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To help us identify all of these new trends and tell you what can be done to pivot your business to align with these trends – we reached out to hundreds of experts to ask about the trends they see.
From those we narrowed the responses down to 18 of the most impactful trends that will inevitably impact your small business’s marketing in 2017.
Let’s dive in…
SEO is inescapable in the modern world of business – you need to make sure your company has a high ranking in the search engine to attract as much business as possible. Because of this, content marketing is more important than ever. Keep your website content up to date, as well as having a News or Blog page of fresh and engaging articles – you can either write these yourself or hire an agency to keep it updated for you. Google looks very favourably upon sites which have organic and original content.
Grand van der Harst – Anglo Liners
The world has gone mobile. There are more website visits on mobile. There are more searches conducted on mobile. Voice search will push forwards the total search volume even further. Unfortunately, most businesses are yet to truly embrace mobile within their marketing efforts. Sure, many businesses have a responsive website and we were talking about responsive web design as far back as 2012 yet there is much more to consider to truly optimize your website and digital presence for mobile users.
In my most recent search engine land column I looked at 25 key factors that businesses can implement to optimize their website and digital assets for mobile users. This goes far beyond just responsive design and loading speed and looks at truly optimizing the user experience for site search, commerce, form entry, calls and general mobile usability.
Focus on mobile in 2017 and you improve your ROI from all digital channels that drive prospects to your website – you will likely boost your traffic from search engines in the proceeds. This is a true strategic advantage for the early movers in the small business space.
Marcus Miller – Bowler Hat
Small businesses are finally beginning to understand the importance of bringing in expert level marketing support and strategy services and are outsourcing to freelance and executive counsel again for the first time after nearly a decade of declines. This lack of strategy and competence in marketing internally for most small businesses, led to a significant amount of rather mediocre marketing and as a result, lackluster growth. With this newfound enthusiasm and optimism for growth, small business are finally going to get that collateral updated, make a great online presence with a fresh website, and actually get back to the creation of a strategic, integrated and executable marketing plan – and stop trying to do it themselves (poorly) or the constant revolving door of unqualified or entry level talent coming in to “manage” marketing.
Outsourcing of marketing is going to be a major trend for small business in 2017 and moving forward, and get the non core competency out of that business and off to expert who can properly advise and competently execute.
Rodger Roeser – The Eisen Agency
Video advertising has been quickly gaining traction in 2016: think introduction of Facebook video ads or longer videos on Instagram. In 2017 the trend will continue to grow, making social media more (if not completely) video-oriented. To keep competitive edge, small businesses need to focus on video marketing, and on social videos in particular. Facebook is going to slowly but steadily gain momentum as the top ranking video platform (along with YouTube), so investing marketing budget in Facebook video ads is highly recommended for SMBs to get the most out of their advertising efforts.
Anastasia Melet – Animatron
One of the most important trends for small businesses this year is guest blogging. Most people don’t like the idea of writing something for free, but with guest blogging you on a popular blog you will increase your exposure, gain kudos and have those ever important brownie points from Google – backlinks to your site. To start there are a few things you can try. Firstly use twitter for a call out and ask for opportunities. Use the hashtag #guestblogging or #authorrequest and see what comes back. Also research on google the types of blogs you would like to feature in and approach them with a quirky story or angle, give them links to your previous blogs and give your pitch some personality to get noticed!
Helen Cox – Cox Marketing
Gone are the days when big brands were the only players who could make video advertisements, as the cost required to produce them and pay for television advertising space was so high. Now, social media enables all businesses to reach customers in cost effective and highly targeted ways. A trend set to only increase in 2017 is the use of video. Videos get roughly 7x the engagement of any other types of post on social media and, with Facebook heavily pushing its Facebook Live feature and Twitter well integrated with Periscope, the options available to small businesses are ever increasing.
