2014 was an eventful and exciting year for small businesses. Of course the same thing can be said for every year! I’ve asked ten highly experienced small business marketing experts from around North America to share their predictions for 2015 and the challenges and opportunities they foresee in the coming year.
1. Scott Stern, Red Stripe Strategy: The whole definition of marketing in most people’s minds is going to change – if not in 2015, then within the next 5 years. Right now, when people think of marketing, they think of the traditional tactics like TV commercials, print ads, direct mail, etc., with online marketing as just a newer, secondary tactic. I think that’s going to flip. We aren’t going to have to use descriptive modifiers like “inbound” marketing or “content” marketing anymore. Those concepts will just be normal marketing. We’ll use modifiers like “traditional marketing” or “outbound marketing” or “mass marketing” to describe those classic tactics. That’s not to say any of those traditional tactics will go away; they’ll just be seen as the supporting methods instead of the primary ones.
2. Shirley Tan, Ecommerce Systems: There is no “one size fits all” in Marketing. Businesses have to more strategic in their marketing messages and methodology. While email is still the most cost effective, relevant and personalize messaging is the key if a business wants real user engagement. For 2015, big brands have move towards marketing automation, the small and mid-size business have to keep up or get left behind, but their secret weapon have to be focus on personalize messaging to different target audience.
3. David C. Smith, Valens Point LLC: Customer Experience will be the critical element that separates highly successful businesses from the others in their markets. Small businesses that choreograph the customer’s experience using a purposeful roadmap, for example, the Duct Tape Marketing Hourglass™, will provide better communications and support to their customers. Exceptional Customer Experience will help them establish deeper customer engagement and also positively impact their revenue and profitability by reducing customer churn, increasing the potential for repeat purchases, and improving the percentage of customers gained via referral. Content, context, competency, and courtesy will provide the material for building exceptional customers experiences.
4. Justin Sturges, Systemadik: Small business owners will start to understand that marketing and lead generation is not a “bolt on” element to their business, but that it is the core of their business. When you build your business around a solid marketing strategy based on your strengths, your ideal customers and your core difference; all the other marketing tactics get easier, less costly and more efficient. If a small business owner builds this type of marketing strategy into the very fabric of their business, then referrals and word of mouth will be stress free and in abundance. When you add a solid marketing and lead generation system to this, you will overwhelm your business with ideal high paying customers. To be successful at this though, business owners need to challenge themselves to turn their understanding of marketing completely inside out. I believe 2015 is the year that small business owners will begin to “get” this new marketing reality and start seeking out those who can help them do just this.
5. Neil Richmund, Strategix Marketing: Converting words into pictures will become more and more important as 2015 unrolls itself. Yes, a picture is worth 1000 words, but in the world of marketing and especially search engine optimization, 1000 words has always trumped a picture – hands down. Although that may not change as far as getting found online is concerned, too many words can equal no engagement. Engagement with prospects is key to marketing success; therefore turning your data into visual capsules of your content could mean the difference between growth and stagnation.
6. Bill Doer, SellMore Marketing LLC: There will be a revival of more personal marketing activities that build relationships using periodic phone calls, handwritten notes, and personalized touches that are highly effective at differentiating personal service providers.
7. Mark Fortune, Fortune Marketing Inc. : In 2015 small business owners will take more ownership of their marketing efforts instead of just hoping that new business comes their way. Many of the ways to reach your ideal target market are currently too disjointed and technically complicated for stressed-out small business owners to use effectively. But that is changing and it is changing quickly as providers, consultants and coaches develop ways to help small local businesses take full advantage of their inherent strengths. Local businesses know the market more personally, can connect with customers more easily and can build relationships more seamlessly than any faceless corporation hiding behind 800 numbers and email addresses. 2015 is the year small businesses begin to use these advantages best through the correct marketing channels instead of just giving up in a mass of confusion or an assumption that new marketing channels are too complicated or expensive for a small business to use.
8. Josh Currier, Currier Marketing: We’ve gone a number of years where many small businesses made little or no direct investment in their marketing as they hoped social media and, what amounted to be short-term solutions, would bring a flow of customers who were ready to buy. That may have worked for a little while, but that opportunity is gone. Business owners are waking up to the fact that marketing is paramount to their survival and a requirement that can no longer be ignored. Competition is about to get fierce in many industries, and there will be a renewed focus on lead generation, sales, and relationship management. Companies that seize the opportunity to market aggressively will reap the benefits this year.
9. Kelly Weppler, WH & Associates: By now, you’ve all seen the data and recognize the value of content—for gaining thought-leadership, for SEO, and for establishing trust and credibility. Most content today, however, is written for demand generation and is appropriate for those in the buying process. Very little content and budget is spent on generating loyalty and retention across the existing client base. And this is the kind of content that helps you keep the customers you already have, reaffirm their decision to buy from you, and position you for a cross-sell or up-sell. Equally important—these are the folks who can act as influencers and evangelists to help you build awareness among those who’ve never heard of you, generate referrals, and close new business. Whether its information reminding clients how to get the most out of the products and services they’ve already bought or educating them about new tools and trends, you need to be creating a certain amount of content focused on generating client loyalty and retention. Your competition will always be knocking at the door. It’s much more cost effective to keep the clients you already have.
10. Kevin Langdon, Crywolf Marketing: 2015 will see a continuation of the adoption of content marketing across all industries. This will provide opportunities and challenges for online marketers.
As everyone strives to deliver “useful information” to their customers there will be an increasing amount of overload for consumers who will find themselves deluged with content from everyone they do business with. (I just received tips on digital marketing from the parking lot I used once near LAX). To cut through the noise successful marketers will have to do one or both of these things:
- Be increasingly more specific in their targeting so that their content is actually relevant and wanted by their prospects and customers;
- Express a unique and engaging personality in their content and marketing.
When everyone is saying the same thing in the same way, creative marketers can stand out by making their content better and more relevant and delivering it in a more entertaining and memorable way.
There you have it, ten bold predictions for 2015 from a diverse group of small business marketing experts.