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The Marketing Paradigm Has Shifted — Has Yours?

By Jeff McLinden, President – Wordsmith Marketing, LLC

The discussion among businesses and nonprofits about the value of

social media and Internet marketing

is raging…sort of.

We’ve found among certain nonprofit clients that this issue has become a dominant part of the strategic conversation.  WIth others, it registers as simply one of many “popguns” trying to command the attention of the executive team and board concerned about the broader concerns of challenged capacities to deliver client service while suffering from understaffing and underfunding.

As for those in the for-profit sector,

Internet marketing is mostly viewed as a necessary evil

that must be added to marketing plans — but it has not yet reached a level of primary focus for the vast majority of companies.  They simply don’t have the time, the staff or (they think) the budget to make major investments in online marketing.

Here’s why branding, marketing and the role of Internet and social media strategies MUST become part of the strategic dialogue for EVERY company or organization…

Nearly all consumers (97%) now use online media when researching products or services, according to BIA/Kelsey’s ongoing consumer tracking study. The misconception is that only young people use these technologies for shopping but in fact, nearly all of the buying public now use them. Marketing has shifted from a one-way broadcast to a multi-point conversation. In the past, communications were “broadcast” exclusively through mass marketing channels like radio, TV, newspapers and even the door-to-door distribution of directories like the Yellow Pages.

Not only are consumers seeking product information to drive purchase, they are also seeking information — period.  That includes information about every cause imaginable — including yours. The Internet has become the most dominant repository of information readily available to anyone anywhere.  And that knowledge is influencing not only alignment decisions, but also investment decisions.

But the most significant change in the past several years has been the movement from the Internet as “information repository” to Internet as “catalyst for community and conversation.”  And social media is responsible for this dramatic change, dramatically changing the landscape for marketers by enabling continuing “conversations” with customers and/or donors in real time.

In the past, for-proft and nonprofit companies marketed online by building Web sites and sending emails to subscribers—both “broadcast” activities in the sense that communication was one-way. Banner ads, news items, emails and other tactics drove prospects to Web sites where companies tried to communicate their messages and influence behavior. With social media, however, much of the communication is controlled by the target audiences. Members can ask their community about a product, service or company and get multiple opinions, recommendations or referrals. Conversely, members freely discuss their experiences with their friends and followers. Online, the new “word-of-mouth” is social media like Facebook and Twitter, which have more than 700 million members combined.

Social Video Channels

YouTube is now the second largest search engine, according to comScore, with 50% more searches than Yahoo! And 180% more searches than Bing. YouTube has 300 million visitors every month who watch more than 12 billion videos.

As a social medium, YouTube features user generated content and facilitates video sharing, commenting, rating and the ability to create special interest channels that attract friends and subscribers who share interests and can interact with each other. Users look for videos to entertain and inform. Businesses participate by providing answers to users’ questions, how-to content, product reviews, instruction, expert opinions, etc. It is a forum for establishing “social authority” that businesses seek for the topical areas most related to their services or products. According to Dr. Pamela Rutledge, Director of the Media Psychology Research Center, “One of the tenets of social media is that you can’t control your message, you can only participate in the conversation.” By building social authority in a subject area, a business — or a nonprofit or ministry organization — can participate in the “conversation” and become a relevant influence in that conversation.

What are you doing to engage your customers or donors in meaningful conversations?  Have you shifted YOUR marketing paradigm?  Or are you just grinding gears?

Your ability to engage donors and/or customers using THEIR media of choice may play a very significant role in your ability to not only KEEP the ones you currently have, but also to FIND AND KEEP new ones.  The  implications are staggering for your organization’s brand, for your ability to recruit staff, for your ability to acquire and retain prospects and customers, and ultimately for your ability to remain relevant in your business or area of service.

If you’re not having serious strategic conversations — not about WHETHER to enter this arena, but about WHEN and HOW — you must begin now.  If you are afraid of the costs, the staffing needs, the learning curve, etc., you needn’t be.  Technologies now permit incredibly sophisticated marketing strategies to be implemented for virtually ANY sized organization with amazingly low outlays of both time and money.

You must enter the conversation.   Let us show you how.

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