There are lots of different posts and opinions online at this time of year when it comes to what are going to be the dominant marketing trends of the coming year. What is certain is that businesses of all types and sizes will have another challenging year.
Rather than try and predict what the major platforms and softwares are going to do (Facebook have already thrown two curve balls in 2018 and it’s only 16th January), at Vision we focus on bigger trends and how smaller businesses can tap into them to create some competitive advantage.
(This is a abbreviated transcript of a Facebook Live given to my Vision Inspire Marketing Club on 15th January. The full 55 minute video is available to watch on the Vision B2B Facebook page. To join the club visit the Coaching page here.)
1. Management of data
The trend: GPRD looms large over all businesses and SMEs have the most to lose from potential fines for malpractice.
Impact on SME: On a simplistic practical level, we all need to be able to ensure we have proof of opt-in for our lists and what they signed up for. But there are bigger implications to data storage that businesses will be required to adhere too.
Solutions: We have a session in Vision Inspire group about GPRD on 19th February but there are short talks all over the country from rising experts (mostly understandably from an IT background) that you can access. Most reputable experts in this area are offering systems audits in the first instance, but start with your CRM and email provider as they will be under the spotlight first when we hit the 25th May deadline.
Trend: Focusing in an identifiable customer type (or types) and creating tailored journeys to helping them.
Impact on SME: With finite resources, SMEs simply have to niche. It helps focus time, money, resources and marketing. It allows you to dig deeper into the mindset of the customers you do your best work with and do your best work. You can then plan growth by finding similar customers in similar sectors.
Solutions: Think about how your website, email, use of different social media, different networking groups can change and improve? Do you use customer personas to understand decision making and do you build journeys to meet the information needs? Do you use split testing, different landing pages, messages, different platforms for different reasons – or one-off everything, everywhere?
3. Customer focused content
Trend: People want more information
Impact on SME: Producing content is a massive time drain. It needs to be focused. And we need to work smart to do it.
Solutions: Producing big content for the long term and chunking it down. It’s not just my advice to produce buyer’s guides and authority articles (video), but big brands are doing it too. Coca Cola has a content marketing strategy. But it does requires you to really understand your customers and their decision making motivation.
Trend: Fuelled by social media, video continues to be the dominant content type.
Impact on SME: A great way to brand build. SMEs have more opportunities in this area than corporates.
Solutions: YouTube us now more dominant than Google on monthly video search (Comscore). Video can be used at all stages of customer lifecycle from pre-roll ads, to explainer videos, to product overviews, Q&A and panels, case studies, retargeting and more. Don’t just automatically think Live or recorded. Consider animation, interviews, panels, behind the scenes, product demonstrations and more.
Trend: Customers expect more from the companies they interact with. It is believed that it is now straight forward to get basic customer information right and to personalise communications and experiences so SMEs are being judged by people’s experiences buying from Amazon, Easyjet, Bookings.com, M&S etc.
Impact on SME: You’re ability to communicate effectively rests on your management of your data set. Reliant on the data set. When it works, ace. When you get an email to [Insert FName] less so.
Solutions: There’s an argument to keep it simple, but the experience is increasingly part of the DM. Starts simple with personalised email choosing the right fields and sense checking them; and with segmented pages on your website with specific content and offers.
In the old days of web, we would ask visiting customers to self select what they were. This went away as a navigation tool but this is coming back in a big way. Dell did it with PC buyers; drug companies do it with their stakeholders too.
Trend: As consumers and customers, we generally expect a better, slicker service.
Impact on SME: As part of the service expectation, we demand auto-responders, welcomes, acknowledgements, delivery information, appointment confirmations and feedback/ followup requests. Amazon does have a lot to answer for. And also to be thanked for. Basket abandonment, second chance selling, people also bought, recommendations for you. All incredible in the online selling space.
Solution: Especially for email and content. Starts simple with automations and workflows in Mailchimp. In my club new members get three emails in the first week; an immediate welcome and confirmation of sign up; a detailed introduction after two hours and a ‘how’s it going’ after the first week. There are then the two emails that are created in templated already set up each week.
7. Private messaging
Trend: More than half of the total UK mobile audience uses Messenger (61%) and 50% use WhatsApp.
Impact on SME: There are huge opportunities in using direct messaging. Taking conversations offline, providing more information, solving customer service issues.
Solutions: Consider using Messenger and Whatsapp groups as a way to link and lock in your very best customers. It could even come at a premium.
8. Search marketing
Trend: People search more than ever before buying anything personally or professionally.
Impact on SME: You miss out on opportunities if you aren’t listed on the first search results page for your specialty.
Solutions: Statistics support that search based marketing delivers more tangible ROI than social media, which often helps with awareness and buzz. Developing marketing strategies that ultimately led to being found easier and more frequently are the best approach – that means optimising content, pages on your website and building a good source of online referral through linkbuilding.
9. Keeping on top of developments
Trend: Being a trusted counsel and partner requires you to stay up to date with developments in your specialty and to know what’s going on in the community.
Impact on SME: Again SMEs can use technology to mobilise and act quicker than bigger competitors.
Solutions: Email alerts and Google alerts can lead to overwhelm and end up with you actually behind the times in very fast moving markets. Use technology like Zest (Chrome extension) and Feedly (RSS) to aggregate industry and discipline specific content sources so you can 1/ stay up to date, 2/ have stuff to share/comment on 3/ build influence and 4/ create soft connections with influencers and potential customers.
10. Doing it authentically
Do all this in your own voice and own style. Make sure your online, offline and outbound marketing stacks up with the experience people receive in person, in store and on the phone.
All of this requires you to adopt a brand voice, to be consistent in your communications and selected topics, and foster a customer service mantra. More and more, businesses are transacting with other companies based on the power of a personal connection. So the old adage ‘know, like, trust’ has never been more important.
Like this post? Subscribe for updates and share it online.