Many times small businesses lack the large teams and capital that big brands possess, which means strategic and creative marketing is essential. To successfully compete requires new approaches to meet ever-changing consumer behaviors, and staying up to date on the latest and most useful tactics and trends.
Here are 10 small business marketing trends to get ready for in 2017.
1. From Mobile-Friendly to Mobile-Centric
With mobile users easily outnumbering desktop users, you need to be more than just mobile-friendly. You need your marketing strategy to be mobile-centric for 2017.
First – Before you do anything else, ensure that your website is responsive, meaning it will adjust to the size of the device it’s being viewed on. If your site is not responsive, you're losing customers – a lot of them. Additionally, your rank on Google will suffer, and you will be penalized for providing a poor visitor experience.
Next, building a successful mobile-centric strategy involves identifying mobile-centric searches in your industry, or niche. When consumers have a need that your business or service can solve, what questions are they typing into the search engine when looking for answers?
Once you know this, you'll be in a better position to deliver a content-based solution to get the attention of consumers. Solve the problem, gain a customer.
More and more consumers are feeling comfortable with and wanting to pay for goods and services via their mobile device. Accepting mobile payments eliminates a potential barrier for doing business with these customers.
These buttons already exist on many social platforms, including Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube, but they’re rarely used. This is primarily due to a lack of awareness among consumers.
That may change in 2017.
As retailers and consumers increase their confidence in the “buy” button, 2017 could be the year this tool takes off.
Simply stated, if you own a small business, and you don't currently have a mobile app, 2017 is the year to consider getting one. A recent Gallup poll states that 75 percent of Americans check their mobile devices at least once per hour, and 90 percent of that time is spent using apps.
Mobile devices are a key marketing tool for many small businesses, and this trend will continue in 2017.
Mobile apps increase engagement with your brand, provide you with consumer data and feature an increasing number of methods for marketing to consumers including push notifications, beacon marketing, mobile coupons, and more.
These days even the smallest companies can take advantage of the benefits of having an inexpensive mobile app developed for their business. Consider it for your business in 2017.
Mobile-only social apps like Periscope, Snapchat, Instagram, and others continue to grow in popularity, and this trend is expected to continue. Look for ways that you can incorporate mobile-only social apps into your overall social media strategy.
2. Email Marketing
Research shows most companies still view email marketing as having one of the best ROI’s for their organization, with 68 percent stating it as either good or excellent. Email marketing is not dead (as some say) and is still very affordable for most small business.
The secret for creating the most successful email marketing campaigns is to provide valued, relevant information to customers – not continual sales pitches. This is where most organizations miss the mark. Email that engages clients and offers true value builds trust, strengthens relationships, and leads to more conversions.
3. Data Driven Marketing
Thanks to big data, marketing decisions can now be made based on the collection, analysis, and formulation of insights from mountains of consumer data. With so much information on consumers at our disposal, it makes sense that 82 percent of marketers say data is vital to their campaigns.
In terms of 2017 small-business trends, data is a big one. For small business marketers, data is a great way to remain competitive as it can be used to personalize product offerings, discover untapped areas of opportunity, identify critical consumer touchpoints, improve customer support, and more.
4. Live Video Streaming
Here are two stats to know: 70 percent of consumers prefer learning about a brand through content rather than advertisements, and 60 percent of people prefer video over reading text. Simply put, video content will continue its rise in 2017, and that's due to its effectiveness at grabbing people's attention.
To use live video successfully, small companies will have to budget and plan ahead (although it doesn’t have to be expensive) and focus on content that engages the audience. Good ideas include Q & A clips, “How to” videos, personalized storytelling, consumer testimonials and more.
5. Beacon Technology
The more marketers are able to understand the customer buying process, the more they'll be able to personalize ads and content. Thankfully, smartphones broadcast locations, which has led to the development of mobile beacons to aid businesses in understanding the entire buying process -- not just online encounters. Mobile beacons are in-store devices that use Bluetooth technology to detect mobile phones, and then analyze shopping behavior (both in-store and online) to customize the purchasing experience.
