10 Digital Marketing Trends for Small Business
Digital marketing trends continue to evolve at an amazing pace. And now, we’ve entered a new phase with an increased emphasis on personalization, seamlessness, and automation.
Smart small businesses are taking advantage of new tech to reach customers when and where they want to be reached, in a way that makes them feel special. If you’re looking for ways to ramp up your marketing in order to find an edge, you don’t want to miss out on these 10 digital marketing trends.
1. AI for Digital Marketing
Right off the bat, I want to focus on important digital marketing trend that might seem like it’s wildly out of scope for what is possible for your small business but is actually within reach: artificial intelligence (AI). Several tools have recently come to market that make it possible to spot trends in large amounts of data that you can then turn into actionable insights. From Pardot by Salesforce to Marketo by Adobe to LOCALiQ, several solutions allow you to harness incredible computing power to supercharge your marketing.
One important thing to realize here is that AI doesn’t necessarily make your decisions for you. Instead, it compares trends in the data it gets to make recommendations that used to take months (or longer) to figure out—things like whether or not a particular ad strategy is working, or when a good time to reach out to a potential lead might be.
AI speeds up the process and saves you money by helping you look further down the road so that you don’t end up investing hours and dollars into a dead-end strategy. Most importantly, because it learns as it goes along, it becomes more powerful the more you use it, so getting started early is a key to success.
It’s already a given that free public WiFi is a part of the customer experience. We’re no longer in a place where it’s looked on as a perk. Instead, it’s more like having bathrooms or air conditioning—an amenity.
So how do you make sure that your business is benefiting from the arrangement? WiFi marketing gives you an opportunity not only to satisfy a customer need by offering a connection but do something more with it.
Smart marketing is not just about collecting information, or jumping on the latest digital marketing trend, but also understanding how that information is valuable in context. With WiFi marketing, you’re leveraging your free WiFi to collect information and make offers to customers connecting to your network. The beauty here is that you already know that your audience has visited your physical location, so even if they didn’t buy anything, they’ve already taken more steps than anybody you’d target on Facebook, Google, or other typical advertising arenas.
If you have the right system in place, you can even track how many times they’ve visited, how long they’ve stayed, and more. The trick is to put an offer in front of them at the right time to make the conversion.
3. Agile Marketing
The Agile Framework has revolutionized the way that software teams work together to deliver the best product to market. The Agile Manifesto, published in 2001, came in response to a development environment that was very top-down, where each project was specced out in granular detail and then developed by multiple teams, operating in parallel but never delivering a working product until everything came together.
There were a lot of problems with this approach, from bringing together work from different units with different design philosophies to building a product without understanding how or why a customer would use it. In response, Agile Programming focused on rapid iteration, developing software by building small, usable portions of it that could be tested with the target audience to see whether or not it was working as intended.
Agile marketing adapts these principles for marketing in ways you can apply to your small business. The idea here is to focus in on the high-value marketing projects that make the most sense to complete and to attempt them with an eye towards iteration.
Instead of focusing on pulling off a big advertising campaign, focus on breaking it down into smaller, actionable pieces. At each stage of your implementation, take a look at whether or not it’s actually working, and adjust accordingly. If you’re not able to reach your target audience in your email campaign, you probably need to spend some time reworking your messaging before you go more heavily into social media, for example.
Our mobile devices remember our preferences for so many things: who we follow on social media, our home address, the places where we normally order takeout, and more. It should come as no surprise that we expect the same from our marketing. Frankly, the bar is higher when it comes to marketing to folks who we want to buy from our business.
The key here is to focus in on personalization. That means taking a close look at not just how your customers are coming to your website but the other data they leave in their wake as well.
How did they find you? How do they most often get to your website? Look at these important tells, and you’ll be able to figure how best to reach them with an offer that converts.
5. Smarter Social Media Marketing
Like it or not, social media marketing is a key component of most small business marketing strategies, an important digital marketing trend, and perhaps, the easiest way to reach your customers. The problem is that there are so many different channels where you can reach them, and it’s often unclear which is the most effective way to find them in a place where they’re likely to convert. If you haven’t already, make sure that you’ve spent the time going through a customer avatar exercise to get a picture of who you’re targeting and why.
