5 Marketing Trends Your Small Business is Missing Out On This Year

Every year we make goals for ourselves and for our businesses, and for some reason or another, many of those goals go unaccomplished or pushed off to the next year.

This is especially true for small business owners looking to get their marketing on the right track.

Experts tell us what is important this year, but with limited resources, budgets and time, small businesses struggle to identify which marketing trends are worth pursuing and which are fads. Often, the unfortunate result is marketing gets pushed to the back burner.

However, there are a handful of marketing trends fundamental to any smart strategy, and those who don’t begin to capitalize on them now may fall behind the curve.

To save you time, we won’t give predictions for what could be important next year; instead, here are 5 marketing trends that are important now and why they should be your focus at the end of this year.

1. Marketing Automation

There has been a lot of buzz around marketing automation over the last few years, and as inbound marketing continues to rise in prominence, automated marketing will garner more attention.

Small business owners face a common misconception: marketing automation is only for those with large budgets and large sales pipelines.

However, that’s not the case. Marketing automation is just as important for small and medium-sized enterprises — if not more so — and it will likely be the thing they’ll wish they started in 2016.

Marketing Automation is a Time-Saver for Small Businesses

The biggest benefit of marketing automation for small businesses is time saved.

Marketing automation allows small business owners to dramatically increase their marketing efficiency and focus more on growing their business itself. Once a system is in place, you can simultaneously nurture leads, follow up with existing customers and manage day-to-day operations. For those with a small marketing team, automation empowers the team to focus its energy on what it does best — developing innovative and engaging campaigns.

While the biggest players in marketing automation software come at a steep price, the industry has evolved substantially and many low-cost solutions are now available.

Open Source Marketing Automation Tools Allow Small Businesses to Save

Mautic is a free open-source platform that provides small businesses with many of the features touted by its larger competitors:

  • Create email templates
  • Build landing pages
  • Develop logic-based campaigns
  • Integrate with your CRM

You can also check out reports to monitor how visitors engage with your content and get advice from Mautic’s robust and engaged community.

We use Mautic here at Facet and we love it. If you’re considering this solution, let us know in the comments — we’re happy to give you some pointers.

2. Content Marketing

Content marketing and marketing automation go hand-in-hand, and one is often driven by the success of the other. You can’t nurture a healthy inbound sales pipeline without attracting visitors to your website through engaging content.

Unfortunately, great content isn’t as easy as setting up a piece of software — it takes real commitment. However, once you start to see results, you’ll be glad you put in the effort.

Many factors go into developing a successful content marketing strategy, but most importantly is how well you consider your target audience.

Write For Your Customers, Not “At Them”

Ask yourself three questions before creating any piece of content:

  • What questions are potential customers asking related to my industry/product/service, and how can I leverage my expertise to answer them?
  • Where do my customers go to consume content (i.e. do they read review boards, read articles, watch YouTube videos, listen to podcasts)?
  • How will I determine if this piece of content was valuable for my customers and successful for my business?

In order to answer these questions for yourself, you’ll likely need to conduct research, interview customers and run through a persona story mapping workshop. But once you’re able to consistently answer them, you’ll create well-targeted, valuable content for your audience and have a clear understanding of how it drives your bottom line.

If you don’t know where to start with content marketing, there are plenty of low-cost content marketing solutions you can try. Once you have a better understanding of what works well for your business, you can scale up.

3. Paid Facebook Advertising

Over the last couple of years, Facebook has dramatically decreased the reach for organic page posts. This means you could be posting awesome content on Facebook, which may even be the perfect channel for your audience, but you’re likely only getting in front of 6 percent of your fans — no wonder you’re not driving traffic!

Facebook has made it clear you must pay to play, but the good news is it’s relatively inexpensive to do so.

You could decide to try your hand at other social media outlets such as Twitter and LinkedIn, but those platforms tend to have more limited reach (even with promoted posts) and cost more per click. Add on top of that limited targeting capabilities when compared to Facebook, and it becomes clear where’s the best place to start — if only for a few small-scale tests.

Note: Before you spend money on any social platform, give yourself a leg up by taking the time to really understand your audience — what content do they look for, how can you intrigue them?

The Test

Start by choosing a piece of content you’ve created that has performed well organically. It’s important to do this because it likely means your audience found it valuable, and it will give you the best chance at success in your test.

