Marketing Trends 2018
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How do you know where to focus your marketing attention? For a small business marketer, it can be especially difficult—you likely have responsibilities beyond marketing, and almost certainly don’t have a marketing team to back you up. So where will you get the best returns on your marketing time? Start with these 8 marketing trends.

Define Your Brand

Let’s start with a much-ignored foundation: defining your brand identity and establishing a presence. Take some valuable time to plan and strategize around your brand. Be sure you’ve established a name, logo, and some major messaging points (tagline, unique selling proposition, etc.). You can even go the extra mile and determine brand standards or a style guide. Your guide doesn’t have to be long or fancy—just decide what your brand voice is, for example, and what kind of pictures or colors you will use.

A well-defined brand will go a long way toward setting you apart from other businesses and creating a consistent experience that your customers will recognize. Once you’ve defined your brand, you also need to establish it publicly. Create a website and claim social media accounts on the platforms your audience uses. Which leads to our next trend…

Get Social!

Do you have to be on social media? Almost certainly yes. For small businesses especially, social media is one of the most accessible and targeted advertising platforms available. You can use social media to stay top-of-mind with your existing customers, to provide customer service, and to reach new customers.

You don’t need to be on every social platform. Evaluate which platforms your target audience is most likely to be on, and focus on those. If you’re selling to teens, they probably won’t be on LinkedIn (although you may want a page for recruiting employees!). If you’re selling to a middle-aged audience, you may not need to be on SnapChat.

Social media offers you a wealth of creative opportunities to grow your business. Beyond the relationship building possibilities of a basic feed, most platforms offer highly targeted advertising that allows you to reach your ideal audience with ads designed just for them. Find out what your chosen platforms offer for businesses, and give it a whirl.

Livestream Video

Livestreamed video is a growing force in marketing, but not yet saturated, which gives you the perfect opportunity to reach your customers in ways that your competitors aren’t. The obvious downside to live video is the immediacy of it—you have to do it when your audience can watch, and you don’t get a chance to edit or revise.

But that downside paves the way for what’s great about live video: the intimacy. Live video lets you interact with your audience in real time, and offers a raw authenticity that viewers love. Don’t over-complicate things—live video could be a tour of your space, a major brand announcement, or a quick Q&A. It doesn’t have to look perfect either—a little bit of good lighting and a relatively quiet space are all you need.

Personal Communications

From live video to personalized communications—have you gotten the idea that people want personal interaction? Personalized communication is best accomplished through email automation, which is available from a number of vendors with a variety of tiered programs.

The “personal” part of the communication can mean different things. It could be reaching out to the customer at the right stage in their journey, like reminding them that they’ve left something in their shopping cart, or checking in to see if a purchase was to their satisfaction. It could be using their name in the email—even if they know it’s automated, it’s likely to catch their eye and make them feel more connected to you. Using a name in the greeting is an obvious choice, but think about other natural ways you could include it.

The key thing to remember with personalization is that your customers are not always the same, and therefore, the same communication isn’t right for all of them. Consider mapping your customer journey or segmenting different audiences to make personalization easier.

Partner with Influencers

Who does your audience follow or listen to? If you can partner with those people, you gain their credibility with your audience. Influencer marketing is especially obvious in social media circles, but some types of radio ads are essentially influencer marketing—the radio personality talks about how they use this local business, how well they’re treated, and how much they love it. Influencer marketing to the core.

Take your time to find the right influencer(s). Your product or service needs to be a good natural fit for the influencer, and they need to reach enough of your target audience to make it worthwhile. Be open to influencers on a variety of platforms (Facebook, podcast, blog, Twitter, etc.) and don’t ignore those with small to medium size audiences.

Quality Content

There is so much noise in the marketing world today. Should you add more to it? No. But you should be creating quality content that cuts through the noise. So how do you avoid becoming just noise? Be thoughtful, engaging, and fresh. In large part, this is where our first trend makes a difference—if you build a strong brand identity, you’ve done a lot of work toward becoming a distinct voice in your space.

Content can exist in a multitude of platforms, but regular posting on your own website does wonders for your SEO. SEO is a complex field, and at the foundation remains the importance of regular and useful content. If you can do that, you’ve done the most important part. Think about what your audience needs or wants to know, and start writing.

Use Google as Your Website’s Homepage

The first impression your audience has of you may not be your social media or website. It may actually be Google, which displays business information for any number of local searches. Importantly, having a good local ranking on Google can introduce your business to great inbound leads—people who are local and actively searching for your type of business.

So how do you take advantage of Google’s local SERP features? Well, Google is the best authority: they say to make sure your business information is complete and accurate on your Google My Business page. Additionally, being active in the local community can help. Find out if there are local lists or directories you can join, and seek out opportunities to partner online with other local organizations.

Referral Marketing/Word of Mouth

Finally, an old-school technique that never fails: referrals/word of mouth. This technique is absolutely free and incredibly effective. People highly value word-of-mouth recommendations, and a single brand advocate can do more for your business than the best marketing strategy.

There are ways to help this along. First, you have to offer a great customer experience! But beyond that, you can encourage people to review your business online or run a competition for referrals

Your small business has so many powerful ways to tackle marketing in 2018! Which will you try first?