At the beginning of the 2010s, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat didn’t yet exist. Only 35 percent of Americans owned a smartphone, and just two-thirds of American adults watched video online, according to the Pew Research Center.
In less than a decade, the digital landscape has drastically changed. To name only a few developments: Americans practically live on social media, and more than three-quarters of them use a smartphone. By 2020, Cisco estimates, 82 percent of internet traffic will come from video.
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But many small businesses still haven’t embraced the digital marketing trends of the last decade, according to a new survey by Infusionsoft. The 2017 Small Business Marketing Trends Report found that less than half of small business owners use tactics like email marketing, content marketing, and SEO — and nearly one in five don’t plan to do any digital marketing in 2017.
Even if you’re on top of the trends now, it doesn’t take long to fall behind. Here are five ways to make sure your marketing is up-to-date for 2017 and beyond.
1. Make personalized emails a priority.
For email to stand out in today’s crowded inboxes, it has to feel relevant, like it was sent specifically to you and not to thousands of people. Yet only 11 percent of the small businesses surveyed use the technology needed to make email personal: marketing automation. Such software allows businesses to send emails to specific groups of contacts at specific times, rather than blasting the same message to everyone on the list — regardless of their demographics, interests, or purchase history.
With marketing automation software, a prospect who clicks a link automatically gets more information about her product of interest, while the customer who made a purchase yesterday doesn’t get notified of today’s sale. Segmentation and marketing automation make emails feel more relevant, which makes recipients more likely to open them.
2. Create content that prospects are searching for.
The path to purchasing just about everything begins with Google, and small businesses can reach potential customers there by producing content that answers those search queries. Yet among those surveyed for the report, only 40 percent of small businesses planned to use search engine optimization (SEO) tactics in 2017, while just 27 percent said they’d use content marketing.
In addition to finding the time and resources for content marketing, small businesses also struggle with developing a content strategy that can help them meet their marketing goals. Designing content for search engines is a good place to start. Using paid tools like Moz or free tools like Google Keyword Planner, businesses can create blog posts, guides, and videos around the keywords prospects are searching for.
Content optimized for SEO brings free traffic to your website, allowing a small business to compete in search results against larger brands.
3. Capture leads with content.
Creating content helps businesses attract leads — that is, unless those leads consume the content and promptly leave the website, never to return. That’s why using content to capture leads is even more effective.
In the report, less than 13 percent of small businesses said they offer downloadable content to collect contact information from leads. Yet leads are more likely to give away an email address if they receive something valuable in return, like an e-book, video, presentation, or tip sheet. Marketing automation software can help facilitate the process by automatically importing the email address into your customer relationship management (CRM) database, delivering the requested content via email, and sending follow-up emails that nurture the lead into a sale.
4. Think beyond organic reach on Facebook.
Nearly three-quarters of the small business owners surveyed use Facebook, making it one of the most popular marketing tactics around. But for small businesses, Facebook isn’t what it used to be. Due to algorithm changes, the average post from a business reaches less than 10 percent of followers and engages only 4 percent, according to a study by Locowise.
Succeeding with social media marketing in 2017 means incorporating new strategies and new platforms. With Facebook advertising, even small businesses with limited budgets can advertise to users who previously visited their websites or reach new prospects by targeting their interests and demographics.
By experimenting with new strategies, small businesses might discover engagement with customers on another platform, like Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or Pinterest: After all, less than half of the small businesses surveyed use a social platform other than Facebook.
5. Embrace video marketing.
Less than a quarter of respondents from the report said they use video in their marketing efforts. But businesses can no longer ignore the power of video and its popularity among consumers: In a survey by Animoto, four times as many consumers prefer video to reading about a product.
As video becomes more popular, it’s also easier to produce. Small businesses need nothing more than a phone (and ideally, some basic lighting and audio equipment) to shoot a video that creates a personal connection with viewers like no other medium can. Successful small businesses are sharing video in blog posts, on YouTube, and even in emails as a way to make an introduction or share information, like the 2017 equivalent of a voicemail.
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No one can predict how much the digital marketing world will change in another decade — or even another year. But small business owners can be certain that failing to adopt today’s technologies will leave them even farther behind tomorrow. By embracing trends like marketing automation, content marketing, and video marketing, small business owners can ensure they keep up with the competition in 2017 and beyond.
Amy Saunders is a content creator at Infusionsoft. Infusionsoft helps small businesses thrive with sales and marketing software that uses automation to organize contacts, turn leads into customers and transform customers into raving fans.