Put on Your Safety Goggles: It’s Time to Experiment

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experiment_smallADOTAS – I know I’m not alone in saying good riddance to 2009. It was a year full of economic slumps, a depressing job market and a decline in advertising almost everywhere you looked.

So how is 2010 going to be any different? Instead of going over a forecast, I thought I would take this opportunity to show you what will help your business grow… right now.

No need to wait for an economic recovery, you can gain consumers and increase your ROI while your competitors are still in hangover mode from 2009.

It Was the Best of Times. It Was the Worst of Times.

Last year we all got a big reality check. No more living above our means. No more buy-now-pay-later. We finally started saving and stopped spending (for better or for worse), and advertisers were feeling the effects. Consumer spending went down, which meant that advertisers had to trim the fat on programs that weren’t showing measurable leads.

In a way, this was good. Advertisers realized the value in online advertising—and the ability to see measurable results. Online publishers were reaping the benefits (well, whatever benefits could be had in a recession), whereas offline publishers were crying out for help.

The point is—it was a dark time. But now the question is: is it still a dark time? Economists suspect that we’re on the upturn — but it doesn’t feel that way. The job market is still shaky, real estate is in the slumps and banks are still apologizing for the collapse of Wall Street.

So what does this mean for your marketing dollars? For one, you should definitely maintain your lead generation programs. But in 2010 you should also be looking into some other opportunities that you can experiment with.

This doesn’t mean you should throw your business into a medium you’re unsure of, but using a few dollars to experiment will be very beneficial in the long run.

Social Media: This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Every day there is a new success story in the social media world. Unfortunately, there isn’t one sure-fire way to become a success. The good news, however, is that you have time to find what works.

Is it a customer service tool (using it as such has already worked wonders for the airline industry)? Is it a way to show consumers what you have to offer in interesting ways?

Only time can tell for your social media campaign. When you do find what works, though, your consumers will take notice. Also, expect more monetization from this media in 2010.

Mobile: According to The Mobile Internet Report, in five years more users will likely connect to the Internet via mobile devices than desktop PCs. Right now is the time to be testing different mobile channels.

The right-here-right-now approach that publishers are taking with mobile will become a way of life in the coming years (Check out Google’s Near Me Now Mobile feature), and you definitely don’t want to miss out.

Real -Time Search (or ‘Why Twitter Rocks’): In 2009 where did you first read that Michael Jackson had passed? Twitter.

When media coverage was banned from the Iranian election, where did everyone get their news? Twitter (what made this particular instance so ground breaking was that we found out about what was happening through personal experiences from those involved, not from a news source).

If you do a search for the recent Haiti earthquake on Google, what will appear? Twitter real-time search results (look for the “Latest Results” section).

It seems that this aspect of social networking has taken on a life of its own. It’s even becoming so relevant in search engine results that a new term has been coined — SSO (Social Search Optimization).

Accountability: Just as in 2009, it’s going to be important to measure results and make sure that your marketing dollars are giving you the best ROI.

If you haven’t yet looked into an analytics package, now is the time to do so. This is a great investment that will show you where you can trim some more fat as well as where and when to increase budgets. When the economy recovers, you’ll be ready to go right out of the gate with a sure fire plan that will leave your competitors in the dust.

Big Picture

The economy seems to be recovering — but not at the rate that we need for a full recovery. All marketers should be reserving a portion of their budget for experimentation. Although budgets are tight, media development and consumer adoption will not be slowing down anytime soon.

Publishers and advertisers who are capable of providing interesting, relevant content will reign. Those that continue to test, refine and learn in a down economy will be the real winners in the end.

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