But how to market via video? Get creative. If your brand relies heavily on online sales without much interaction with your customers, film people around the office to show the humans behind your brand. Do you have a technical edge over your competitors? Use video to explain and demonstrate why your product is a game changer. Got a great product but struggling to get your brand message across? Film a TV-style ad yourself! The camera quality on modern smartphones means that you probably have the equipment you need for this at your disposal, but look up filming techniques and editing programs (smartphone apps like iMovie and Power Director can do this on your phone) if you want to make it perfect. Finding the style of video that suits you might not be easy, and it might take more time and effort to make videos than to just send a tweet, but it’s a great way for small businesses to promote themselves in a way that had been exclusive to big brands for too long.
Arron Richmond – High Speed Training
More than half of all search queries are performed on mobile devices, shoppers are increasingly looking for local businesses while on the move, and consumers are doing more and more of their shopping and purchasing on smartphones. Google has recognized this trend for years and has over time adjusted its algorithms and practices to promote mobile-friendly online properties. For example, Google’s search results favor responsive websites, the company is pushing the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project, and recently began penalizing mobile sites that use the disruptive full-page ads called interstitials. Small business owners, especially those with local retail locations, must get on board with this trend. If you’re in this camp, make sure your website works well on mobile devices, and make it really easy for users to convert (complete forms or make purchases) on smartphones. Explore developing an AMP version of your website. Update any directory listings and complete Google My Business pages for each of your locations so they appear properly in response to map searches. Format your email and social media promotions to look their best on mobile devices. It is vital for small business owners to do these types of things if they want to continue to capture their share of business in a mobile-first consumer world.
Jacob Dayan – Community Tax
The most important trend I see is what I call the ‘Small Business-izing of Technology’. Cloud based technology is bringing enterprise class business software to small businesses, which 10 years ago was only available to large companies with big technology budgets.
In the past, the big tech companies like Oracle and SAP focused on high quality and high expense solutions to Fortune 500 companies. Today, even a small business with just a handful of people can get fantastic marketing software (e.g. Hubspot) to grow their business. This takes so much of the complexity and cost off the table, and clears the way for small businesses to innovate and better market their business.
Steve Benson – Badger Maps
With the rising cost of digital ads, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make your voice heard in an ecommerce space. This intense competition has forced small businesses to seriously reconsider their marketing budget because, let’s face it, it’s a little difficult to compete with Amazon. There is a solution, though, and that solution is an emphasis on customer retention. By capitalizing on retention strategies like a loyalty program, small businesses will be able to double down on their most profitable customers while improving their customer experience throughout every step of the customer journey. In a world where customers have easy access to competitor information no matter where they are, establishing real relationships is key to securing lasting brand loyalty and profitability from customers on a daily basis. With these considerations front of mind, 2017 can be the year that small businesses in every industry significantly grow their business and make an impact in their respective industries.
Kirsten Burkard – Sweet Tooth
A trend we are capitalizing on with respect to our small business marketing is incorporating big data into our marketing efforts.
Big data does not have to be scary a small business, it really is easier to integrate than you think . We leverage our data, combined with publicly available census data, for marketing insights.
For example, in a recent campaign we ran in Nashville, TN , we ran pay-per-click (PPC) Adwords campaign with one ad targeting the entire metro Nashville area. The headline read ‘Local Lawn Pros in Nashville are a click away.’ and I thought the performance of the ad was good with a click through rate of over one percent and conversion rate of over 10 percent on the Nashville landing page but we needed to improve on it.
We thought, how can we make this more contextual and relevant to the viewer? Se we researched census data, looking at the average income and home values throughout the Nashville area.
We found that East Nashville, an up-and-coming neighbourhood, was populated with more working class, and a creative class demographic and we hypothesized this customer segment would be price sensitive but still not want to cut their own lawns. So we segmented those zip codes and only ran a specific ad for them, with a headline ‘The Cheapest Lawn Mowing in Nashville. Lawn mowing from $20.’”
