digital marketing is broken down into parts, it's not so complicated, and in successfully building a relevant social audience, a more remarkable ability to get closer to potential customers is established than could ever have been achieved with "old-school" analog marketing. So, just like advertising in the Yellow Pages and the local newspaper became a habit, so now must become the daily routine for building a relevant social audience.
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Because it's proven difficult for small business operators to know where to start to develop their social audiences, those who invest and succeed will add enterprise value. Building an engaged social audience leads to more web traffic, which translates to more leads, which then translates to more customers.
Most business owners will sometimes contemplate a sale of their business, and when that time comes, the objective is to benefit from the highest possible valuation. A prospective buyer will pay more for a profitable business and the potential value of a trade growing on the back of a successful digital strategy more highly than one that isn't.
A stodgy, analog, office products reseller will be fortunate to get a 3 or 4 multiple for its business. Think of it this way, a company with $2M in annual sales, 1-2% revenue growth per year, 5% EBITDA, and owner compensation of $150K per year may be valued between $750K and $1M. That is if a strategic buyer can be found who has the potential to merge it with an existing business and reduce overhead expense through synergies.
However, that same business, with 7% annual revenue growth, will increase its top line by 31% in four years but, more importantly, while maintaining the same owner compensation and achieving the same EBITDA %, will be likely to increase its enterprise value by nearly 100% over those four years if (as is more likely with these performance metrics) the owner can attract a 6X valuation.
In this context, spending a couple of hours a day on developing a relevant social media audience while simultaneously engaging in the other components required for successful inbound digital marketing should begin to look like a pretty attractive investment from an ROI perspective.
You can't develop a relevant social audience overnight, just like an appropriate email contact database couldn't be developed overnight. However, the good news is that it's never too late to start, and that steady, consistent effort will pay dividends over time.
Many "old-school" business operators have viewed social media disdainfully and ignored its growing role in modern digital marketing. The roots of their hate can usually be found in a lack of education and understanding of the potential value of building and effectively engaging with a relevant social audience.
To survive and prosper in the digital world, this disdain must be overcome, and efforts must be directed toward building audiences on relevant social platforms and then successfully marketing a value proposition on those platforms.