The medium is still the message. It’s just that the medium is now open to everyone

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan wrote how the medium is the message – and that remains true even today, nearly 60 years on.

The medium is still the message. It’s just that the medium is now open to everyone

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan wrote how the medium is the message – and that remains true even today, nearly 60 years on. Over the years, this communications theory has been applied to many facets of business, but a key application has been around how tech has made it easier for everyone to get their message across. The flip side to that is: it’s now that much harder to make your message stand out.

Consumers see so many marketing messages a day, withhigh competition for mindshare and attention – from billboards to banner ads, sponsored posts to paid search. It is essential for businesses today to understand how they can connect to consumers in a world where passing (or searching) trade is harder to attract. Their competition isn’t just global, stronger businesses, but also old, entrenched mindsets.  

For this, they need to care about channels like social media, customer networks, and online experiences — anywhere where a brand and a customer may make a connection. For enterprises, this is easier to do, but it remains a challenge for small to mid-sized businesses, which have fewer resources to devote to marketing and messaging to customers.

So how can businesses go about building this connection with their customers? And then ensure that this connection scales as they get bigger?

First, start small. It can get overwhelming – and expensive – very quickly trying to reach all your customers at once. But businesses would do well to focus on one area (one market, one customer persona, one use case) and test their creatives and marketing strategy there, before extending it to the rest of the customer base. This may look like offering 20% off to customers of your flagship product, especially to those who supported you early on in your business journey.

Second, rely on data.Marketing connections are rightly about emotions and recall, but we need data to make informed decisions about where, and to which segments you are focusing on – especially as businesses scale their marketing efforts and grow their customer base. 

John Wannamaker is widely quoted as saying “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”. In the world of digital marketing, that problem is going away. One example here is ad spend analysis data, which lets businesses know what impact the money they’re spending on ads is having. These might be Facebook ads, or promoted tweets, or even banner ads, but having data on who you want to be targeting, and what action the viewer took upon seeing that ad is essential for making future plans. It allows you to stop unprofitable campaigns quickly or turn up the dial if you’ve hit a sweet spot.

Third, don’t be afraid to test out new channels.Media is a constantly evolving landscape – while it might seem that Instagram and TikTok are the two most popular social apps today, Be Real is already changing the conversation around social media too. It’s always a good idea to research how new channels can be used for business marketing and conduct pilots before going all-in on a new channel. The same goes for formats – creating GIFs, audiograms, or motion graphics for use on these channels is great for experimentation too, and there are many tools on the market that can help you do create these marketing assets quickly and painlessly.

These aren’t just theoretical tips – a lot of Dropbox’s customers have found success growing their business using these tactics, especially during the pandemic. Restaurants launched new menus from their kitchens at HQ via social media, while football leagues had new signing reveals by reaching their audiences in unexpected ways. 

Finding ways to connect with customers in new, unexpected ways should matter to every business, especially as it grows. So, how much time are you focusing on this?

Andy Wilson
Andy Wilson

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