As the world of marketing evolves and becomes more complex, one has to wonder how small business owners can stay abreast of what marketing trends are emerging, never mind figure out which are worth investing in for their particular situation.
Let me offer some help. First, as you update (or create) your marketing plan for 2014, ask yourself:
- Will the marketing activities that have been effective continue to work for my business?
- Will I need to add new marketing tactics or simply make adjustments to those in which we currently invest?
- What should I be adding to my marketing activities that are worth my time and effort?
6 small business marketing trends that are important for your upcoming marketing efforts.
1. The integrated marketing plan becomes popular again
Although I’m not a huge fan of complex marketing plans, I do believe having a plan is more important for small businesses than they realize. A marketing plan focuses your efforts and helps you avoid wasting time and money doing things that aren’t moving your business towards your goals.
And now, with all the varying online activities – email marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, mobile marketing, search marketing – you need one place where you define what you will be doing and in what time frame.
2. Content marketing dominates small business marketing strategies
Today’s buyers are smart – we no longer want to be sold and we are sure going to know a lot about the possible solutions to our problems before we make a purchase decision. In fact, according to the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) almost 60% of the purchase decision is made before prospects reach out to vendors. This means the buyer is finding content from expert sources to help them determine the best solution to their problem.
Almost 80% of marketers with company blog report ROI[/caption]
To position your business as an expert resource, you need to create content that speaks to your audience, helping them determine the best route to take. What this means for small businesses is that you need to have a blog if you don’t already have one and you must keep adding new, fresh content regularly. Blogs convert readers into buyers. 42% of consumers look to blogs for information about potential purchases; 52% say blogs have impacted their purchase decisions. According to Hubspot’s 2013 State of Inbound Marketing, almost 80% of marketers with a company blog have acquired new customers.
3. Case studies get reinvented into content marketing stories
It’s hard to continually produce content that is relevant to your audience. Most small businesses have plenty of satisfied customers but few use these experiences as a source of rich content that will help others understand how you solve a problem better than anyone else.
But did you know that for B2B marketers customer testimonials (89%) and case studies (88%) have the highest effectiveness rating for influencing potential buyers? And 85% of consumers say that they read online reviews for local businesses and 73% of consumers say positive customer reviews make them trust a business more.
Most of us underestimate the value of what we do really well because what we do for our clients may seem so simple to us. We are taught that things of value must be difficult, therefore what we do which is easy for us has no value.
Just remember that your ideal clients are willing to pay you to do what you do best because it solves a problem or fulfills a need, regardless of how simple it may seem to you. Your existing clients and customers can often provide inspiration for your most powerful and engaging content spoken in the language your customer understands.
4. Marketing activities evolve from mobile enabled to mobile optimized
A year ago in my post on small business marketing trends for 2013, I said that mobile support was mission critical and that mobile responsive design would be the most popular small business solution. Today, responsive design is just the first step.
If you are like me, you read email, participate in social media and research information regularly via your mobile device. According to Pew Internet research, 63% of adult cell owners now use their phones to go online and 34% of these cell internet users say that they mostly go online using their cell phone.
With this growth, if the first impression a buyer has of your brand on their smartphone or tablet is not the experience they expect, you can potentially lose a customer before you even know they are interested. Review your marketing tools and determine if mobile access provides a user experience that doesn’t detract from the message you are trying to convey:
- Can your email newsletters be easily read?
- Is your website content consumable?
- Can the visitor fill in your contact forms?
- Can they use the shopping cart easily from their mobile device?
Going forward, mobile needs to be at least an equal partner with the web browser if not the primary platform for all marketing, taking the lead in design and usability.
5. Getting and staying visible is no longer an option
If I can’t find your business online, do you really exist?
I ask this question every time I am speaking with a small business owner who is wondering if they should create a solid web presence for their business. 93% of online research starts with a search engine, and 68% of consumers check out companies on social networking sites before buying. Online visibility is a must, so every small business needs a strategy that increases their visibility when someone is in need of their products or services.
Although your web presence begins with a well-designed, mobile responsive website and integrated blog, it is much more. Start with a web presence analysis to find out how visible your business is today. Once you have your baseline visibility, then add marketing activities that help increase and optimize your presence on social media and online directories.
6. Simplicity in marketing will become the norm
Many marketers feel that today’s buyers are web-savvy, mobile-enabled researchers capable of sifting through the complex information about a product or service in order to make a purchase decision. In reality, buyers are looking for trustworthy information that helps them easily and efficiently weigh their purchase options. Too many options and messages can paralyze decision making, encouraging the buyer to look at your competitors.
Keep your marketing simple. It will help both you and your prospective customer. Make your value clear, your purchase process simple and customer service awesome. Focus on creating websites and marketing materials whose design is clean and message is clear to attract more people to your business.
What small business marketing trends will effect you?
Evaluate where you are with these areas for your business and add to your plan where necessary. Get ready for 2014 and have the best year in your business yet.
What small business marketing trends do you think are critical to your success?