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Get Out of the Dark Ages of Cold Calling and Business Cards. Modernize Your Marketing Now. Here are four ways to update your approach to email marketing, website design and more.

By Landon Ledford Edited by Jessica Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Innovative marketing strategies have propelled many of the largest brands in the world to their current heights. That said, it's difficult for small and medium businesses to dedicate precious resources to marketing -- especially with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. Your competitors are upping their sales and marketing game, so you should be doing whatever it takes to remain relevant.

Related: 5 Ways to Maximize Word-of-Mouth Marketing

The good news is that marketing in today's environment is not as difficult as you think. Here are four ways you can remain relevant in the eye of potential consumers -- without breaking the bank.

1. Email marketing is about a lot more than email.

Sending a digital version of your company newsletter to the same list every month is not enough to differentiate you. Brands have to earn a place in every person's overcrowded inbox, and this means providing value to them. Send infographics, relevant industry news, insights on the latest tech advances, free ebooks and any fresh content that will help your audience.

It's also important to segment email lists. You can segment by demographics, number of purchases, past and potential customers and other qualifiers. Once lists are segmented, set up automated responses or drip campaigns to ensure the right people get messages at the right time. This can mean scheduling emails around a new product release, a big event or seasonality, but it can also be an automated email that goes to them when they don't finish a purchase on your site (or set an appointment if that's the call-to-action).

2. Digital and social platforms are not just billboards.

Business-to-business and business-to-consumer are still relevant ways to classify your business, but to remain relevant with communications, you should accept the fact it's now human-to-human -- the purchaser is still a person, no matter what type of business you're in. Simply being on social media isn't enough, especially if that means someone in the company who is always on social media anyway posting whatever they think they should.

Every company needs to dedicate resources to forming a social media strategy that caters to their ideal audience. A strategy should include which platforms your brand should be on (and why), who will post to accounts using a set schedule and a regular review of analytics. Once you know what content is working (people are "liking" and clicking through your links), incorporate a social media ad strategy -- these can now be very targeted and great for reaching a new audience and driving sales.

Related: Alive and Kicking: Why Email Marketing Is Still a Huge Tool for Business

3. Trade show booths shouldn't stay stagnant.

Trade shows are still a vibrant, useful marketing tool. However, the trade show universe is also evolving, and it's moved way beyond just swapping business cards. Brands are competing to make a deep impact on every booth visitor, so they're trying to create a total experience that shows visitors what selling and what they're all about.

Companies are simultaneously vying for social media shares, because every brand wants to sell a story that visitors retell. For example, a company pitching virtual reality shouldn't just fill the booth with sales pamphlets and tell people about what you do. Instead, they should bring their product right to the floor and let people experience the power of the digital environment. Don't sell by telling -- sell by letting people experience for themselves.

4. Move beyond cold calling.

Calling potential clients is still important, but use the available technology to ensure you're reaching the right people instead of dialing and asking for "whoever is in charge of procurement." This can be as simple as using LinkedIn, which allows you to search for people by company, title and mutual connections. It also connects back to email marketing strategies.

When you have segmented lists and automation, you can easily capture additional information about who is clicking what in your messages. Armed with this data, you can then call for them specifically, offer something of value to establish rapport related to what they clicked on, then provide your valuable solution. Think about it -- would you rather have a random person keep calling you or someone who actually has something to sa,y because they know what you care about?

Some businesses are still hesitant to embrace digital marketing, but refreshing marketing strategies with these tips won't create major costs or be overly complex. The goal isn't to overhaul traditional systems that already work -- it is to develop complimentary tactics that enhance those strategies and modernize the way your business relates to consumers.

Related: 5 of Today's Marketing Trends Include Refurbished Classic Techniques

Landon Ledford is a marketing executive specializing in proven, yet innovative, methods to drive revenue and grow brands. In addition to leading marketing for a large group of casual dining restaurants, he manages an agency that provides full-service marketing solutions to growth-oriented brands.

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