As we review the year 2010, and start to think about 2011, it is interesting to see the trends that are emerging when it comes to small business marketing.
As I review the year, here are the top 9 trends that I am seeing for 2011:
1. Online is where it is. I recently read 92% of all purchases being online. Consumers are researching more and more. They want to shop around, get educated and see what options they have. If you are not online, you are missing the opportunity to be seen not just locally, but potentially globally. Having a website is no longer an option, but a requirement.
One of the fastest growing platforms for websites is Wordpress. These websites / blogs are easy to set up, you can maintain them yourself and you can add content quickly and easily. Often these sites can be set up fairly quickly and with less cost than a traditional site. Hiring a web developer to design a really cool website on this platform is also very affordable.
2. SEO your site. If you already have a website, you are like millions of other businesses. In fact, as of today (Dec 27, 2010) there are 13.99 billion pages (Google). The day of just having a website and getting found is long over.
Today with so many websites out there, it is important to set up your website to be found on the internet. If you have not optimized your website for search engines - you are are missing out on the biggest opportunities to generate business.
Search engine optimization is simply making your website more popular so that Google, Bing and other search engines can find you and route traffic to you. To get started with SEO, you will want to know your keywords. These are the words that your site wants to be known for. Then there are several techniques for increasing your popularity on the internet based on your keywords.
3. Educate, don't sell. The days of "This is a great product - buy it" are gone. Today the consumer wants to be educated and consulted. Consultative selling is the key to sales and marketing. Taking time to understand the customers needs and advise on the proper options is what the consumer wants. Spend time educating and training. Marketing materials that are educational based yield higher results than those that are pure advertising.
4. Value add. Offering discounts can attract customers, but today's customer is more educated and smarter. They want a good deal, but above that they want value. I am seeing them spend more for quality and specialties items that provide real value compared to just a discounted price. Being the cheapest is not always the best route for today's customer.
5. Low cost services. During 2010, I became aware of more and more freelance sites to get marketing project completed outside the traditional routes and for low costs. Below I have listed three different types of sites that can drastically cut costs for getting services done.
For example: crowdsourcing. Crowdsoursing is where the power of a group is leveraged. Consider sites like 99Designs.com. You submit your graphical design request and a monetary prize that you are offering. Graphical design requests can be logos, websites, business cards, and more and each starts at a minimum amount. For logos, the minimum is $295. Then the community of graphical designers comspetes for your prize. Often a contest will get 10-100 designs. For small business owners what a great way to get quality work at a VERY reasonable price.
Another example is sites like fiverr.com and Zeerk.com. These are site where people offer to do smaller tasks for $5 up to $25. For small tasks this is a unique way (and cheap way) to get some small items accomplished, like a video for your product or small graphics.
Yet another option is oDesk.com and eLance.com. These are sites where you can hire freelancers to complete larger projects. Consider having an eBook writer, oDesk and eLance have several very inexpensive writers that can provide these services for you.
I predict more services will be available via these kind of online stores. Since the world is truly flat (like Thomas Friedman wrote), we have the whole world available to help us get our marketing tasks done, no longer are you limited to just your region.
6. Social media. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have become part of our everyday life, like it or not. Your customers are using these services and maybe wondering where you are. Being on social media is the start, but users want more than just to see you. They want to interact with you. They want to learn more about you and your business.
Customers want to control the process today more than ever before. They want to get information when they want it and in the way they want it.
7. Interaction is key. Even if you are on social media, having a static presence is not enough. They want interaction. Consider games, sweepstakes, contest, and resources; use these opportunities to interact with your client, not just talk at them.
Having a conversation with your prospect and client is really what they are looking for. They want to know if they ask you a question, you will respond. Consider using your website to provide resources, ask questions, allow them to provide feedback. Today's consumer wants to communicate with the company and be heard.
8. Who has time for patience. I recently read you have 7 seconds to catch your website visitor's attention before they click off your site. WOW - 7 seconds. That is not much time. Today's buyer has so many choices, they quickly decide if what you are offering meets their needs. If your content is not clear and concise, they are on to someone else's website. This means communicating your offering effectively will make all the difference. Great copy will make the difference in your brochures, flyers, websites, and emails.
Today's prospect is BUSY. Forget the general terms, they want specifics. Becoming a specialists is becoming more and more important. The specialist is getting more sales and more referrals.
If you are using the web, no longer is one website cutting it. Using specific landing pages for each message and audience is the key to communicating directly to them and their needs.
9. Follow-up is king. As marketing infiltrates more and more of our lives, it will seem like marketing is every where: on the tv, computer, even your cell phone. As a small business, it will be even more critical to stay in touch with your prospects else they will go else where. Staying in touch can include: emails, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, postcards, phone calls. Now more than ever, communicating with them on a regular basis is critical.
We know in marketing, it is getting the right message at the right time. Using follow up systems will help you save time and keep your prospects coming to you.
2010 was a wait and see year, 2011 will be ea make it happen year. The economy has been down for several years and the rebound is building. We are now entering an economic spring and this will be the year for your business. Take advantage of these trends and 2011 will be a game changing year.