Now that it’s 2019, the question on every small business’s mind is “How can I better prepare for the new year?” Taking advantage of the latest trends is an effective way to grow your business and reach a wider audience. So here are a few of the top marketing trends that you need to consider.
1. Content is still king
The growth of ad blockers has made traditional advertising tougher for small businesses. Paid ads simply aren’t as effective any more. It’s also a slow and passive form of marketing that you have little control over.
In any case, customers generally prefer to buy from people they know, like and trust. So even without an ad blocker, most people are pretty good at ignoring anything that looks like a traditional paid ad. When actually planning purchases, they prefer to trust brands and people they know, editorial sites and reviews.
Whilst some paid ads will still reach people in “buying mode”, sales are more likely if those people already know and trust you before you try to sell to them. That’s why content marketing remains one of the top marketing trends.
How can you do that? By publishing useful, quality content that they can rely on. If you can write that yourself to demonstrate your expertise directly, then great. If you can’t find time to do that though, it’s worth putting some of your ad budget into getting help with it. After all, a reliable reputation will make the rest of your ads more cost-effective — and reputations last far longer than ads.
Advertisements will always have a place on websites, but content marketing is now more effective at building sales and positive reputations.
2. Multi-channel marketing matters
Not a ‘new’ trend, but one that just keeps growing, multi-channel marketing is still overlooked by many small businesses. I still meet people who think a Facebook page, LinkedIn profile or Twitter account or website is all they need. All of these channels help, but the way to make them really work is to treat your website as the digital hub of your online business presence.
Use as many social media channels as you can to attract and engage audiences, even if you need to get some help with social media marketing. Then channel them to your website. Why? Because that’s the only part of the system that you truly control. Elsewhere, you’re subject to the whims of the channels’ owners and trying to shout above your competition. Only on your own website do you really have your audience’s full attention.
What about “omnichannel”?
Omnichannel marketing is growing too, but that’s a little different. Is means making the customer experience as seamless as possible across all the channels and devices they may use. Importantly, “channel” in this case includes telephone ordering and visits to bricks-and-mortar premises as well as social media and websites. As for “devices” — well, “mobilegeddon” began in 2015, so if your website isn’t mobile-friendly by now, you’re ignoring over 50% of your potential audience.
Still, omnichannel marketing is clearly a pretty big strategy to undertake, so why bother? Because consistency builds trust, directly improving reputation and sales. So even if you’re just starting out with multi-channel marketing, it’s worth making an effort to keep the branding and control of your social media channels consistent.
3. Consumers love video
Of all the new marketing trends, video marketing is one of the fastest growing. YouTube is actually the second biggest search engine — and Google owns it, so videos can help normal search rankings, too.
So video has now become one of the top marketing trends for several reasons:
- Consumers love it. Video can convey far more information, faster and more effectively, than text
- Video cameras of adequate quality are now common. Even phone cameras are often good enough for use in video advertising
- Other technologies like screen capture and animation have caught up, too. Bespoke stuff is still costly, but affordable video marketing solutions can be surprisingly effective
- Video offers new opportunities for creativity. Creativity stands out, so it’s the key to unlocking the full potential of content marketing
- YouTube has proven that people will watch almost anything. Who could have predicted that entire channels of unboxing videos would be so popular?
Common concerns and workarounds
Still, many assume that video marketing is expensive, complex and time-consuming. It can be, if you want full-blown, Hollywood-style video production, or complex bespoke animation. It doesn’t have to be that way to be cost-effective, though. Other small business owners avoid it because they don’t like being filmed. Me neither — but again, you don’t have to get in front of the camera. There are workarounds, if you’re open to them.
Still, why would those firms who do make big video productions and animations choose such an expensive form of video marketing over simpler, cheaper options? Because expense is relative to the return on the investment. Those costly video advertisements still make enough profit to be cost-effective. Like all effective marketing, the more you can invest in it, the more profit you’re likely to make. It’s best to keep up with marketing trends if possible, though — and getting started with video marketing isn’t as costly as it was just a few years ago.