We then created a matching landing page. After running the ad for one month, on-page analytics proved the guess to be true. We saw over 200 percent lift in click through rate and and 30 percent lift in on-page conversion.
Studying the data your own business generates can tell you which of your online marketing campaigns works best. Do the ads appeal to your target market or another market altogether? The data may also point to completely new areas of customer interest.
Bryan Clayton – GreenPal
Small businesses can’t afford not to implement Facebook ads in 2017 (at least if you’re on the B2C side, anyways). I keep thinking that FB will start to slide, but it never does—they recently announced that their Audience Network reaches 1 billion people per month. Within the social network itself, advertisers can target demographics with greater precision than Adwords, and the CPC is substantially cheaper. Now that you can opt into the Facebook Audience Network as well, you can increase your ad viewership by up to 16% beyond the social FB audience. Facebook’s new publishers include the Washington Post and Rolling Stone.
We’ll definitely see more FB ads from small businesses this year, and now that FB is implementing mid-roll video ads, small biz will start producing more video content as well.
Adam Gingery – Dmi Partners
Businesses in nearly all industries are capitalizing on the trend of authentic storytelling and brand messaging. You’ve seen it. Think about the commercials that show how a bank has helped a local business or a shoe store that writes their company’s mission and vision on the wall. It’s a way to connect with consumers authentically and create committed fans.
But what happens when you do a social media campaign about local farmers growing grains, but your business sources all of its ingredients from three time zones away? Or when your chocolate company wants customers to see their manufacturing process and you stage a production center that actually isn’t where you produce your chocolate bars at all?
That’s fake authenticity, and it ain’t cool.
Bottom line is this: Make your marketing message true to your business’ operations and values in every aspect–from ad copy to the customer experience. The marketing trend toward transparent company-consumer connection is not going away. Do it right.
Sara Lancaster – The Condiment Marketing Co.
Search engines continue to focus on both mobile and voice searches. These search queries increasingly are resembling questions rather than a few targeted keywords. For 2017, when you are building pages on your site, research and optimize for question-based terms. Two questions that do well are “How” and “Which” questions. These relate to the learning process that consumers undertake while attempting to learn about products.
Brian Childs – Moz
Marketing automation solutions have become readily accessible and many small businesses are using this for parts of their marketing strategy. The biggest challenge with automation though is that it often lacks a personal, human touch.
In a competitive ecosystem where consumers have more choice than ever before, it is incredibly hard for a small business to stand out; especially since they can’t fight bigger companies in a one-on-one war of marketing dollars spent. What small businesses can however do is be more personal and deepen their relationships with their customers.
The ways to do this is to increase the number of one-on-one interactions you are having with your customers. Get on the phone and ask a customer how they’re enjoying their last purchase. Add live chat to your website, so that your customers can have a real-time conversation with you. Or send your most loyal or passionate customers a handwritten note (and / or gift) just to say thanks for their support. Your customers won’t expect these surprise moments of delight and are very likely to reward you with their ongoing support.
Adii Pienaar – Conversio
I think you’re going to see optimizing for mobile will continue to be a huge trend in 2017, so if you’re a marketer, you better make sure that your business has a website that is mobile friendly. In fact, I would go so far as to say that a lot of startups should use a mobile-first strategy, in which their site design is heavily focused on mobile users. Why? Because there are more than one billion mobile device users throughout the world, and increasing numbers of them are using their devices to make purchases, engage on social media and share what they find interesting.
Live streaming will just get bigger and bigger in 2017, because it is an effective way for marketers to connect and engage with consumers in a relaxed setting. Companies can do live events for product launches, Q & A sessions that invite consumers to find out more about products and services and even “Get To Know the Team” sessions in which they introduce their employees to consumers. The big key with live events or live streams is to ensure that users are engaged at all times. You can do that by encouraging users to ask questions and make comments throughout the event, and also by offering free and valuable content such as eBooks, guides and free samples.
