The continuous rise of TV viewing figures was an accepted fact for decades amongst social commentators. And then the unthinkable happened. Within a handful of years, TV figures levelled out and – unbelievably – started to dip.
The TV and advertising industries were shocked to the core. How it happened is almost incidental – it was the introduction and growth of first the internet and then social media. But what it showed is really important for you and your business.
It showed that today's audiences are real, live and opinionated. They can no longer be relied on to be passive viewers and, given the opportunity, they will join in and let you know how they feel and what they want.
Today's audiences – your customers – aren't just couch potatoes sitting consuming a diet of product placement and advertising. They have alternatives.
They are watching programmes on BBC iPlayer; playing networked Warcraft with people from across the world; tweeting their thoughts about America's Next Top Model or Strictly Come Dancing. They're blogging; setting up and running charities online; creating webcasts; reading ebooks; buying and selling on eBay; and partaking in any one of a million other niche (and not so niche) pursuits.
What was once a huge audience, with no choice but to watch and listen to a pre-set schedule of programming, has fragmented. It's been smashed into a million different micro-groups. And each micro-group can do what it wants, where it wants, when it wants and with whom it wants.
And how do they pay? Usually with the one commodity that is increasingly valuable in this world – time. But they decide how best to use it – not us.
The customer has been liberated – and that's bad news for the big advertising media. Does it seem like bad news for you? It shouldn't be. As a small business owner, you should be jumping up and down with joy.
Here are the three main reasons why...
- Whatever business you run, whatever size your business is, whatever products or services you provide – you are an expert in your field. And that's exactly what it takes to engage your audience. Provide your expertise to them and they will respond to you.
- The costs of reaching your audience have come down for you, too. You can now reach your audience almost instantaneously – and for free – through social media.
- Your larger competitors will be geared up to work with traditional media where they can make economies of scale but find it harder to adapt to the smaller more numerous, agile and fragmented micro-groups. This means you can compete on equal terms with them.
So if you're thinking of setting up a small business or you're in the early stages of business growth, take heart. You are at a unique time in commercial history. You are placed at exactly the right time for marketing your small business.
Carpe Diem… Seize the day.
Jason Sullock is a Marketing Manager for Sage (UK) Limited and author of Quick and Dirty Marketing Tips.