Depending on what age range you’re focusing on, you’ll need to invest in different social media platforms. Facebook tends to skew older, while Instagram is a younger crowd, with Twitter somewhere in between. Make sure that you know where your audience hangs out, and then invest the time and money into reaching them where they already hang out.
6. Social Media Stories
One of the biggest trends in social media is towards an emphasis on stories, rather than on individual posts. Smart businesses are taking advantage, using stories as a way to give behind-the-scenes access to an interested audience and develop a closer relationship to their fans. While stories are less permanent than other types of posts, they have that critical fear-of-missing-out element that traditional posts lack, which gives you the opportunity to stand out.
7. Local Services Ads
One of the biggest digital marketing trends today is the push to become more locally-oriented. If you’re a small business that offers a key service (let’s say plumbing or lock-picking), it’s fairly obvious that you’ll want to show up when someone searches for something “near me.”
Google has introduced Local Services to help businesses connect with the customers that need them, positioned over and above paid advertisements. If you’re not a good fit for the person who is searching, Google won’t charge and instead will connect them with someone more appropriate.
There are a lot of ways to manage your Local Services Profile, but the key here is to make sure you go through Google’s process and that you have reviews to help push customers to your business. That means pursuing a strategy that prioritizes getting reviews.
For many businesses, offering some sort of deal for completing a review can help build online credibility. But be careful: Requiring customers to give you a specific rating is often a violation of review sites’ terms of service.
8. Optimization for Voice Search
The biggest takeaways from recent research are that voice search relies on Natural Language Processing (NLP), which basically means that it searches based on how we speak. That means you need to worry about longer strings than are normally fed into a search engine. The good news is that you can dominate the voice search market by staking out longer strings than would normally fly for SEO.
The other component of voice search that small businesses need to know about is that local search is key. Many searches end with “near me,” and that leads to more in-store visits. When you’re looking at your keyword strategy, make sure that you’re incorporating words that describe your neighborhood and region to get the most bang for your buck.
9. Quality Content
Content marketing can do a lot for your business, but the push to develop new and interesting takes continually can leave you so busy coming up with what’s next that you’re not focused on what matters to your business in the moment. It can be easy to get caught on a “content treadmill” where you’re spending so much energy on your publishing schedule that you’re not focused on the bigger picture.
Going forward, it’s important to understand that when it comes to content, quality matters. Yes, your podcast could be weekly, but there are plenty of successful podcasts that publish bi-weekly. Meanwhile, if your blog isn’t getting the readership you hoped for, maybe it’s time to switch modes and go to video.
The important thing here is to make sure you’re doing something that you can commit to for the long-haul, and not something that takes over your life. If something feels like a chore to you, imagine how it’ll come across to your audience!
10. IoT That Blends the Digital and the Physical
You hear a lot of talk about the Internet of Things (IoT), but what does that actually mean for your business, and how is it still considered a digital marketing trend? The answer is that it depends on what industry you’re in, and whether or not what you’re doing can use various methods of digital tracking.
One of the biggest ways I expect this to affect small businesses is through the use of beacons: localized wireless sensors that can tell when a customer is in a particular location of your business and respond accordingly. For example, if you’re a hotel, you could set up beacons to offer your guests a discount on a massage when they walk by the spa, or a discount on a meal when they’re near your restaurant. There are many different ways to leverage this technology to your benefit, so start thinking about how your business can benefit from blending the physical with the digital.
What You Can Do Right Now
Understand which digital marketing trends to focus on in order to get the most bang for your buck. From your WiFi marketing strategy to tactics you can deploy in-store, here are the most important trends you need to be aware of.
- Take advantage of AI to identify patterns in your data.
- Use WiFi marketing to make offers to high-conversion customers.
- Iterate your marketing with agile tactics.
- Hop on the personalization bandwagon.
- Get smarter about social media marketing.
- Optimize for voice search.
- Invest in quality content rather than focusing on quantity.
- Consider IoT beacons to engage your customers.
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