The Internet and subsequent breakthroughs in the mobile, social and other digital media are affecting profoundly the way consumers get — and, increasingly, give — news, entertainment and shopping information. These changes already have disrupted many local businesses to a considerable degree. But they are far from over.
The demand for superior data collection and analytics is rising exponentially as media channels become more numerous and their interactions more complex. In the very near future, it will be valuable for businesses to know the demographics and location of users; to track individuals on the web, on mobile devices, on email and the social media; to map how they consume and share content, and to know the transactions they are considering or have made. Successful businesses will have the systems necessary to collect user data, analyze the data, and know how to use it.
But most local businesses are a long way from actively participating in the wonderfully promising world of actionable consumer data. A common cry of many local businesses is that the demands on their time and money are expanding much faster than either their time or budgets are increasing.
How does a local business keep up? How does a local business owner calculate the return on their investments in marketing and advertising, when there are over 35 different yardsticks including clicks, impressions, conversions, click-throughs, frequency and ad exposure, just to name a few, used to report the results of their efforts? Across the 46 markets where 10/13 Communications owns newspapers (including Ahwatukee, and the Ahwatukee Foothills News), we are discussing these questions everyday, with thousands of local business owners.
Business owners tell the Ahwatukee Foothills News that they should remain primarily focused on the unique reach of their local newspaper. Local advertisers seem to draw customers in a manner very much like the pull of gravity — customers are primarily drawn from a very local area, and the further you are from the store, the weaker the draw. The paper is the only genuinely mass-market medium in Ahwatukee. They want it to remain a vital source of local information.
But we live in a multi-channel world. Witnessing the viral power of the social and mobile media to motivate consumers and even topple governments, the paper is also providing business owners the means to use these digital platforms to turn their customers into advocates, raising word-of-mouth marketing for the first time in history to an efficient, predictable and scalable force.
Recognizing that the digital media deliver unique and personal experiences to every individual, they are helping businesses leverage content marketing across digital channels as aggressively as possible to establish direct, long-term relationships with as many customers and future prospects as they can.
Local businesses need to find ways to efficiently connect to their customers across fragmented media channels. The tactics for holding on to existing customers are different than the strategies for finding new customers. But whether in the digital world, the analog world, or just on your street corner, some simple truths seem to be consistently true. Your customers are mostly local folks. The more you engage them in a conversation the more you show you care about them. The more you show you care about them, the better they are going to like you. In print, on TV, on the radio, on Facebook, across Twitter, or in your email, treat your customers like they are among your best friends. They should be.
• Greg Swanson is a general manager with 1013 Communications (owners of the Ahwatukee Foothills News) and Itz Publishing. Reach him at email@example.com.