While this technology is still in its infancy, marketers have strong expectations for it in 2017. If you run a brick-and-mortar store, this is an exciting way to bridge the online and physical shopping experiences -- and thus make more sales. Facebook is currently testing this service in New York City with local small businesses; called "Place Tips." This technology, based on user preferences, sends content, promotions, and real-time ads to people near or inside stores.
6. Permission Marketing
Tectonic shifts are taking place in digital marketing. Banner ad click-through rates continue to decline, organic reach (for businesses) via social media is almost non-existent, and some estimate that up to 49 percent of consumers now employ some type of ad blocking. These all play a role. Reaching consumers online has become a major challenge for many small business owners. And this is precisely why permission marketing, a term coined by Seth Godin, continues to be successful.
Permission marketing refers to the privilege -- not the right -- marketers have to give anticipated, personal, and relevant content to consumers that actually agree to receive these ads. By doing this, small businesses can not only gain the respect of modern consumers but also help mitigate the impact of the changes taking place in digital marketing.
To be successful with permission based marketing, focus on current trends and channels of reliable reach. Channels where the consumer has subscribed or agreed to receive your content.
Channels of Reliable Reach Include:
- Streaming Video
- Direct Mail
- Paid Social
- Newsletter Subscriptions
- Push Notifications
- Live Events
- Employee Advocates
- Social Ambassadors
- Syndicated Content
7. Influencer Marketing
Word-of-mouth is the driving force behind many purchases and generates double the amount of sales as paid advertising. Small businesses can capitalize on this through influencer marketing - the use of influential individuals in your niche, industry, and community to push your brand's message.
By employing social media influencers within your industry, you can reach a targeted, attentive, and trusting audience. For example, if you own a health products store, have a well-known local (or even national) fitness expert speak for your brand.
Keep in mind that influence comes from trust, not from the size of an individual’s following. For many small businesses, focusing on a micro-influencer strategy might be the best tactic. You’re looking for individuals that have strong relationships in your niche or community, and a network that trusts them enough to take action.
They may only have a couple of hundred followers, but that can easily result in more conversions than a “big” influencer, with a large following who can’t get their audience to do anything on their behalf. Unfortunately, the later happens often.
8. Hyper-Local Marketing
At the end of the day, Hyper-local marketing is not exclusively about social media, mobile access, or SEO. Hyper-local marketing is ultimately about connecting to the individual.
Devices, search engines, and social channels are simply access points to the people that make up your local community. It’s not necessarily about someone’s specific geo-location at any point in time, but instead: what’s their need, how can you help, is information about your business easy to find, and what is your reputation in the local community?
The Basics of a Good Hyper-Local Strategy are Simple:
- Make your business easy to find online. Make sure you have your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) listed, verified, and matching across as many services as possible. (Google, Yelp, YP, Dexknows, etc.)
- Focus on the individual – What is their need, how can you help, and what tactics can you use to get them to select your business over the local competition.
- Become the local authority in your niche or industry. Write blog posts, comment, and add value to local online groups, forums, and social media accounts. Attend and speak at local business events. Be active in the community.
- If your budget allows, leverage paid social media to increase awareness of your business. Geo-target your local community or the surrounding neighborhood.
- Stand out by finding ways to encourage customers to write positive reviews for your business.
- Take charge of your reputation by viewing each response to a negative review as a marketing opportunity.
- Offer a great in-store experience.
The ancient practice of writing still matters in the marketing world. That means good organization, grammar, and syntax is necessary. This may come as a surprise with the rise of social media and text speak, but studies show that poor writing damages trust in your brand.
So how can your marketing team ensure writing helps conversions? Start with workshops on making your team better digital writers. Or, if you outsource, be willing to spend the necessary resources to land qualified and reliable freelancers.
10. Social Media
Currently, 83 percent of small businesses see Facebook as the most effective B2C channel. However, 70 percent of companies are still not actively collecting social media data. Clearly, companies aren't getting the most out of social media marketing.
Companies should use social media to communicate with prospects, as they are doing, but also need to focus on analytics. Data from these social media channels can help in optimizing interactions and increasing sales.