Online and offline marketing merging
Even when we don’t buy online, our purchases from bricks and mortar stores are increasingly influenced by our online activities. For example, even if you didn’t buy your Christmas gifts or purchase your summer holiday on the web, 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 highlights how critical having an online presence is to doing business.
Mobile and local search
We use our iPhones to work out what the weather is, how to get from “A to B” in the car and to do instant web searches on the fly. The web experience is now portable and experienced to a larger degree on smart phones and devices, so as a small business, you now have an opportunity to showcase your offerings in a format that’s easy to use on mobile devices. Booking online, being found on local search directories and soon the use of geo-location queries will become normal.
Social media advertising
Social forums such as LinkedIn and Facebook provide great opportunities to advertise to specific customer niches. For example, with just a small ad spend, you can now advertise on Facebook, targeting individuals of a specific age group and suburb and with specific interests. I believe social media advertising will continue to gain momentum as business owners discover the power of sending their messages to a select customer segment.
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Email marketing gaining momentum
Email marketing is now become more social and 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 less about selling, and more about becoming known as the “go to expert”. As small businesses come to understand the benefits of building a list of prospects to nurture, email marketing will continue to mature.
Your personal brand is exposed
Your brand and the person or people behind it are now more exposed than ever. Understanding that everyone is searchable on Google and that the profile built about you is indexed in the online world for LIFE is an important element small businesses need to understand and factor into their social media policies.
People are watching our activities and if we’re not consistent in who we are, and authentic in what we stand for and represent we’ll be held 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 small 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 (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.
Integration marketing tools and measurement
Recently my most popular articles have been on marketing apps and software that allow small business to email, build forms, build websites, blogs and establish or manage their social media profile. These apps often have a free version (you’ll find lots of them listed on my website), and are increasingly being set up so that they work together. For example, the integration of these tools means that I can post a blog article and share it with my LinkedIn groups, Twitter followers and key journalists at the click of a button. Marketing dashboards that aggregate views of visits, mentions, downloads and sales will be the next step, I predict.
Outsource or specialise
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 that marketing is a key business function will increasingly decide to outsource to consultants and focus on what they do best – their core business. For those who don’t decide to outsource their marketing, it will become increasingly important to specialise in a few key aspects of marketing that deliver measurable results.
Have you embraced these emerging small business marketing trends already? Which do you predict will be the most important for soloists?