For most of the history of commerce, merchants have been limited by their geography. Sure there were trade routes and other methods of expanding beyond one’s small town, but most businesses’ customers came from the area the owner could see from the roof of his shop. This was true until the Industrial Revolution, which brought rapid change to industries across the board and sparked a period of increasingly rapid innovation which continues today.
Then came the railroads, and the area grew. Next came the highways, and the area grew more. Finally there was the internet, and suddenly that area covered the whole globe.
Once this happened, it opened the floodgates to business owners around the world to tap into markets in each corner of the globe. Businesses were finally able to reach customers worldwide, and the ability to deliver these products was instantaneous. E-commerce grew out of this quickly as the ability to ship goods worldwide became cheaper and quicker.
However, this was often too expensive for most small businesses to make considerable money. Until the ability to build an E-commerce store and ship products worldwide became feasible for the mom and pop businesses, it was a competitive advantage for the large companies.
Now, it is not only possible for a small business to build and maintain a website as well as ship their products, it is far easier and cheaper. As more and more people discover this, it is more important than ever for the the small business to differentiate himself.
Back when the shop keeper could sell only to his town, he might have sign out front and an ad in the paper and church bulletin to reach his audience. Now, the sign out front is SEO and the local paper is Facebook.
So how can businesses adapt?
To grow a company, a business needs new customers. To find new customers, a business needs to reach them in a meaningful way. Content marketing is going to be the primary driver of traffic for any business soon, if it is not already.
By creating content that people who may be interested in your product consume, you begin to create associations with that customer. The more they follow your content, the more likely they are to turn to you to solve their problem when they encounter one.
What does this look like?
It could be a mechanic who makes videos about how to change oil and other basic upkeep functions on his website. He writes blogs and reviews about the auto industry as well, so when people in his area need service they turn to him. Also, he has in depth content that he provides behind a paywall on his website for those who aren’t in his area.
It is a farmer who writes articles about his industry. He creates gardening videos on his YouTube channel. He has a farmers’ market map on his website that allows people to find farmers’ markets near them and discuss them in a forum.
It is businesses that distribute content to potential customers. They create a reason to be on their site over a competitor’s sure to the content and extra services they provide for free. Their site allows nearby customers to buy from them, E-commerce if possible, and industry-related content and support behind a paywall.
With almost everyone in the world having access to the internet, businesses can expand their reach further than ever. There are also more businesses trying to reach people than ever before. That means companies must stand out, and small businesses must take the time to differentiate themselves on the internet, pulling in the sales one piece of content at a time.