The digital marketing ecosystem is constantly changing, leaving many in the dark as to how to plan their small business marketing for the year. It’s easy to lose sight of how you can achieve your marketing objectives with so many different avenues to explore. What should you prioritize to build the right foundation for your business? What will make the most impact? And which marketing channels will result in the long-term success of your business?
Here’s our guide to how to make the most out of the top marketing trends of 2014. We’ll explore the top five marketing trends of this year and show you how to leverage knowledge of each trend to help you promote your business more effectively.
Digital marketing is here to stay. Today’s consumers are web-savvy, armed with almost unlimited access to information. In 2013, 95% of consumers used the internet to find local businesses, (up from 85% of consumers in 2012). This 10% rise in just over a year speaks loudly to consumers’ increasing reliance on the internet as the sole means to learning about local businesses. In a survey taken in 2013, 83% of consumers stated that having a website or a social media presence factors into their consideration of the business. The current internet usage data indicates that customers now expect some type of online interaction with your business.
So how can you get found online? Start by registering your business with free online directory listings. We recommend Google Place, Yahoo! Local, Bing, Yelp, and Superpages. Make sure you follow our best practices for online directory listings to get better search engine rankings.
The next big step to establishing a digital presence is to set up a website for your business. A website allows you to present your business the way you want- consistent with your messaging and branding. Focus on showing how you can solve for your customer’s pain points.
Lastly, take time to explore which social media platform best suits your business and build your profile. Think about which network your customers would be most engaged in- not every social media network is right fit for your business. Be strategic about where you spend your resources and take a look at how to find the right social media network for you.
The popularity of messaging applications like Snapchat, Instagram, and LinkedIn messaging indicate rising interest in private messaging. Consumers want to engage with businesses “one-to-one”. They’re using Twitter, Facebook, and Yelp to voice their opinions, expecting almost instantaneous feedback. For small business owners, this means that customers must be able to connect with businesses through other means than calling.
Your priority should be to establish an active presence on social media. Be responsive to both positive and negative comments, and be proactive about communicating with customers. Show your audience that you’re opening lines of digital communication by asking for feedback on social media as well.
With the Google Hummingbird update, content marketing is trending towards being more personable and conversational. Social proof is becoming even more intertwined with how well businesses rank in search engines. For example, blog posts with more comments, social “shares” and “likes” rank higher in search engine results.
Build social proof and grow your digital presence as an industry expert. Engage with others on blogs and social media platforms. Spend time commenting on blog posts, share ideas with others in your industry, and link back to your content in your comments. Creating a free Gravatar profile is a great way to foster name/brand recognition when you share your content or engage with others.
No one can deny the rising influence of visual content in online marketing. Last year, the growth of social platforms Instagram, Pinterest, and Vine skyrocketed, with Pinterest generating more referral traffic for businesses than Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn combined.
Not only do photos garner more engagement online and hold more impact, images will also improve the quality of your content. Find a way to incorporate visual content with your written content strategy. There are plenty of free and easy-to-use online tools that generate professional looking visuals. Check out our free eBook “45 Free Marketing Tools to Promote Your Business” for a list of content marketing tools we’ve curated.
As it’s becoming common practice for businesses to be present on popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, companies with huge marketing budgets are competing with small business owners to be seen in the same space. It’s becoming harder for local businesses to reach their customers through the same social channels without paying for advertising.
However, a plethora of niche networks have risen and targeted communication has become key to effective marketing. Niche sites, industry specific groups, and forums give small business owners the ability to share content in a variety of channels that are less saturated with paid ads.
Spending time to share your content on sites like Quora or LinkedIn industry groups might give you a better return on your time. Experiment with different online networks to test out how your content resonates with their audiences.
No matter the size of business or marketing budget, small business owners can leverage this year’s trends in your marketing plan. Identify and incorporate the trends that are applicable to your marketing priorities and your specific industry. To recap the marketing priorities for 2014, small business owners should focus on:
– Establishing a digital presence
– Opening lines of digital communication
– Growing a voice and social presence
– Incorporating visuals into their marketing
– Focusing on targeted communications
Download our 2014 Marketing Must-Do’s Webinar to learn more about what you can do to leverage this year’s marketing trends. What do you think of our 2014 roundup of marketing trends for small business owners?
Image credit: danielmoyle