Reaching consumers with traditional media vehicles is becoming more difficult with the emergence of new media technology. Whereas consumers in the 1960s actually watched TV commercials, today we simply fast forward through commercials using our DVR.

In the past, consumers were easy to reach with e-mail newsletters and banner ads. However, today, spam filters are so efficient that the average marketer is thrilled with a 20% e-mail newsletter open rate. As for banner ads, there are a lot of browser plugins that enable consumers to completely avoid them.

How should businesses reach consumers? Get their permission!

  1. Mobile Technology – it is essential that businesses create websites that are optimized for mobile devices. This can be accomplished with a flexible website that dynamically adjusts for mobile devices or by creating a separate mobile website. Nearly half of Americans have smartphones. 90% of smartphone users use their phone to access the web and check their e-mail. For many consumers, their mobile device is the primary way that they access the internet. And this number is going up constantly, especially as tablet prices continue to come down. Yet, shockingly, only 26% of small businesses have invested in a mobile version of their website.
  2. Social Media – create Facebook and Twitter accounts for your business. Make sure to regularly update them. Hire a marketing intern to manage your social media accounts for you. Use an all-in-one solution like Hootsuite. Engage consumers with a combination of industry-relevant content and original content. The goal of social media isn’t to make a sale, it is to raise awareness and communicate your relevance to consumers. I will say it again: RELEVANCE. Relevance is key to social media success. The more relevant your content is, the more likely consumers will share it with their social networks. Ultimately this is the kind of buzz that you want, consumers giving you FREE publicity by sharing your content. Great examples of social media success are American Express and Starbucks. Of course both companies have multi-million dollar marketing budgets and huge ad agencies working for them – but the best part about social media is that the little guy can achieve the same success as the big players – with virtually no ad budget.
  3. Blogging – when you write original content, publish it on your official company blog. If you don’t already have a company blog, use WordPress to create a blog. WordPress is the most common and versatile blogging platform and what I personally use to build all of my websites. Again, when writing content on your blog, make sure that it is relevant and interesting. It should inform and engage your customers. Not try to sell them something. It is okay to have an author’s bio on the blog post to drive traffic to your website, but if your post is too “sales-y” people are not going to read your post. Or share it. You want them to share it. The more buzz you generate, the more successful your campaign is going to be.
  4. Newsletter – create a newsletter or mailing list. I recommend that you use aWeber or Mailchimp software to manage your campaign. Add a signup form to your website. Encourage customers to sign up on Facebook and Twitter. Use the original blog content that you publish in your newsletters. This way you can reach customers through several different channels. The reality is that Gen Y (30 and younger) does not read e-mail newsletters and most likely they will get filtered. But Gen X and Baby Boomers still do read e-mail newsletters.

Use these new media channels to engage customers. Don’t talk “at” them, start two-way dialogue with them. Start a conversation. Teach them something new. Inform them about your company. But keep direct marketing activities below 10% of your communication. Otherwise, you’re going to piss off your customers.

When working on a marketing campaign, make sure to consider your target market and communication objectives before choosing your channel. Make it easy to share your content.