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Marketing as we know it has changed - forever. When we think about marketing, in the 21st century, we have to alter that thinking a bit. It is no longer a matter of reaching out to the masses in the hopes of appealing to a handful. These days marketing is about connecting and sharing expertise in the hopes of building a community of loyal followers and clients.

SEE ALSO: Is Your Email Marketing Game Good Enough?

Deciding where and how to market begins with whom your target audience is as well as what you want to share with them. If your audience is over the age of 70, you probably want to market offline. This is simply because most of them aren't online and don't recognize marketing in that venue.

Having said that, online marketing is the best bet for every other audience. And here's why:

Investment

Online marketing requires the smallest financial investment while yielding the greatest results. Online marketing gives small businesses a level playing field for getting in front of their audience.

Expertise

There is no better place to share expertise than online. This is because of the potential reach. Online marketing provides companies the ability to share their message on a broad scale and position themselves as experts. In this economy, buyers are looking for the companies that appear to be the best at what they do. They are also looking for the companies that provide the greatest level of customer service.

Word of Mouth

When people have a good experience with a company, they share that experience online. This is also true with bad experiences. So, online marketing can serve a company well by allowing them to put their best foot forward.

When we acknowledge that people buy from companies they trust, we should also acknowledge that they buy from companies their friends and associates trust. This is where online marketing becomes really valuable. Businesses can harness the loyalty and power of their clients through social media networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, and Twitter. When a company has customers talking about them, their value increases.

A Powerful Combination

When a company combines the power of trust with the sharing of their expertise online, they are able to broadcast their message to a much broader audience than with offline marketing. Add to that the cost-effectiveness of online marketing and it doesn't matter what industry the company is in: The value is realized across markets and prospect demographics.

Metrics

Another value of online marketing is the metrics a company can use. Most online marketing includes analytics. Companies can track the results of their efforts with online marketing. This allows them to fine-tune their message or their venues, or both, in real time.

Compare this to offline marketing. When a company uses direct mail, for instance, they have no idea what happens to that item once it leaves their hands. The same can be said for print marketing or radio/TV. Those avenues can provide a marketer with information about their reach and the demographics of their audience; however, they are hard pressed to provide data on how effective a particular marketing campaign is.

When we look at marketing overall, we see that online marketing provides a company with a greater return on their investment. It allows companies of all sizes and from all industries the opportunity to share their message, connect with their audience, and convert prospects into customers in a way that's typically more effective than offline marketing.

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