So if you’re still thinking “video marketing isn’t for me,” you’re probably thinking of the wrong kind of video marketing. Explore the options before you decide. Otherwise you may just be leaving money on the table.
4. People value personal service more than ever
For small businesses, it can easily feel like big corporations hold all the cards. However, one of the biggest issues with scaling a business is you lose the connection you have with your audience. Whilst using stats like website traffic effectively helps small businesses to grow, large firms often focus on numbers more than people. Customers never appreciate being ignored, so small businesses have an advantage with this marketing trend.
As a small business, it’s easier to interact on a truly personal level with your audience, through social media, community message boards and even email. It could be something as simple as a written thank-you message in a physical order, or even an entertaining video celebrating an important milestone.These can all be effective ways to show your customers that you care about them.
Names have power, too. This is why personalised services are so popular:
“A person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” — Dale Carnegie
Even when you clearly don’t really know the person you’re addressing, using their name gives a strong impression that you do. You may have seen personalised video ads on TV, for instance. Those take quite a lot of expensive systems to set up, but big businesses find the extra impact makes them cost-effective enough to justify that. Still, affordable video personalisation has now arrived, too.
Personalisation vs. privacy
Whilst you do need to be careful with personal data, it’s powerful when people do give you permission to use it. That’s why it’s regulated. No-one wants “Dave” from India to pretend he’s an old friend just because he bought their contact details on a dodgy marketing list. Legitimate consent-based marketing is a different matter, though. After all, if you’ve actually signed up for Dave’s deals, it’s better if he uses what he knows about you to make sure they’re relevant.
Large firms often develop “personas” to keep their marketing efforts focused on their ideal customers without identifying the real people they represent. That technique can help small businesses, too. Still, most customers already know they matter more to a small business than they would to a big firm. That may even be the main reason they came to us, especially if we’re in their local area. For instance, even though web design is a service that can be delivered remotely, I find most people around Cardiff and Bristol prefer to deal with a local web designer.
Personal service is a big advantage that small firms need to make the most of. It’s not just about dealing with customers in person any more. It’s about making time to be sociable on social networks, thinking about what makes your ideal customers so special, and letting them know that they are.
5. Generation Z
Move over Millennials — the true “digital natives” are coming. Generation Z consists of people born since 1995, most of whom have never known a world without the internet. Some are now in their late teens and early twenties, and starting to have a real commercial impact. So lagging behind on digital marketing is no longer an option. Millennials tend to merely expect you to be up to speed with it, Generation Z assumes you will be, because… well, who isn’t?
Actually, a lot of business owners. Even now, many businesses are owned by Baby Boomers (born before 1965) — and as the wealthiest generation to date, the interests of Baby Boomers have also dominated most firms’ marketing efforts for decades. Meanwhile, the average age of UK business owners is still firmly in the Generation X range (1965 to 1979).
See the pattern? Most business owners didn’t grow up with computers everywhere. The famously entrepreneurial Millennial generation (1980 to 1994) did, but ‘Boomers still own over half the UK’s wealth. Still, as more ‘Boomers retire, the Millennials’ rise and now that of Generation Z mean old modes of business are truly on their way out.
Want to know what else Millennials and Generation Z have in common? Apart from the digital mindset and a tendency to be early-adopters of technology, that is?
Socially responsible causes and a fondness for “artisan” products.
Again, this is good news for ethical small businesses and those who focus on serving local markets. Mass-produced products still benefit from economies of scale, but Millennials and Generation Z will pay more for craftsmanship and creativity. The more dubious marketing trends of the 70s and 80s are also facing a backlash. The digital generations actually value the human touch.
As we enter 2019, UK news channels are full of reasons to expect a challenging year. It will certainly be more competitive, so it won’t be enough to rely on “hope marketing” (passive word-of-mouth). Still, it’s often easier for smaller businesses to adapt to rapid change. That flexibility, along with the changing marketing trends listed above, actually gives small businesses an edge. So the question is — will you rise to the challenge and embrace these new marketing trends, or just wait and hope it’ll all turn out right somehow?
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