Beth Comstock, American business executive and current Vice Chair of General Electric, once said: “Marketing's job is never done. It's about perpetual motion. We must continue to innovate every day.”
Getting a leg-up as a cash-strapped small business owner may seem nearly impossible. Each year brings new social and technological trends to our society, and small companies must pool their limited resources to compete with large corporations, who often have massive marketing teams dedicated to the task of capitalizing on new ways to promote their product.
As a company with limited funds, you’ll need to choose which trends to follow even more prudently. Here are five marketing trends to take full advantage of in businesses of all sizes:
Using video as a major part of content strategy
Visuals are everything. There’s a reason YouTube sees more traffic than Facebook. By next year, video content is expected to be 80% of all consumer-based internet traffic. Perhaps sensing this, Mark Zuckerberg has said that within five years, Facebook will be mostly video as well.
An online ad campaign, at this point, is synonymous with the integration of some sort of video. And with the accessibility of HD cameras and editing software, there’s no excuse for why your brand shouldn’t be making great video content.
One great piece of content from last year was “The One Moment,” which doubled as a music video for Ok Go and an advertisement for Morton Salt. The whole video happened in 4.2 seconds -- slowed down, it takes up the full length of the song. You can use marketing tricks like this to save time and money without skimping on quality.
Personalizing email marketing campaigns
Only 44% of small business owners have recognized the importance of email marketing. The benefits of email marketing for companies with limited time and money are untold. Unlike many other digital marketing efforts, it is neither costly nor time-consuming.
In fact, it’s one of the cheapest campaigns you can launch and requires only a bit of writing ability and a strong list of contacts. You’re able to connect directly with your consumers or clients with a click of a button and collect important marketing metrics, like open and conversion rates.
Leveraging consumer collaboration
One of the most sought-after traits in the millennial generation is authenticity. There’s no better way to create an authentic brand than by leveraging your consumer’s willingness to collaborate with you.
With the incredible power of social media, your customers can communicate your brand for you and foster its growth.
Reach out to well-known bloggers, contact podcasters that may be interested in your product or service and encourage a conversation about your company. You may not be able to control where the conversation leads, but the buzz generated is often well worth the risk.
Tapping data-driven marketing research and analysis
While many business decisions are powered by intuition, marketing decisions should be motivated by data. In the digital age, every business can tailor their marketing efforts with a great degree of accuracy. Unfortunately, most small businesses aren’t capturing easily-collected information about their consumer.
Google Analytics, for example, which gives you advanced metrics about your site, such as bounce rates and the number of unique users visiting your site, is available to you at no cost whatsoever. Other free marketing analytics tools, such as Keyhole, provide you with the numbers you need to assess your social media marketing campaigns on Twitter and Instagram.
These are just a few examples; there is a cornucopia of free resources waiting to be properly utilized by your marketing team.
Cultivating personal brands with a friendly, informal tone
Spotify, through a series of billboards, used a vast amount of data it has collected over the past few years to highlight a few of its quirkiest users: the guy who played Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” 42 times on Valentine’s Day, or the person in the theater district who listened to the Hamilton soundtrack 5,376 times in one year. These types of humorous anecdotes are endearing and give personality to your brand.
But, making a brand more personal doesn’t necessarily require data mining or expensive billboard campaigns. It’s as simple as creating a brand voice that sounds natural and in-tune with your target audience; a brand that facilely engages with its consumers on a multitude of platforms and produces spot-on hashtags and curates amazing posts.
Marketing, at its heart, is about appealing to people, and attitudes are always changing. Marketing in the 1950s, with its direct appeals to logic and reason, would barely register in the market of today. Marketing in the 21st century is geared toward crafting truly compelling stories and brands that embody the human experience.
Digital marketing is never easy. Especially when you’ve got a small team and lack a six-figure marketing budget.
Worry not: there’s plenty of hope for your small business. Producing video content, harnessing the power of email marketing, leveraging consumer participation, embracing data-driven marketing and cultivating a personal brand are surefire ways to jump-start your marketing department.
Follow these five trends, continue researching and refining your approach to marketing and never be afraid to alter your strategy to respond to consumer sentiment. Following new trends mindlessly will undoubtedly fail, but being open, assessing them accurately and integrating them into your business sensibly will surely lead to success.
Charles Dearing is a veteran tech and marketing journalist who has written for various publications such as ProBlogger, Big Think and Apps World.