As a business owner in my late 40s, I have recently found myself pondering a paradigm shift. This shift has evolved over the last decade as young 20-something entrepreneurs quickly forge their own successful paths with online startups. While the online economy is the world I play in, I rarely stop to consider how digital marketing awareness is a major hurdle for today’s entrepreneur.
I was given pause the other day while talking to another entrepreneur who I respect and admire. I got the sense that they were discouraged by a lack of ability to keep up with everything going on in the online world.
Millennials are the Minority – Digital Marketing Isn’t Just for 20-Year-Olds
The goal of marketing has always been simple. Drive more customers to drive more sales. But major disruptors like Google and Facebook have turned the world of marketing on its head, making what used to be common methods like Yellow Page ads obsolete.
So, I started thinking, how many other 40+ entrepreneurs feel like their business is being pushed to the fringe?
Should generations who grew up with one, maybe two screens in the home and a rotary phone be prepared to throw in the towel?
If you are an entrepreneur who grew up in my generation or earlier, let me encourage you.
First, you are not on the fringe. You are the majority. More on that in a moment.
Second, you can learn something that you didn’t previously understand. After blocking out just a little time to learn something like Google My Business or Google AdWords, entrepreneurs I’ve encouraged to learn something new have emerged victorious.
As I’ll explain, you do not have to be the geekiest guy in the room when it comes to technology or digital marketing awareness. You just need to be a little better than most. And that bar is set pretty low.
Digital Marketing Awareness is Critical
For over 20 years, I’ve been involved in the process of raising that awareness bar. Many of those years were spent dealing with small business owners. These owners included restaurants, plumbers, chiropractors, medical doctors, lawyers, accountants and franchises of all types.
In more recent years, I work with many eCommerce entrepreneurs from start-ups to multi-million-dollar enterprises. I’ve witnessed the frustration faced by business owners who feel they’re out on that fringe and getting behind faster than they can get ahead.
The reality is indeed entirely different. In a 2016 report called “The State of Small Business In America,” Babson College revealed some compelling statistics. For instance, many might think, because of the extensive media coverage of young tech entrepreneurs, that the average small business owner is a 20-something techie looking for new VC funding.
However, as the Babson College report showed, the median American small business owner is just over 50 years old.
Another critical finding revealed those business owners are frustrated with technology. From the same report, “Nearly 80 percent of respondents recognize the importance of technology to the growth of their businesses while sharing concerns about awareness and affordability of resources.”
The key word I picked out of that finding was “awareness.” Does this mean those 50-something small business owners are still reading the daily paper and don’t know how to use a Google search to find information about technology and current marketing tactics?
Stop Marketing Like It’s 1999
If you were a 20-something back in 1996 like me and were fortunate enough to have an AOL account, your digital marketing awareness was pretty simple. If you were bored, you could launch AOL.com on a dial-up connection. Then you waited for it to load, maybe chatted with your online buddies and checked the six or seven emails you had.
Back then, when you decided to open up Internet Explorer, there was no Facebook or YouTube. Web pages took minutes to load, so you didn’t spend much time there. You went to the brick and mortar library to do research.
In contrast, those born in the 80’s and 90’s grew up with a much faster internet, smartphones and tablets. They became very familiar with browsing the web for anything they need. Those now 28-35-year-old entrepreneurs are pretty comfortable with the idea of marketing on the internet and digital marketing concepts like paid search.
Traditional To Digital Mindset
I’ve been an active part of digital campaigns and concepts for the last 17+ years. Still, I am continually amazed by the lack of awareness, knowledge, and comfort business owners much younger than me have regarding digital marketing and best practices.
I get it. Radio, TV & print, all traditional media forms, are very easy to understand. You run an ad on a radio station, TV station or print publication. It has the audience you want to reach and those people see the ad, and they contact your business. Digital marketing takes so many different forms to accomplish the same goals, and it can be overwhelming.
Just test yourself on these acronyms: SEO, SEM, PPC, CPA, and CPC (Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Pay Per Click, Cost Per Acquisition, and Cost Per Click). There are dozens more.
How is today’s business owner who isn’t that comfortable with technology supposed to keep current?
Some might say, why should I bother?
TIME TO GET CURRENT – GET COMFORTABLE WITH DIGITAL MARKETING
I want to encourage, even plead with those that are feeling frustrated by what they don’t yet know: Make an effort to become more educated and comfortable with digital marketing terminology. Get familiar with the strategies and tactics used to drive leads in today’s digital universe.
I’ll make it easy on you. I recently was a featured speaker at the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference (MDMC) in St. Louis, sponsored by the University of St. Louis Business School. I was on an SEO panel (now you know what that means) with other recognized experts in the field. Several businesses shared the frustration they have about being taken advantage of by marketing agencies that preyed on their naivety.
I shared resources where they could begin educating themselves before they begin a search to outsource their digital marketing work. I encouraged them to simply make a point to update and educate themselves every few months. They might feel they are somewhat behind on what is current, they’ll likely be light years ahead of their competition.
Your competition, more than likely, is doing very little to nothing or wasting hundreds or thousands of dollars online. Take comfort in the fact that even if you stay a little bit behind in your digital marketing awareness, you’ll still be getting out ahead of the vast majority of your competition.
Here are some of the best places to “Stay Behind & Get Ahead” with your digital marketing awareness:
For Local & National SEO Education: www.moz.com
For All Things Digital Marketing: https://searchenginewatch.com