For many years, in fact for most of the history of modern marketing, interruption was one of the primary foundations of advertising. Wait until people are focused on watching a television show or reading a newspaper or magazine and then insert an advertisement that they’re forced to wait through to get to the rest of the content they want. And for a long time it worked just as planned! People were committed enough to not missing anything of their favorite television shows or their news articles, and had no alternatives like DVRs, online streaming, and digital newspapers, that they saw the advertisements as businesses planned. But one of the reasons firms like ours even exist now doing work in content marketing is that all of those alternative options above plus many more are everywhere and interruption with traditional advertising can no longer be any company’s primary strategy, especially for smaller businesses or organizations with limited resources. The good news is that there are so many alternatives to traditional, interruption-based advertising that there’s no reason to be stuck in a last century marketing scheme. Here are five things to consider to help get away from being dependent on interruption.

1. Target demographics matter.

While interruption is, pretty much across the board, not a strategy you want to rely on going forward, just how effective or ineffective it can be is going to be determined in large part by your target demographics. This is a situation where there is a distinct generational shift, and you can use that to your advantage to tailor your efforts regardless of whether they’re more traditional or more digital. According to a New York Times survey, a third of Millenials mostly watch television online and watch little to no broadcast television. By contrast, only 10% of Baby Boomers said the same. If you’re going to target a younger demographic, it is that much more critical to shift away from traditional broadcast television advertising, but if you’re targeting an older demographic, you can take a more gradual approach to shifting your marketing efforts. Aside from age-based splits, the type of media you’re attaching your advertising to has a significant influence. Traditional scripted television shows are prime targets for DVR watching (which frequently means fast forwarding past commercials) or watching online either through a computer or a mobile device. Sports on the other hand have an immediacy that precludes watching after the fact for most people and, other than the NFL, they are primarily broadcast on local networks, making traditional television advertisements during some local sports events potentially valuable for local or regional businesses or for geographically focused campaigns. Fundamentally, if you have a broad, diverse target audience, traditional interruption based advertising is still not your best approach in all likelihood, but if you have a more specific niche in mind, it may have a place in your marketing scheme. The key is knowing who you want to reach.

2. Content is king.

Once you’ve accepted that the days of a captive audience are rapidly dwindling, your next step is to figure out how to make people want to view your content. For television commercial style advertisements, a focus on narrative and a consistent cast of characters can make people begin to view them as content in their own right, not the necessary evil of watching their favorite shows that they once were. Progressive Insurance’s long running use of Flo and her cohorts at the insurance store has proven incredibly successful, in large part because they stuck with the character long enough for people to begin to form a connection with her the way they would with a character from a traditional scripted television series. The ads are funny and clever and people want to watch them and, maybe even more importantly, share them with others. By making great, story driven ads and putting them up on your website and a video sharing site like YouTube, you step away from the idea of a thirty second soundbite and you allow customers to stop feeling like a captive audience and give them control over how and when they consume your content.

3. Not just ads.

If you’ve backed away from the idea of creating a thirty second television commercial or a half-page newspaper ad, you can open up your creativity and your vision for the business to a whole range of types of content that can get you exposure and increase customer awareness in less traditional ways. Having a clever, engaging, or informative social media presence or company blog, independent of pushing your own products or services, can engender a positive perception of the business and will lead to sales from those people who have found you and think well of you when they realize they could make use of whatever product or service you’re offering. Whether someone is in the market for whatever you’re selling right now or not, give them a reason to want to examine and enjoy your content and share it with others. People don’t want to sit and watch a commercial for something they’re not currently shopping for, but an informative how-to blog post, an engaging profile of someone who matters to your industry or organization, a hilarious video, or a beautiful piece of art goes far beyond whatever specific products or services someone may need right in this moment. Connect with them, give them something worth sharing with others, and those people will want to do business with you whenever they have a need you can fulfill.

4. Focus on inbound marketing.

As people limit the ways in which they are exposed to traditional interruption based marketing, and with the ever-increasing amount of information available on the internet, more and more consumers are heading to a quick internet search as their first step in finding a product or service that they may be interested in. An updated website, active social media profiles, and content that has been shared by others will all help the frequency with which your business shows up on relevant searches, which can only help in the long run. One thing to remember is that it’s not just about a favorable search ranking, it’s about how much time and how many pages people are visiting once they come to your site. It’s not enough for someone to come to your site’s landing page, they need to stick around long enough to develop a sense of who you are and what you offer. Update your content often and keep an eye on your analytics to make sure you’re getting the most out of your online presence.

5. Think retro and local.

For all that traditional television and print advertisements are losing their effectiveness, there is something to be said for thinking even more traditional than that. For businesses of almost any type, sponsoring community events is a great way to get your name in front of potential customers and to demonstrate your social responsibility and community involvement. Whether it’s a holiday parade, a symphony program, a museum exhibit, or a youth sports initiative, it’s a chance to get the company name in front of a large number of people while associating yourself with something positive and enjoyable. Pick something wherever possible that you feel is relevant to who you are as an organization and that represents your core values. And just because this is a long-standing and slightly old-fashioned form of advertising, don’t ignore how modern approaches and technology can be used. Signage at an event the company is sponsoring is lovely, but that signage plus a QR code that links to a beautifully done website featuring the company’s involvement in the event expands your options far beyond that to which you would normally be limited.

While television commercials and newspaper ads are not the be-all, end-all of advertising that they once were, we hope these ideas give you some inspiration to get started with the host of alternatives that can help grow your business. What’s one way that you could use some of these ideas to update your marketing scheme this week? Share with us in the comments, and then go out there and get to it!

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