Welcome to 2012: Is your small business marketing strategy worthy of the new year?

Someone tweeted about an article yesterday whose title prompted me to check it out. (See, Twitter really does work!) The article was called “Brochures versus one sheets for selling your services,” by Roger Parker, a marketing consultant who works with people on books and other platforms to market their services. Parker’s main theme was that one sheets – like the product sheets that manufacturers have used for years – have many benefits over brochures that take tons of time and money to produce. As he points out, one sheets are a better fit for “today’s fast-moving, attention-starved, Internet world.”

That’s a good point, but what really got me thinking was this sentence: “Start by exploring your options with an open mind rather than automatically choosing what worked in the past.” Amen, amen, amen! So much of marketing is done in a knee-jerk fashion based on what always has been done rather than with any recognition that we live in a completely different world than we did just ten or even five years ago.

For example, I see small retail businesses pouring money into print advertising when I know they could achieve good – if not perhaps even better – results by building an audience on Facebook. And it wouldn’t cost them a dime!

Last spring I wrote on my MassLive.com blog about some small businesses near me who were having great success with Facebook pages in this post: “Facebook business pages aren’t just for the big guys.” (And I just checked and each of the businesses I wrote about now have larger followings on Facebook than they did last April when I wrote that article.) And instead of just “talking to” customers through print ads, they’re “talking with” customers in two-way conversations.

I’m not saying Facebook is for everyone, but it can definitely work for retail businesses. But my chief question to you is whether you are marketing in ways that fit the times or whether you’re just doing what you have always done? Are you still producing long-winded marketing brochures that no one will actually read when we’re in an era where everyone’s attention span is not much longer than a 400-word blog post…or a 140-character Tweet? Or if you’re new in business, did you base your marketing plan on what you’ve seen others doing over the years or on what would actually work in 2012?

When I started my business in 1989, having a brochure was a must. And thank goodness for that because over the years I made a lot of money creating brochures for clients! And yes, I do have a brochure of my own and it cost me quite a bit to print, but, honestly, I haven’t handed one out in several years! In fact, I’ve been considering whether I should just toss the ones that are left since it seems “so yesterday.”

What I’m suggesting is that you take a thorough look at your marketing and get rid of the tactics that are “so yesterday.” Don’t take anything for granted. Those things you “had” to do even as recently as five years ago may not be productive in 2012. Figure out what makes sense for your audience right here and right now.

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