Consumers are not just people who see media and advertising.
In my first business book, Six Pixels of Separation, I recount the story of a friend who was looking to launch a retail endeavor. They were spending countless hours scoping out locations, speaking to interior designers, looking into leaseholds and more. While the product line was (somewhat) unique, something was bothering me. When they met with me to discuss their website, all I could think to myself is, "why limit yourself? Why stock a physical store on one random street in one random city, when you can really push online and truly define your market?" At bare minimum, a website, some search engine marketing and rudimentary email marketing can take a brand very far. It’s a true petri dish. The risk associated with a retail location – where you’re beholden to issues like foot traffic and weather – seems so unpredictable when compared to the online world.
It’s a story that keeps getting told.
Yesterday, Forbes published the article, College Football’s Biggest Entrepreneur. The story is about Jared Loftus: a guy who dreamed of opening up a t-shirt shop next to Louisiana State University’s Tiger Stadium in hopes of selling swag to the LSU crowd. "Today, Loftus sits at the helm of College District, an online college football merchandise company that fills 1,500-2,000 orders a week from across the nation. The former one-man operation is now up to a staff of twelve and has raked in nearly $1 million dollars this season. Loftus says that all profits are being reinvested into company growth."
Consumers are everywhere… but they’re all online.
Loftus doesn’t need to worry about LSU making the finals anymore. He doesn’t have stress over union strikes and other anomalies that can impact a retail store (like construction or even if the stadium decides to move). Loftus can also sell anything and everything to LSU fans the world over, but the true brunt of the story is how Loftus is expanding… handling orders for over fifteen other school-specific websites from all over the United States.
It seems so obvious, doesn’t it?
We’re into the twentieth year of the Internet’s commercialization. Social Media is over a decade old. Usage has not declined. The Web is not a fad. Now, with mobile and touch coming on strong, connectivity and technology is becoming core to our daily lives – much in the same way as water, electricity and heating. It’s not a fad. It’s not a service. It’s a utility. Why so many brands still keep it locked up as if it’s one, tiny, advertising channel is beyond me… and – if we’re going to chat amongst friends here – it’s disgraceful.
I’m out of the convincing business.
If a brand doesn’t understand Digital Marketing as core to business success (both today and going forward) and they need convincing, they’re simply not going to evolve. They may be able to maintain their little piece of geographic heaven, but true expansion (be it from B2B or B2C) without any real time and dedication to Digital Marketing is going to cause them long term pain. They may even find themselves in the middle of severe disruption when a more able-minded group comes together to create the future of the industry that they serve. Are the online channels for everybody (including the plumber at the corner of your street)? Why not? Since when was a business not about being a true value to the community that it serves? If that community is now anywhere and everywhere (including online, where consumers are looking for ratings and reviews or more in-depth information), what does it say about a brand that is completely ignoring the situation (and opportunity).
What’s your side? I’m willing to take on any and every detractor…