Whilst there’s no doubt that the marketing landscape is constantly changing, thanks in the main to emerging technologies that push the boundaries further by the month, small and medium sized businesses have been quick to adopt the new technologies and strategies that keep them competitive.
The internet has given SMBs a host of valuable tools which allows them to compete with much bigger players in the market. In fact, you could almost say that internet marketing tools have levelled the playing field, and given all businesses equal access to the market. Costs and marketing budgets are no longer necessarily a barrier to SMBs who wish to compete in the wider market: new software and applications can be downloaded at minimal cost, making small business websites look and perform every bit as well as the best professional websites. But SMBs need to keep up to speed with the latest developments and trends to stay competitive.
So, with that in mind, here are a few trends that are likely to be influential in 2012.
Mobile and Local Search.
We now not only use our iPhones and Smartphones to navigate from A to B: we also use the mobile web to search for products and services whilst we’re out and about. The web experience is now portable and SMBs should take note of that. SMBs should make 2012 the year in which they cater for the mobile market. Booking online, being found on local search directories and inevitably the use of geo-location queries will become norm. SMBs should be prepared.
Online and Offline marketing are merging.
This has already been evident during the current Christmas season. How many of us searched the web for a product like the iPad2 or the Kindle reader and found we could buy it on Tesco.com cheaper than we could buy it from Apple? Forrester Research predicts that almost 50% of purchases will be influenced by online activities in the coming year. That means even if you didn’t buy your Christmas gifts online, there’s every chance that you looked up the best available price before visiting the shopping centre, or looked at reviews of your holiday destination before booking it. Oh lucky you. This sort of online activity is important for small businesses to consider and highlights just how critical it is for small businesses to have an online presence in 2012.
Social Media Advertising.
We now interact on all sorts of different social forums like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. These sites give SMBs the perfect opportunity to advertise to a specific niche. Even the Yellow Pages has cottoned on to the power of segmented advertising and has targeted advertising offers. Small businesses can now advertise on Facebook and target a specific age group, district or interest and advertise at low cost. Social media advertising will continue to gain momentum as business owners discover the power of sending their messages to a select customer segment.
Email marketing is set to gain momentum.
Email marketing is now becoming more social and vibrant and is beginning to look more like a website rather than a simple text-based message. The sign up forms for email, and calls to action are becoming more inventive. Content is now being shared via email, and if any SMB wants to be known as a ‘go to expert’ in their particular niche, then this is an area they shouldn’t neglect. The more small businesses come to understand the benefits of building a list of prospects to nurture, the more email marketing will mature. Tools like Mailchimp and content management systems for email marketing are helping small businesses create some really good looking and effective branded communications.
Your personal brand can be exposed, so keep watch and make sure you act when needed.
Interaction and online conversation through mobile devices and forums, has meant that a company’s brand and the personnel it employs are now potentially exposed. It’s important to remember that every thing searched for on Google and other search engines, like company profiles, reviews, recommendations and criticisms are indexed for life. People are watching what businesses do. So if businesses are not consistent in what they say, or authentic and believable in what they stand for and represent, then they will be pilloried. It can be a real fag to have to constantly respond to criticism, but it’s important that businesses do so. For sake of ease why not set up a Google alert on your company’s name, and remember to only engage in those social media tools that you intend to use regularly.