It’s that time of year when predictions gather and swirl like snowflakes in a storm. For small business owners, predictions about marketing trends and opportunities are top of mind. Which of them should you focus on to grow your business faster without overspending your precious resources of money and time?
Here are just some of the predictions we’re hearing about marketing for 2015:
- An increasing number of your customers – or clients or patients – will want to book appointments online. If they can pay online, too, that’s even better. Look into Open Table for restaurants. Or ZocDoc for medical practices.
- Dual thinking about marketing to prospects vs. current customers will expire, since they’re virtually the same thing anyway. One example? Promoting a good review impresses prospects and also reinforces confidence from existing clientele. Think “globally” about your marketing campaigns and offers. And concentrate on delivering an extraordinary customer experience, starting with the first contact someone has with your website or store or office. A memorable “wow” factor will secure new customers, keep them coming back and ensure they promote your business by sharing their experiences.
- The power of reviews will increase. One recent study noted 78% of consumers are influenced by online reviews, and businesses with more reviews receive local display preference on Google.
- Targeting will improve for paid search ads. Google and Facebook now allow you to segregate “audiences” based on more detailed criteria.
- Collaborative marketing comes of age. The traditional sidewalk sale aside, look for reasons to do joint promotions with complementary businesses or make cross-offers to one another’s customers.
- Mobile usage will surpass tablets. Industry experts disagree about whether you need a separate mobile website or mobile-optimization for your existing site, but you need something or 2015 could be the last year you have to worry about predictions. Think that’s crazy? Almost half of emails – 47% — are opened using a mobile device.
- Responsive design will become the norm for websites. This relates to streamlining menus and design for mobile users as well as providing a more personalized visitor experience.
- And speaking of personalized experience, marketing will focus more on “one-to-one” relationship building, not just selling. You’ll need content that is more relevant than ever, and you’ll want to project yourself and your business as personable and approachable, not just a knowledgeable resource.
- Visuals will continue to gain ground as effective story-tellers. YouTube may still be the front-runner when it comes to video-based social sites, but Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and others are growing in popularity for sharing visual content. This applies across the board, not just to retail shops and restaurants. If you’re a dentist, a tax advisor, a lawn care specialist or massage therapist – even if you’re marketing on behalf of a church — you need to be thinking about more ways to incorporate images in your marketing for 2015. Choose images your audience will love to share.
- More small businesses will use podcasts. While visuals are taking a seat closer to the front of your marketing bus, audio messaging is doing the same. Podcasts are an excellent alternative for busy prospects and existing customers to consume your content. You can use them as premium content for downloads from your website, post them on YouTube and share them on iTunes.
- Google+ will gain importance. It isn’t predicted to become your Number One social media outlet, but a complete profile on this site can do wonders to help local searchers find you and pick up essential details about your hours, location, etc. The more local your business, the more critical this is. And don’t forget that Google loves itself best, so your Google+ account gives you a search boost, too.
- Direct mail marketing – especially postcards – will remain a go-to resource for small businesses, because this “old favorite” continues to prove its effectiveness, even in an online-focused marketplace.