In 1995, I was hired by a company which, eight short years earlier, had single-handedly made an entire industry obsolete.
The year was 1987. Up until that point, they used to paint billboards by hand. That is, until Metromedia Technologies developed a proprietary digital paint system for large-format graphics. If you can imagine an inkjet printer large to print a 20′ x 60′ sheet of paper, then you get the picture. But instead of paper and ink, it’s paint on vinyl.
Now imagine reproducing that 20′ x 60′ piece of vinyl 50 or 100 times over, then strapping it to billboard structures across the city and—voilà! An entire industry of billboard artists is out of work.
Of course, it didn’t happen overnight. That’s the nature of disruptive technology. It creeps along slowly at first—and those with the most to lose are deceived into ignoring it or dismissing it. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, mainstream adoption occurs and everyone’s blindsided.
Ironically, MMT nearly fell victim to its own success. For more than a decade, no one could rival the quality of our paint machines. (In fact, we mocked the low-cost, large-format printers that were entering the market.) Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the resolution of these large-format printers began to improve. We watched as their quality went from “nowhere near as good” to “not quite as good” to “almost as good” to “as good as” to finally surpassing ours in quality.
Now, anyone with $40,000 to spend on a large-format printer could produce and sell outdoor advertising. And with lower overhead, undercut us on price. Which they did.
Technological disruption is still alive and well. In a recent study, Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will Transform Life, Business, and the Global Economy, the McKinsey Global Institute identifies the Mobile Internet as #1 in a list of twelve most potentially disruptive technologies in the coming years.
Think about what’s happened with mobile in six short years. In 2007, Apple launched the iPhone and BlackBerry maker, RIM, laughed. At the time, BlackBerry’s stock was traded at more than $200. Today it’s hovering around $10, and Blackberry is attempting to auction itself off to the highest bidder. In the fallout, it’s the consumer who’s benefited most, by the availability of affordable smartphones.
Consumer smartphone adoption has fueled the growth of both social media and local search. This convergence of social media, mobile interactivity, and geo-location technology had given rise to new buzzword: SloLoMo.
Now to your typical small business owner who’s familiar with marketing terms like Yellow Pages, direct mail and newspaper advertising, SloLoMo is the epitome of disruption. It represents such a fundamental shift from they way they used to obtain customers that it’s blindsided them the same way billboard artists were by the digital painting machines that replaced them. But for you, that represents opportunity, if you learn how to leverage that disruption.
Disrupted marketing leaves the typical small business owner with too many choices and not enough time. They already work more than 50 hours a week and get less than seven hours of sleep each night. And the self-service digital marketing model is asking them to work even more and sleep even less.
One way to take advantage of this disruption is by positioning yourself as their outsourced marketing department. Selling your services is not about solving technological problems—it’s about solving emotional ones. No, I don’t mean like a therapist. But take away your prospect’s emotional business pain and you’ll find yourself hearing words like “where do I sign?” rather than “let me think it over and get back to you.”
When I was a kid, my dad typically came home well past 7:00 PM, and would nod off at the dinner table after he finished eating. Although he had a better grasp of marketing than most small business owners, there’s no way he could have done even half of what’s required to market one’s company in the digital age. Were he in business today, I bet he’d hire you. If nothing else but to catch up on some sleep.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.