What small business and startups can learn from Fortune 500s?
What can SMBs do as well as (or even better than) Fortune 500s, without a Fortune 500 budget?
The answer is in changing consumer attitudes. Markets and marketing have undergone huge changes in the past decade. So have consumers.
Consumers are more in control now than they ever were before. Their views of the world, their values and their opinions have forced marketers to change with them, if they want their content to be seen and heard.
As SMBs, we haven't yet perfected the ideal approach to reaching them at the right time, in the right place and in the right way.
In fact, we entrepreneur and SMBs have misused and misspent our ad money. We didn't know how to target effectively, so we stayed broad. We targeted everything and everyone. And then we re-targeted.
The result is selective media consumption on the part of consumers. They see what they want and ignore everything else. Ads have become so ubiquitous that people have become blind to them; immune to the power those ads once had.
Effective Innovation in Marketing
In the mad men days, good creative and good distribution channels were enough. Advertising was young and consumers responded to the newness of it. In 2015, industries and markets have become saturated. Competition is high. But that does not mean aggressive marketing is the way to go. It actually means that the strategy has become less effective.
The best tool in a marketer's hands today is education. This is what many of the brilliant marketers from agencies catering to the Fortune 500s know.
They know that when the market is over-saturated with ads, what stands out, what gets noticed, consumed, shared and converts, is the content that adds value. It is content targeted to the needs and demographic of a specific audience, at the time and place they need it.
An educational approach -- starting with the goal of helping consumers -- is showing to be highly valuable from the perspective of consumers, as well as a considerably less desperate approach to marketing. For marketers, it is also showing much better results.
Ask yourself: "How much value am I bringing consumers with my current AdWords campaign, paid Facebook campaign, and twitter sponsored ads? Am I just throwing everything at the wall and hoping something sticks? Or am I bringing consumers to my business by helping them find what they need?"
Here is an excellent example of an educational marketing approach that brings value to the consumer:
Here, Marriott has opted to educate their website visitors on so much more than the Marriott hotel experience. They've tapped into a demographic of people planning vacations to New Orleans and provided a wealth of information about the full New Orleans vacation experience, including tips on where to eat and tourist traps to avoid. It's also fun, with plenty of vibrant images, unique bits of trivia and a few humorous articles.
What they'd done is establish themselves as experts on travel; a go-to source for getting the most out of your vacation experience.
They're providing valuable and engaging content that keeps visitors on their site far longer than if they only offered room descriptions and rates.
They've created something highly shareable; something a consumer is likely to send to friends and family, talk about and recommend.
Finally, they've set themselves apart from their competition. By helping their customers plan better vacations, by educating them about their travel destination and how to optimize their visit, they establish their value over competing hotel chains.
This is the power of an educational approach to marketing.
What can you do as startup or SMB to use the magic of educational marketing?
- Build content related to your industry that will be of real value to customers.
- Curate that content and categorize it geographically and demographically.
- Create different forms of content delivery (adopt the Buzzfeed approach of creating visual content -- infographics, pictures, and videos).
- Remove any native ads or product placement in your educational content. Remember, we are not pitching the client, we are helping them.
- Use all your web properties to deliver this content under an educational light.
Remember that consumers like to be helped, not sold to. And they are acutely aware of the difference. Consumers like to be educated, not pushed; advised, not harassed. They will instinctively ignore an onslaught of generic advertising, but will engage with content that brings value to their lives. This is what Fortune 500s know. And you know it too.
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