It’s also important to note, with this test we are promoting a piece of content, not serving a traditional ad. Because we already know the content is valuable for our audience, the goal is simply to help surface it and boost engagement with the piece — this is typically better received by Facebook users.

Set up your targeting as specific to your audience as possible:

  1. Dial in to your geographic service area,
  2. Select the most accurate demographics,
  3. Key in on interests related to your industry or your buyer persona,
  4. Identify behaviors,
  5. Leverage advanced targeting by building lookalike lists off your existing customer lists.

Facebook has a lot of information about each of its users and as such it’s able to offer incredible targeting capabilities. Those who are able to leverage them to the fullest will find success.

Monitor the performance of your promoted posts, and of any traffic driven to your site. Do those visitors engage with other content on your site? Or do they bounce away?

Refine your targeting and your messaging before giving it another go. Keep up with this cycle and you’ll find a sweet spot.

4. Personalization

If it isn’t clear by now, the most important thing you can do with your marketing in 2016 is make sure you deliver the right message to the right audience, at the right time.

We can automate this process using marketing automation. We can understand our audience and answer the right questions through content marketing. We can specifically target promoted posts. But, we can take it a step further.

Most businesses don’t have just one type of customer, and each one of those customer types needs different messaging at different stages of the funnel.

Think about how you shop for a car:

You might be the type of person who likes to take his time and do research. A “Buy Now! We have the best deals!” marketing message likely won’t resonate when you’re looking for information about safety, fuel-economy and performance.

Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all marketing.

Identify your audience personas, outline the steps they take as they move through your funnel and determine what message will resonate with them at each stage.

Stop wasting money on wrong-time advertising. Instead, focus on just-in-time advertising with personalization through marketing automation.

A customer who is more aware of your product and services should receive middle to bottom-of-the-funnel type content:

  • i.e. Messaging about the unique value of your product, or messaging to close the sale.

Whereas a customer who is still in the early research stage should be presented with top-of-the-funnel content:

  • i.e. Educational messaging, or messaging offering a solution to their problem.

Personalization is Effective in Any Industry

Another example? Think of your business’ accountant or your CPA. Should they reach out to you about prepping your tax documents in December? Probably not — but they could try to set up a meeting with you for a couple months down the road.

Sending a series of personalized messages through marketing automation makes that appointment setting process easy and automatic.

That message could include information about the type of service you had last year and other services from which you could benefit. Throw a tool like Calendly into the mix to allow the client to pick his own appointment time, and that accountant is bound to take an extra month off of work each year!

By being targeted and specific in your messaging, you will find greater success and you’ll deliver better customer service. The technology is there, it’s time every business starts using it.

5. Measure Everything

Digital marketers have the ability to track anything and everything on the web, and they’ve been doing just that for quite some time. However, it’s time small businesses join in.

There really is no barrier to entry in terms of getting started with analytics. If you have a website, you can install Google Analytics for free — and you absolutely should. The earlier you do this, the more data you’ll have to make smarter decisions about your website and project.

The harder part — the part that takes more discipline — with measurement and tracking is making sense of the data.

  • How is this indicative of my marketing performance?
  • What does this decrease in metrics mean for my sales pipeline?
  • Am I looking at the right report? How does this correlate?

Identifying which metrics drive value for your business is hard. But, if you agree all of your business operations should drive value toward the bottom line, you need to start paying attention to the numbers that determine engagement before you get there.

Focusing on value-driven marketing when planning your campaigns allows you to determine the value of each marketing tactic.

Without proper planning, you’ll be left in the dark.

Get Started with Value Statements in Your Marketing Plans

Understand how your marketing provides value to your customer by creating a hypothesis for your marketing campaigns:

  • “This blog post will answer question X for the customer and move them to the middle of the funnel.”

And, understand how your marketing provides value to your business:

  • “This blog post will generate X pageviews which will translate into X leads.”

If you can’t assign a value to a certain piece of marketing, it’s likely not worth your time or effort.

Small businesses have a lot to consider when looking into marketing strategies these days. Limitations with budget, time and resources will add strain to any owner or Marketing Manager. Often finding the right partner to execute a well-crafted game plan allows business owners to continue growing without neglecting their marketing. 

But, focus your efforts on these marketing trends, and you’ll have tremendous momentum going into the next year.