For small business owners, marketing can feel like a constant battle between sticking with tried-and-true techniques and adopting the latest innovations. The right balance is key, but finding it isn't always easy.
On one hand, you don't want to rely solely on outdated methods and miss out on advanced tools that could help you work smarter, save time, and get better results. But on the other, you don't want to jump into every new AI-powered platform without considering if it really fits your business and audience.
The good news is, with some strategic thinking, you can blend traditional and high-tech marketing in a way that plays to the strengths of each. The goal is to help you determine the right mix of old and new marketing strategies so you can boost results without overwhelming yourself or alienating customers.
The drawbacks of relying solely on old-school marketing
It's understandable why many small business owners stick to tried-and-true marketing tactics. After all, if it worked well in the past, why change?
The problem is, solely relying on traditional methods in today's digital world can hold your business back. Here are some of the drawbacks:
Missed opportunities for reach and engagement: Platforms like social media and email marketing simply didn't exist 10 or 20 years ago. Not capitalizing on these channels means missing out on huge audiences.
Manual processes: Doing everything by hand from content creation to ad placement is time-consuming and inefficient. It prevents focusing time on higher-value tasks.
Difficulty tracking and optimizing: Without analytics and testing, it's nearly impossible to know what's working and what's not. You can't easily double down on top performers.
Appearing outdated: An old-fashioned website, no social media presence, and antiquated messaging can make your brand seem out of touch.
Of course, this doesn't mean you should abandon traditional tactics altogether. Elements like community events, direct mail, and referrals still have value.
But relying on them alone and ignoring new technologies means you'll have a difficult time competing and connecting with modern customers.
The risks of jumping headfirst into AI marketing
On the other end of the spectrum, it's tempting as a small business owner to want to try every new AI-powered marketing platform that comes along. When you hear promises of effortlessly creating content, automatically engaging customers, and quickly building your email list, it's easy to get caught up in the hype.
However, there are downsides to immediately adopting every new marketing technology without considering if it's the right fit:
Overwhelming yourself: Learning and implementing multiple complex platforms at once is a recipe for frustration. Marketing loses focus when you try to master too many tools.
Alienating customers: AI can lack human judgment. Automated messaging that's overly promotional or not relevant to an individual customer can damage relationships.
Wasting money: With limited resources, small businesses can't afford to pay for an array of new technologies that end up not moving the needle.
Forgetting the fundamentals: In the excitement over AI innovation, it's easy to neglect foundational tactics like defining your ideal customer avatar.
The takeaway is not to dismiss marketing automation tools - many can be hugely helpful for small businesses. But take a measured approach and carefully evaluate if a platform aligns with your goals before jumping in.
Start with your goals and target audience
The key to finding the right blend of traditional and AI marketing is to start with the fundamentals: your goals and target audience. Ask yourself:
What are your key marketing objectives? Do you need to raise awareness? Generate leads? Cultivate repeat customers? Your strategies should align with specific goals.
Who is your ideal customer? Get very clear on their demographics, challenges, and desires. This ensures your messaging resonates.
Where does your audience engage? Determine your customers' media consumption habits so you know where to show up.
What is your brand personality? Understand if you're informal or formal, humorous or serious. Your tone and tactics should reflect your brand identity.
What resources do you have? Consider your budget, staff, and other constraints to pick achievable strategies.
With this understanding, you can determine where traditional tactics still make sense while identifying areas where AI tools can fill gaps and augment human effort.
Maybe you use automation to create content and manage social media engagement, freeing up time for in-person networking events. Or you automate lead nurturing but ensure sales calls keep the human touch.
What matters most is letting your goals and audience guide you toward the right hybrid approach.
Which elements to automate and how
Once you have a firm handle on your marketing goals and audience, here are some ways to effectively blend AI-enabled tools with traditional tactics:
Content creation: Use AI to generate initial draft blog posts, social media captions, and emails. But have a human review and refine anything customer-facing.
Social media: Schedule some content and engagement, but also interact personally at least once a day.
Email marketing: Build your list and set up drip campaigns with automation. But send special offers personally.
Ads: Let AI optimization help refine your Facebook and Google ads, but create the initial ad copy/designs based on your brand.
Website: Use automation to help create new site pages and blog content, but customize the pages with a human touch.
Analytics: Leverage AI insights to understand your customer journey and see campaign performance. Use learnings to refine strategies.
The goal is to thoughtfully determine which tasks are best-suited for technology and which require real human insight. Testing and tweaking over time helps refine this balance.
The key is blending the efficiency of automation with a genuine human connection.
Don't forget the human touch
Amidst all the excitement over AI in marketing, it's important not to forget the immeasurable value of human connection. At the end of the day, customers want to feel understood, heard, and cared for.
Here are some ways to maintain the human touch as you blend in automation:
Respond personally to comments on social media, questions via email, and reviews on sites like Yelp. Don't rely solely on bots.
Share real photos and videos of your team and customers interacting. Show there are real people behind your brand.
Highlight your story through about pages and blogs. Share your business origins and values.
Prioritize relationships, not just transactions. Learn about long-time customers and provide personalized gifts or offers.
Adopt a consultative sales approach. Focus on understanding needs vs. doing a hard sell.
Convey passion for your products or services through educational content.
Explain how you help people in your messaging. Don't make it all about you.
Automating key tasks can help small businesses be more efficient and effective marketers. But maintaining meaningful human connections, even while leveraging AI tools, is what builds brand loyalty.
Marketing today is a balancing act for small business owners. Relying solely on antiquated tactics won't allow you to effectively reach and engage modern customers. But jumping headfirst into every new AI platform can easily overwhelm your efforts and budget.
The key is finding the right blend for your specific business based on your goals, target audience, and resources. With strategic thinking, you can leverage automation to work smarter while still maintaining genuine human connection.
By thoughtfully combining the efficiency of technology with the empathy of human interaction, small businesses can get the best of both worlds in their marketing. The brands that avoid a one-size-fits-all approach and instead find the optimal mix of old and new strategies will see their results and relationships flourish.
The goal is marketing that works harder for you thanks to AI, but still feels authentically human to your customers. There's no universal formula - but with consideration for your unique situation, you can craft an integrated traditional and automated approach that boosts your business.
If you're looking to take the next step in blending traditional and AI marketing, join Bizzuka’s weekly CXO roundtable. It's a no-cost opportunity to explore AI innovations alongside other motivated small business owners. Sign up here to join the roundtable and start elevating your marketing.