Small Business Marketing in 2018: What Works & What Doesn’t

 In Business, Content Marketing, Marketing

As a small business owner, you want to make your pennies count – and you don’t want to throw away money on your marketing. Small business marketing in 2018 has changed, and yet, it has stayed the same. It’s important to consider all the different ways you can market your business, however, it doesn’t mean that you need to do them all OR that they are right for your business. What’s more, you really need to know in this day and age what works and what you should avoid.

Small business marketing in 2018 is very different from what it was 5 years ago, let alone what it was last year. The key to marketing your small business nowadays is two-fold: First, you need to know your industry – inside and out, backwards and forwards – it should be second nature. Second, you need to know your target market. Having a solid grasp on these two key factors will tell you what kind of marketing will work for your business AND what won’t.

If you know your target market and all about your industry and still don’t know what kinds of marketing methods you should try, let’s go over a few things that work, some that don’t and what to get ready for in the future.

Small Business Marketing in 2018 that works

Small Business Marketing in 2018 That Works:

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the key to great SEO and building trust with your customers. Content marketing takes many forms: blog posts, courses, videos, podcasts, e-books – there are many ways to get the most out of it for reasonably little effort. Small business marketing in 2018 saw a huge spike on content marketing for those who are taking advantage of it.

Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing, mainly print is still a very viable option for small business marketing in 2018. Depending on your audience, print marketing can be quite effective and lead to be ROI. Contrary to popular belief, print is not dead. In many cases, print helps the effectiveness of online or digital marketing campaigns.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing has firmly established itself in small business marketing in 2018 – to a point where some businesses focus solely on digital marketing and don’t even bother with traditional print marketing tactics. Small business marketing in 2018 is all about customer experience and personalization – in fact, a study by Marketo has shown that personalized, behavior based emails are 3 times more effective than mass emails.

BTB Networking

Ultimately, there is no replacement for straight-up, person-to-person interaction. Print marketing can miss the intended audience, digital marketing can fail and content marketing may not be always relevant – but face-to-face interaction, such as at a chamber of commerce business after hours or at a BNI group meeting can really help foster a connection between you and a potential customer. In the end, even the best marketing campaigns come down to person-to-person interaction to close any type of sale, so don’t disregard its importance.

Marketing Automation

As a business owner, you certainly don’t have the time it takes to do all the necessary marketing functions for your business – tracking visits to your site, leads, where people are in your sales funnel – there’s just not enough hours in a day. Here’s where marketing automation comes in. Platforms like Hubspot, Sharp Spring, InfusionSoft, Marketo and more are becoming increasingly more and more popular as the need to have a complex marketing strategy becomes more and more necessary. In short, it works and in a big way – it gives you valuable insight into your leads and customers and let’s you know which of your marketing efforts are well received and which didn’t make the mark. Most of these platforms have email features that you can use to interact with your customers using nurture and drip campaigns, track their behavior and conversions. They are worth investing the time and the money for the ROI they help you realize.

Small Business Marketing in 2018 that doesn't work

Small Business Marketing in 2018 That Doesn’t Work:

Conversely, there are several small business marketing tactics that used to be common (and work), now in 2018, simply aren’t relevant anymore or are considered “black hat tactics”. Below are some marketing tactics and methods you should avoid:

Not Optimizing for Mobile

This is something you simply can’t ignore – in 2016, $1.2 billion was spent online on Black Friday via mobile devices – an increase of 33% over 2015. That’s a pretty big increase in a year’s time. Mobile is taking over how Americans (and the world) does business. Google is now using a mobile-first index, ranking responsive, mobile-friendly websites higher than those that aren’t. Not optimizing your website and content for mobile devices is simply shortsighted and not a strategy that will help your business succeed in the long run.

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is a tactic the marketers and small business owners used to use to help them rank higher for particular keywords by cramming as many relevant keywords into a page as possible, without any type of context. Word clouds, as they were often used, allowed dozens of keywords to exist on a page that would help SEO for a particular website or page. Now, that type of tactic is more harmful than helpful. Google (and other browsers) are penalizing keyword stuffed websites as well as using a different algorithm for ranking sites: Google now ranks pages based on content and context and how a page uses the keyword, rather than the amount of keywords and/or how often the word is used on a page. Instead of keyword stuffing, make sure your content is well written and uses the keyword in context throughout your page.

