As 2018 ends and reflections on the year that’s passed turn to resolutions for the year ahead, small businesses have much to think about when it comes to creating successful marketing strategies.
It can be daunting to keep pace with technology changes and consumer buying behaviors while operating on a tight budget. But there are several rising trends and strategic opportunities that you can leverage and adapt to your marketing plans — and stay within your means.
Here are five small business marketing trends to expect in 2019 and tips to make them work for your business.
Automation is nothing new. But small businesses have struggled to keep up. Less than 12% of small business owners use marketing automation to carry out repetitive tasks, such as generating email marketing, managing social media posts, streamlining contact relationship management and measuring marketing effectiveness. Small businesses working with limited budgets, a lack of time and the misconception that automated marketing tools are too complex to adopt are missing out. But you can make automation a marketing trend that works for you in 2019.
The trick is to pinpoint which areas of your marketing efforts would benefit from automation: Is it your email marketing, social media activity or lead management? Then, consider your options. There are many platforms available, but look at factors such as ease of implementation, technical support, integration with other platforms, data analytics capabilities, cost of ownership and reviews.
Just a few years ago, content didn’t feature as prominently in the marketing world. It took the form of the occasional blog, white paper or media byline, but it was mostly overlooked compared with other outbound marketing efforts. Today, however, 78% of CMOs see custom content as the future of marketing. Although not new, content is one of the few small business marketing trends that will retain its prominence.
Sharing valuable and relevant information online — such as blogs, videos, infographics and eBooks — while indirectly promoting your brand, can help inform customers while building trust and engagement. Unsurprisingly, 82% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content. It also opens doors to conversations, builds your brand, drives traffic to your site and is great for lead generation (content generates approximately three times as many leads as traditional marketing at 62% less cost).
Content’s prominence is also driven by the fact that we’re switching off and filtering out the noise generated by online ads, emails and direct mail at an increased rate.
Creating content alone won’t reap any rewards unless it’s steered by strategy, and that’s going to be key in 2019. As you think about your content marketing efforts, consider these questions to begin outlining your approach. First, what is your primary goal? Perhaps, it’s lead generation, thought leadership, improving loyalty or SEO. Next, you want to account for your audience. What do they want from you? Where do they consume information? Then ask yourself, what content do you need to target audiences at each unique stage of the sales funnel? You’ll also need to consider how you’ll set your content apart and market it to your audience. Will you use social media, email marketing, a blog or maybe a combination of these? Finally, how will you measure success?
Once you have your answers, it’s time to formulate the appropriate content marketing strategy to support what you’ve discovered.
The sales funnel has often been treated as just that, a funnel through which a qualified prospect drops into and, hopefully, converts to a sale. Too many prospects are ignored by small businesses as they journey through the funnel, and that’s a problem. This is where marketing automation and content marketing trends converge.
Digital and content marketing has made it much easier to engage the buyer at each stage of the sales funnel. For example, as they enter the funnel, most consumers are at the awareness stage, looking for information such as eBooks, blogs, etc. By the time they’ve reached the middle of the funnel, they’re trying to determine if your product is a good fit. That’s where content such as webinars and white papers can make a difference, digging deeper into the subject and your competitive differentiators. If they’ve made it to the bottom of the funnel, they are ready to buy — but perhaps not from you. Here, case studies, demos and calls to actions, such as special or trial offers, come into play.
Think about creating content for each stage of the funnel and integrating it with email at the right time in the customer journey (with the help of your marketing automation platform).
The importance of integrated marketing is a drum that marketers have been beating for years, yet getting it right has never been more relevant. Today’s buyer doesn’t make a purchasing decision based on a single email they’ve seen or a print ad they’ve read. They’re using a myriad of mainly digital channels when researching their B2B and B2C purchases. That can be a problem for small businesses who often rely on a few repeatedly used channels and tactics, such as email marketing for special offers or social media for content amplification.
In 2019, consider a more integrated approach where you create a campaign that delivers a consistent message across every channel. Instead of planning a separate campaign for each marketing stream, think of ways to make all the components work together — your press releases, emails, social, thought leadership, content marketing, SEO, etc. — each reinforcing the other. No matter where your customers encounter your marketing, they’ll experience a consistent message. Then, you can draw them back to a single landing page on your website to drive conversions.
Automation and digital transformation are great, but customers still need the human touch. Even if you’ve invested in technology to scale and automate your marketing efforts with drip and nurturing campaigns, auto-generated emails, even chatbots, you still need to make a point of having real conversations with your customers. Personal interactions with your prospects and customers — whether it’s getting to know them better or finding ways to improve the relationship — is always going to win when it comes to improving customer retention and boosting sales.
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