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Old Rules Apply in Marketing Despite Digital Shift

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Through the digital shift, many rules of marketing and methods of promotion have remained intact, not withstanding the transition from mass media to computers and smartphones.

For many marketers here, the lessons they learned when they entered the industry remain pillars of their companies and on which they base their clients’ campaigns.

“One of the first things my boss told was me to remember the five B’s: be brief, brother, be brief,” says Jeff Ryznar, owner of 898 Marketing, Canfield. “Get to the point of what you’re trying to say and get it across. More importantly, tell what you want the customer to do if they want to get in touch with you.”

Having a call to action remains a surefire way to drive customers to a business, Ryznar says.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that customers will respond because of a specific ad. More likely, it means pushing them to investigate, either through visiting a website, a company Facebook page or even a simple Google search.

“When you look for local businesses through Google AdWords, 70% of the leads that come in are from a phone call through that campaign,” he says. “A call to action and a telephone number has withstood the test of time.”

The concept of brevity also holds true with Deb Herman, although the information customers seek has changed significantly, she says.

No longer is it sufficient to list what you sell, the prices and how to get in touch with the store. Today, with the tsunamis of marketing campaigns that overwhelm their targets, a good campaign has to tell a story and tell it well.

“Customers want to know what’s special about you and why they should choose you over a competitor. And while that basic still holds true, the way we do that has changed and the type of information has changed,” says Herman, owner of Deb Herman Marketing Communications in Chippewa Township, Pa.

“The shift has gone from selling to true content marketing. You have to endear yourself to customers as someone who cares about their needs,” she says.

With more people learning of marketing campaigns through their smartphones and computers, what’s gotten even easier – and more important – is targeting, says Dan Pecchia, owner of Pecchia Communications in Canfield.

“Fewer situations benefit from those traditional mass media because there are so many targeted media platforms,” he says. “They still apply for car dealers and banks and everybody who has to reach a lot of people.”

Through tools such as AdWords or Facebook’s targeting abilities, businesses can now reach exactly who they want rather than hope that a potential customer will pick up a newspaper on the day an ad runs or drives by a billboard.

“If your customer base is a sliver, then using those vehicles is a lot of waste that can be avoided,” Pecchia says. “In almost any business, you know who your customers are and it’s easier to get information about them. And when you know who your customers are, it’s easier to reach out to people who are a lot like your current customers.”

Conducting research and performing due diligence in creating a campaign remains central to the work Boardman-based Palo Creative does, says owner Rob Palowitz.

Just like when he first started doing direct-mail campaigns in the early 1990s, determining the message, how to express that message and identifying the audience is paramount.

“Everything still applies. You have to have a message and a brand. Some people just want brand awareness and some want a call to action. You can still do campaigns, whether it’s one or the other,” he says. “You still have to position yourself and have goals.”

While these principles still hold, all agree that the method of delivery is what’s changed most, for better or worse.

Traditional methods still hold a place in marketing, but for most, the ways they’re used has changed. TV commercials, for example, can have a much higher production quality and feature more information in the same 30-second timeframe.

Palowitz points to billboards, which are usually sold by the month. If a store intends to hold a sale that runs April 7 through 14 and wants to advertise it on a billboard a mile away, it still has to rent the billboard for the month, in most cases.

But with the installation of digital billboards, advertisers have much greater flexibility. The ads don’t grow stale. They often rotate through several companies, increasing the likelihood that passers-by see something new each time and don’t zone out because they’ve seen the ad before.

“It’s keeping the mind and eyes fed with new stuff,” he says. “There’s flexibility with that. If we have something that’s time-sensitive, we can accommodate. [The ad] doesn’t sit up there with old information and people not paying attention any more.”

But not everything is destined to survive the digital shift. When he got into marketing, Ryznar recalls, text messaging was just starting to gain popularity. It was, at the time, considered the next big thing.

“It was tough to envision how it could go away,” he says. “It became popular and companies figured out how to get involved. But users became savvy enough to say, ‘I don’t want this content pushed through text messages. I just want to talk to my friends.’ ”

So, they turned to early social media platforms such as MySpace and, not long after, Facebook sparked changes that the marketing world is still adapting to today.

But the shift to social media hasn’t changed the marketing world all that much, Herman says. One of the greatest tools has always been word-of-mouth, she says.

“Back in the old days, that was talking to someone over the fence. But now, with social media, it’s word-of-mouth on steroids,” Herman says. “If a friend posts on Facebook that they went to this place or really liked that place, then it’s still word-of-mouth, but it’s reaching so many more people because they’re sharing it with all of their friends at once rather than one at a time.”

Pictured: Setting goals for a campaign remains critical says Palo Creative Owner Rob Palowitz.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.