05/13/2013 04:46 EDT | Updated 07/13/2013 05:12 EDT

Marketing Outside the "Dark Ages"

There's no shortage of thoughtful insights about how the Internet has revolutionized business practices across all industries. With those changes also comes a revolution in marketing.

For some this is the exciting stuff of new opportunities. For others -- long-established businesses that may be slow to evolve or short on resources to keep up -- this can be an overwhelming, and business-threatening proposition.

I have worked with many companies that didn't recognize the changes that were taking place until they were scrambling to regain their market share.

For years they may have relied on one approach, such as print ads or directory listings that used to do the trick. Not until the decline in customers did they come looking for help. They were slow to get into the digital space and thought once they got there, they'd get back all the business they had lost.

What they failed to understand is that it isn't just about the advent of new vehicles of marketing -- but that all these new vehicles mean customer (and potential customer) attention is divided in many places now. However (and here's the big plus) all those new places also mean new ways of leveraging online content, having the ability to determine program effectiveness and to knowing where to refine strategies for greater success.

Marketing today is integrated.

No longer is "integrated marketing" a nice to have -- rather, understanding and working with an integrated marketing approach is essential. There's simply no one tool any more. There's a big box of many tools, and there are many ways to use those tools and examine the fruits of your labour.

First there are numerous channels (print, digital, radio). Within those channels, it's essential to engage a combination of paid (ads), earned (press coverage, testimonials) and owned media (created audio and visual content that is published on company and social media web platforms).

The next piece in that integrated approach is to look at the results:

  • What's the measurable traffic?
  • What are the rates of responsiveness, leads, sales/closing?

This monitoring and measuring then has to be followed up with analysis:

  • Where are leads bottlenecking?
  • Where are we losing them?

And then you have to respond to those results strategically.

In short, marketing today involves casting a wide integrated net of tools across multiple platforms, watching, measuring, analyzing and constantly refining in response to where there are loses and where there are gains.

With the constant advent of the next new thing in marketing, it's easy to get overwhelmed trying to keep up. But once you have a methodical framework in place then you can know when/how to proceed and be ready to evolve when the next tool comes along.

For businesses feeling stuck about how to bring their old marketing model out of the "dark ages" and into the current marketing revolution there's no shortage of resources out there to help - both free and paid. Getting over the feelings of being overwhelmed by the marketing evolution may well be the difference between sinking or swimming. Better to tread water for a bit than to give up swimming altogether.