While the landscape of marketing is changing with new emerging technologies, small businesses have been quick to pick up on marketing tools that allow them to level the playing field with bigger companies. The gap between a professional blog or website is closing with software and apps that can be downloaded at a low or no cost. Here are seven trends I see for small businesses marketing in 2012.
1. Online and offline marketing merging
We are already seeing this happen at Christmas. How many of us searched the web for the iPad2 and found we could buy it on Kogan.com.au cheaper than we could buy it from Apple?
Forrester Research predicts that almost 50 percent of purchases will be influenced by online activities. That means even if you didn’t buy your Christmas gifts online, chances are you looked up the best price before hitting the shopping centres or looked at reviews of your holiday destination before booking it. This online activity is important for small businesses to consider and has highlighted how critical having a online presence to doing business in 2012.
2. Mobile and local search
We use our iPhone to work out what the weather is, how to get from A to A in the car, and do instant web searches on the fly. The web experience is now portable and experienced to a larger degree on smartphones and devices. Small businesses have an opportunity in 2012 to cater their offerings in a mobile format. Booking online, being found on local search directories and the use of geolocation queries will become normal.
3. Social media advertising
We are now interacting on many social forums, including LinkedIn and Facebook. These sites give us a great opportunity to advertise to a specific niche. Even the Yellow Pages has cottoned on to the power of segmented advertising and has targeted advertising offers.
Small businesses can now advertise on Facebook and target a specific age group, suburb, and interests and likes of individuals for a low ad spend. Social media advertising will continue to gain momentum as business owners discover the power of sending their messages to a select customer segment.
4. Email marketing will gain momentum
Email marketing is now become more social, colourful and looks more often than not like a website instead of a text based message. The sign up forms for email are more inventive and the content shared is more about being known as the go-to expert.
As small businesses now come to understand the benefit of building a list of prospects to nurture, email marketing will continue to mature. Tools like MailChimp and content management systems that offer email marketing are assisting small businesses to create some really nice looking branded and effective communications.
5. Your personal brand is exposed
With interaction and conversations now enabled with mobile devices and forums, a company’s brand and the personnel within that company are now exposed. Small businesses need to understand that everyone is searchable on Google and that the profile built about each company or persons within that company are indexed in this online world for LIFE.
People are watching our activities and if we are not consistent in who we are, authentic in what we stand for and represent, we will be hung out to dry! However, those individuals that do the right thing will be celebrated and a small gesture can be communicated virtually and build a company or business over night! So beware and be vigilant in responding to people.
Set up a Google alert on your name and your company’s name; and you might as well set up an alert on your competitors’ names at the same time. Only engage in those social media tools that you intend to use and be active on.
6. Integration marketing tools and measurement
This year my most popular articles have been on marketing apps and software that allow small business to email, build forms, build websites, blogs and a social media profile. These apps are often have a free version. On Stuff We’re Into I list a lot of them. What I am starting to see is the integration of these tools so that they work together.
Wufoo, a form tool bought by MailChimp, is not totally integrated. WordPress is integrating more and more plugins, and Apple now has an app that work across Apple devices. The integration of these tools means that I can post a blog post and share it with my LinkedIn groups, Twitter followers and to key journalists at a click of a button.
With more education, small businesses will learn how to use these tools together. Hubspot’s new Marketing Grader will assist small businesses in knowing what they should be looking to do with these tools. Putting more forms online, social media integration and better segmented and brand communications is the starting point. Marketing Dashboards that aggregate views of visits, mentions, downloads and sales is the next step.
7. Outsource or specialise
Marketing has become more complex in the last few years with digital or online marketing, relationship marketing and green marketing all areas of marketing that previously were unheard of. As small businesses grapple with the myriad of tools now at their disposal to communicate with customers, create lead generation campaigns and create a brand that is differentiated, those that understand marketing is a key business function will decide to outsource to consultants and focus on what they do best their core business.
There is just so much more activity and content that is created now and the time required to build a presence can be all too consuming. Those small businesses that can afford the time will become experts in a few key areas of marketing, others will outsource and some will put their head under the doona and ignore it hoping word-of-mouth will continue to bring them new business.
Whether it is building a Facebook campaign, designing an email newsletter or getting help on how to optimise for keywords on your website the answer is always to be informed but choose the best use of your time.
I am conducting some research on marketing insights for small businesses in 2012 and I would love it if you take my survey.