Being Too Transactional/Salesy

Let’s face it: no one these days (especially millennials) want to be “sold” to. When we enter a store where the sales people descend upon you the minute you walk through the door, we try to avoid making eye-contact (or contact of any kind). That’s because being too transactional – IE salesy – is a big turn off. Small business marketing in 2018 has seen a shift toward a more relationship based approach to sales where marketing messages are more concerned with creating the relationship and are less focused on the single transaction. Additionally, through content marketing, companies are using blogs, podcasts and other media to educate their customers, potential customers and leads WITHOUT any kind of offer or sales pitch. This shift in marketing leads to more loyal, return customers that see the value in using your products or services.

Having No Marketing Budget

You don’t need thousands upon thousands of dollars in your marketing budget, however you really do need a sizable budget for your marketing efforts. That amount is up to you, however, it should be sufficient enough to include PPC ad spend, all of your traditional marketing efforts and product/service promotions. If you have no budget for marketing, create one. Do your homework and figure out how much a typical campaign could cost using Google’s Keyword Planner Tool or the Facebook Business Manager to get started. The point is this: You need to spend money to make money. In order to compete, you need to invest in a variety of marketing methods – and they don’t really need to be super expensive. Start small and adjust with successes or missed opportunities.

Not Having a Strategy

In addition to not having a marketing budget, you can’t not have a marketing strategy. In fact, you might need to create your marketing strategy first, figure out how much it could potentially cost and set your budget accordingly. Setting a strategy is key, though. You know the type of people who you want to be your customers. You should know what their habits are, how they buy, what they buy, etc. By knowing this, you can create a strategy that is built around them so that your strategy and budget are streamlined to target only those who are ready to buy and thus, marketing dollars well spent.

Failing to Follow-Through

Perhaps the biggest thing to avoid in small business marketing in 2018 is not following-through. All of these other things are great: content marketing, digital marketing, marketing automation – however, if you’re not following-through on leads or with your current customers, these are useless. The follow-through is probably the most important part of any lead generation activity because without it, your marketing efforts would be for nothing. In this day and age, if you do not follow-through quickly with a lead or potential client, you could lose them to a competitor who follows-through with them first. That’s not to say you should be pushy, or “salesy”, but be prompt and timely with your responses to inquiries about your products and services, quotes and feedback.

Future of Small Business Marketing in 2018

The Future of Small Business Marketing:

So, I’ve gone through the what works and what doesn’t work, let’s talk about the future of small business marketing. How will marketing change going forward?

The Emergence of AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already used in thousands of homes with the use of Alexa and Google Home – but what about the marketing? Some companies are ahead of the curve on using AI in their marketing efforts. For example, you may have encountered a “chat bot” on website you visit offering instantaneous help to the user. That, is AI. Corporations like Apple, Facebook and Google are already using facial recognition to identity people and objects from photos and videos. With the increasing need for “instant gratification”, AI seems to be the way to go because it’s more affordable than hiring 24/7 employees and it’s always on. In the coming months, you’ll see AI taking a bigger role in small business marketing, changing the way that we do business.

Continuance of Optimizing for Mobile

As you can probably guess, companies like Google are going to continue to optimize their experience for the user for mobile devices – with AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) allowing your optimized for mobile web pages to load faster and optimizing for micro moments – catering to the “I want to know”, “I want to do”, “I want to go” and “I want to buy” moments when a user is searching. In 2016, 73% of Google search results were different on mobile as compared to desktop, so optimizing just for mobile simply won’t fly either. It’s important to be optimized for what users are searching for.

More Content Marketing

By 2019, content marketing is expected to be a $300 billing industry, according to PQ Media. As the use of content marketing increases, expect to see increases in the use of “evergreen” content – content that is timeless and useful no matter how long it’s been there, the use of video and social marketing, conversational marketing through messaging, and emerging technology – including video and voice search.

Small business marketing in 2018 has changed and continues to change dramatically as content marketing changes the face of SEO by eliminating and making old SEO tactics irrelevant. Additionally, traditional small business marketing methods that have been presumed ineffective are indeed still effective and help boost newer methods of promoting your brand. As time goes on, expect to see changes to digital marketing with emergence of AI, the continuance of mobile optimization and content marketing.

How do you market your small business? Do you have any small business marketing tactics to add to the list?

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