Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The digital landscape is defined by constant change — what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. For instance, keyword stuffing was an effective SEO tactic in the early 2000s, but now it will get your website penalized. Buying backlinks, too, was once an easy way to game the system, but now it can result in your site being blacklisted. Even paid ads have shifted in recent years, as consumers have turned to ad blockers in droves.
With change comes opportunity, though. As the landscape evolves, new marketing tactics emerge. The key to marketing success is finding these “blue oceans” of opportunity — places where there is little to no competition. In contrast, techniques like link-building and pay-per-click are now “red oceans” full of sharks fighting for a limited number of customers. So, what are some alternative marketing tactics to consider? Here are six possibilities:
1. Machine learning-powered marketing
Even old-school marketers rely on data to make decisions. For instance, a TV advertiser might track how many viewers saw their ad and then use that data to improve the next round of ads, or a newspaper might track which stories are most popular with readers and adjust their content strategy accordingly.
But this sort of ad hoc data collection and analysis is no longer enough. To stay ahead of the competition, you need to be using AI-powered marketing tools. These tools can help you track and analyze customer behaviors in real-time, identify trends before they happen and personalize messages for maximum impact.
While we’re nowhere near fully-automated marketing, AI-powered marketing tools are becoming more and more accessible. For instance, Mailchimp’s AI Creative Assistant tool helps you design emails with greater engagement, while Hootsuite‘s Insights tool uses machine learning to help you track your social media performance. Further, HubSpot AI uses predictive intelligence to help you deduplicate data, enrich your CRM and more.
2. Voice search optimization
It’s estimated that over 40% of all Americans use voice search features. That’s a huge number, and businesses need to start optimizing their websites for voice search if they want to be found.
Voice search is different from traditional text search because people use different keywords when speaking than when typing. For instance, someone might say, “What’s the best Italian restaurant in town?” when doing a voice search, but they would type “Italian restaurants” into a text search engine.
To optimize for voice search, businesses need to focus on long-tail keywords — highly specific phrases that are more likely to be used in conversation. They also need to make sure their website content is easy to understand and digestible, as people will likely be searching while they’re on the go.
3. Interactive content
Bill Gates once famously said, “Content is king,” referring to the importance of high-quality content in attracting an audience. Consumers are interested in truly valuable content that helps them learn something new or solve a problem, and they turn to search engines to find it.
Interactive content takes this a step further by engaging the reader and holding their attention. Examples include quizzes, infographics, assessments and calculators. This type of content is shareable and promotes virality, which can help attract new readers and customers.
Taking that step has become easier than ever, too, as there are now a number of platforms that allow businesses to create and host interactive content with no programming required.
4. Conversational marketing
In the old days of marketing, businesses would blast out one-way messages to a large audience in the hopes that a few people would take notice. This strategy is no longer effective, as consumers are now inundated with marketing messages and have learned to tune them out.
Conversational marketing is a more personal and effective approach. Instead of speaking at people, businesses now need to listen and engage in two-way conversations. This can be done through chatbots, social media and even over the phone.
The goal is to build relationships with potential customers and create a dialogue that leads to a sale. This type of marketing requires more effort than traditional methods, but it’s worth it —consumers are more likely to do business with companies they feel they know and trust.
What once took extensive technical knowledge and a team of developers can now be done with a few clicks using platforms like Drift, Intercom, and HubSpot. These platforms make it easy to create chatbots and manage conversations.
5. User-generated content
One of the best ways to build trust with potential customers is to let them hear from other customers. User-generated content (UGC) is any type of content — text, images, videos, etc. —that has been created by users and not by the business.
This type of content carries a lot of weight because it’s seen as more genuine and trustworthy than traditional marketing messages. And it’s easy to see why: When someone hears about a great experience from a friend or family member, they’re more likely to believe it than if they saw the same thing in an ad.
There are a number of ways businesses can encourage UGC. Social media contests, for instance, are a great way to get users to create and share content. Another tactic is to offer incentives, like discounts or free products, in exchange for UGC.
This can tie into interactive content, too. For instance, a business could create a quiz about its product and offer a discount to users who share it on social media. There are endless possibilities— the key is to be creative and think outside the box.
6. New ad channels
To stay ahead of the curve, businesses need to be on the lookout for new ad channels. This could mean advertising on newer social media platforms, like TikTok and Quoraor exploring options outside of social media altogether.
Traditional channels like television and radio are still effective, but they can be expensive. Alternative options include podcasts, streaming services and even billboards. The key is to think outside the box and consider all the possibilities.
The digital landscape is ever-changing, so businesses need to be prepared to pivot their marketing strategies as new opportunities arise. These five alternative marketing tactics are a good place to start.