There’s an old saying that “game recognizes game,” which means that people who are successful are more likely to befriend others who are successful or on their way to success than they are those who have no ambition. How does that relate to digital marketing? You have to create outstanding content that will get on the radar of influential people in your industry who will then share your content and provide you with the credibility you need to establish authority in your field. Influencer marketing must be a major part of your strategy in 2017, whether this strategy is done through financial investment (paid influencer marketing) or through earned influence marketing based on outstanding and relevant content.
Tabitha Naylor – TabithaNaylor.com
In 2917, highly effective marketers will be going extremely deep with customized messages and specialized platforms to a highly receptive and loyal audience will replace wide approach mass marketing. Follower numbers are not as important as interactions and engagements. More soft or no ask/call to action marketing focused on community building, experiences and lifestyle over product specific messaging. It’s not enough to publish your content, you have to show how you made it. Make the audience part of the process. Exclusives and extended versions for different channels as well. These channels (and new channels to come) will be used to share by the creator and reshared by fans and like-minded content producers. Repetition and cross platform will be come the norm, not just for exceptional marketers. Modern attention spans and the overrun of media sources makes it more likely even those who engage you regularly miss a lot of your content posting. This requires multiple post/repost of the same chopped-up content.
Kyle Golding – The Golding Group
Every business always wants to be everywhere – it’s the first thing they say to their marketing person or team. But being everywhere is worse than being no where. It’s a long, hard road to losing a ton of money.
There are 3 key questions you need to ask yourself before building your audience: who are you, what do you do and why are you doing it. Without truly understanding the answers to those questions, you’ll be lost in the shuffle of freebie offers from big brands.
When you have established who you are in your clients eyes, what you can specifically do for them and why you are doing what you do – you have the trifecta needed to narrow in your marketing and go after the absolute best customer possible. It just so happens that while doing this, you’ll also narrow in your market size and be able to literally be everywhere to that hyper specific group of people who will see you as a king in your space.
Corey Gladwell – 5X5 Media
While there is room for advertising to grow in mobile, there are clear differences between mobile and other platforms. After all, mobile is a very personal channel and is often the “hub” or focal point of a consumer’s decision making. Mobile is contextual, location-based, pervasive; and already integrated within powerful payment channels. Today’s advertising solutions incorporate some of these dimensions, but there is room for more innovation that could offer significant benefits to brands.
For example, instead of simply targeting high-income females in New York City, a brand could specifically target females who have purchased premium facial products and only recently moved to New York. Or rather than serving an ad to a user located in Times Square about a steakhouse because he ate at a steakhouse last week, an advertiser could use historical data to see that this consumer ate a late lunch and is more interested in seeing a musical. Instead of serving up an ad for the closest Starbucks, an ad could prompt a user to order their favorite drink via Starbucks’ own ordering and payment app. Then all a user would have to do is walk down the block to find their hot drink awaiting them, already paid for. Clearly, there are vast implications for seamless user experiences and increased revenues for advertisers.
Most traditional brands and advertisers are not fully satisfied or confident with existing mobile advertising options—and that’s reflected in their limited spending in this category. Instead, they continue to spend their ad dollars on mature advertising mediums, such as television, print, social media, and display. Those who actively use mobile as an advertising medium tend to be mobile app publishers. These companies not only understand mobile, but also their business models directly benefits from the infrastructure of mobile advertising. For example, mobile app companies can directly track which ad-backed downloads lead to new users. This is an advantage that’s not readily available to most other brands.
However, the advertising ecosystem as we know it is about to change. The market expects that mobile in-app advertising will surpass search advertising on desktop PC as the biggest revenue driver of online advertising. Advertising revenue streams for PC search advertising are expected to remain flat over the next two years, while all key domains of mobile advertising will triple in value. And out of those mobile advertising domains, native mobile in-app advertising is expected to be the largest.
Hannu Verkasalo – Verto Analytics
The most essential small business marketing trends you have to watch out for and pivot to align with for 2017.
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