So Kodak has gone to the wall. The once giant of the photographic industry has shuffled off this mortal coil. It's a shame. They're the first brand in photography I can remember from my childhood. You know I can still see that familiar logo on my grandmother's shelf.
There's a lesson or three in the story of Kodak's demise. Just as Kodak needed to future proof their business, you need to change your mindset and set out to future proof your online marketing strategy.
1) Be Open to Change
Kodak kept coming up with new products but they got stuck in the box of thinking as they've always done. Although they were first to discover digital technology in the 70s, they didn't follow up on their breakthroughs and stuck to what they saw as profitable markets: film.
It's easy to fail because it takes tremendous resources, creativity and vision to look to the future whilst you serve your existing business in the here and now.
As the Net disrupts traditional communication and marketing channels, you as a business owner must not assume that just because one kind of online marketing strategy works now that it will continue to work tomorrow, next week or six months from now. That would be foolish.
Look at all the bookstores that have gone the way of the DoDo because they thought that a high street store would continue to be a viable business model. Kodak made a similar mistake believing in the future viability of film and digital picture frames.
Let's face it: business models change. The value of products shift.
Similarly, the tactics that might make you a success with online marketing right will in all likelihood not last.
Nevertheless, here at in the early days of 2012 I think you need to embrace new ways of marketing. Don't fear them. And don't necessarily throw a stack of money at them or at least not until you know what works. Why not explore what new technologies can do to help you communicate. Spend some time each week keeping in touch. Sure, don't let it distract you from doing your job, but put some time aside to keep up with what's happening out there.
And if you can't find the time to do it, get someone else to do it for you.
2) Don't Stand Still
Just because Kodak were great once it didn't mean they stayed great in the eyes of the consumer.
The nature of the web and online marketing today is instant. If you're not updating, participating, staying fresh you won't be read, watched or listened to.
This is a massive challenge to small businesses who don't necessarily have the time or staff to handle this. Sure, if you can do it yourself then great. But Content creation takes a particular creative mindset, adherence to strategic goals, and dogged determination to keep going.
More and more small businesses are going to have to turn to creative content providers to keep them afloat in terms of content marketing. No doubt about that. If you're a dog trainer, an accountant, a team of translators, or a café you don't have time to blog, podcast, create ebooks, videos and so on with the kind of frequency that will keep you seen even if you get noticed in the first place.
Remember: your business blog, Facebook Page, podcast will diminish in value if you do not nurture these channels.
Since adopting Tweet Old Post I've seen a 30 percent increase in the number of episodes of my podcast that are downloaded!
So you need to be prepared to change and also change quickly where and when necessary.
3) Be Bold, Be beautiful
Perhaps one of the things that hammered a nail into the Kodak coffin was that their cameras just weren't sexy enough.
Sure, they worked and had an array of functions; trouble was many of them just didn't look cool compared to their competitors. Before they knew it Panasonic, Canon and Nikon had flooded the market with a variety of point and shoot cameras that not only took great pictures but also looked cool.
And then of course mobile phones started to overtake the point and shoot camera. Imagine if Kodak had partnered with Apple to develop the best lens for the iPhone. Where would they be now?
When it comes to your online presence remember to be bold and to reevaluate your online presence, your website, your branding with regularity. This doesn't mean you need to change this way and that at every turn. But it's important you remain current and prepared to stand out. Apple didn't always ooze white and brushed metal; they had a hideous multicoloured logo back in the old days !
When new channels arrive that look and sound different, explore what they can do. Five years ago no one was talking about smart phone apps. Now look at us. Businesses left right and centre are trying to figure out ways to get on mobile devices.
Kodak may well rise from the flames. Maybe not.
When it comes to how your business exists online, make sure that you don't stick your head in the sand, make sure you don't keep learning and definitely get past thinking that it will ever stay the same.
If history has taught us anything it's that those that were once great don't always stay great. Just ask Kodak.