Small business marketing trends for 2018

Every year, there’s more and more for us with a small business to think about. The last five years has seen a surge in the use of the internet and in particular the mobile phone. Everyone is online these days…I know that if I want to buy something, the first place I go is the internet. With this in mind, I’ve done some research on what is trending in 2017 and will continue into 2018 for marketing your small business.

Mobile phone

technology-2752109_640As more and more people rely on their mobiles for everything, from ordering fast food, the supermarket shop, to clothes, shoes and gifts, it makes sense to make sure that your small business is online and easy to find.

Most website visits are from a mobile and there are more searches being conducted on a mobile that anything else. Unfortunately research shows that there are many businesses out there that do not yet have an online presence…and do not think to include mobile phone marketing into their marketing plans. There are several ways to optimise a website for the mobile user and something to think about for 2018, if you haven’t already. You can ‘Google’ how to do this.

Content Marketing

seo-1447311_640Search engine optimization (SEO) continues to be important in order to ensure your business ranks highly in search engines, so it is easier for customers to find you. Content marketing is more important than ever – the Google search engine looks for new and original content for their ranking, so it’s vital to keep your website up to date, ensure that blogs are posted regularly with fresh and engaging articles. For example, customers love to hear a real-life story, so writing about how you have helped someone by solving a problem they had, is a great way to show that you care and value your customers, and it promotes trust and loyalty to your brand.

Video Marketing

technology-2608148_640You will have noticed how much more video you now see on your social media sites, especially on Facebook and Instagram. According to research conducted by livestream.com 80% of audiences would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog and 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts. This tells us a lot about where marketing is going in the future, customers are no longer happy with faceless marketing, they want to see real people giving them real information. So, it’s going to be very important in 2018 to incorporate video into your marketing strategies, whether it’s for a product launch, running a webinar or talking about product reviews or your services, it’s a fantastic opportunity that none of us can choose to ignore. You can use Facebook ads and YouTube to help you or just go ‘live’ on Facebook in real time. You may make some mistakes or stumble over a few words, but your customers will be able to relate to you much more easily.

Facebook ads

Facebook ads reach more than 1 billion viewers every month, so as a small business, you can’t afford not to try this out. You can use a Facebook ad to target your audience by age, mobile-phone-2398300_640demographic and gender. It’s not ridiculously expensive and has proved to be very worthwhile – definitely worth thinking about. Facebook has a great help centre, which can take you through this process, step by step.  Facebook asks you to choose the objective of your ad – why do you want to advertise on Facebook? You could choose to direct more traffic to your website, or to just make people aware of your brand. You can set a budget, choose who to target by age, gender, location etc. And you can see the stats of who looks at your ad. You can also choose to simply promote your business page.

This kind of targeted marketing is likely to become more and more popular, so why not give it a whirl?

Outsourcing work

Doing everything for yourself with your small business makes sense at the beginning, but as your business starts to grow, you have less time and it is always the marketing and advertising that suffers. Ultimately, this can lead to a decline in the focus of your business and a decline in sales.

Small businesses are starting to understand that it’s important to have a good marketing strategy and have someone that knows what they are doing to get the right messages out to potential customers. This often involves paying someone else, an expert in that field, to do it for you. Not only does this give you more time to concentrate on your products and services, but also means you have someone focussing 100% on marketing your business. You may have to pay out up front, but it will be worth it in the end, if you get the right person.

give-1545697_640If you can’t afford to use someone for all of your marketing, you could just outsource your blogs and get someone to write one or two a week for you – this will keep your business publishing new and fresh content, which will bring more customers to your website or highlight your brand…and it’s a much more affordable option.

It’s also worth seeing if you can get a well-known blogger interested in what you do – get them to review some of your products or offer a service for free and ask them to write a stunning review.

There are several ways to get help, but they do all come with a cost, some small and some not so small, so it is worth trying to factor in a budget for outsourcing as well as for advertising and promotion.

I hope that this article has been useful and that you have some new ideas to add to your marketing plan for 2018. Please feel free to contact me if you need any help with your marketing.

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Down-time, down tools and review!

Down-time, down tools and review!It’s September already and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly time seems to pass. When I was a kid and it was the summer holidays, they seemed to go on forever…nowadays the year seems to pass quicker than those summer holidays! Must be an age thing!

Well, when September arrives, I know that it’s time to kick myself up the rear end and take a good look at how the businesses that my partner and I have. For me it’s thinking about what I’ve done so far and how I can kick-start things for the rest of the year. If possible, it’s also good to have some down-time too. Unfortunately, as my partner’s business is hosting music events and gigging, he is still very busy – add into the mix that my son and his partner have just had their second child and my daughter is about to have her first, it looks like a holiday away together is very unlikely. I will be going over to see the new arrivals.

rear-mirror-2480510_640Anyway, I digress! Whilst I’m waiting for the second baby to arrive, I will be reviewing both our businesses. This time of year is perfect for doing this for everyone…you’re coming to the end of the summer season and, dare I say it, Christmas will be fast approaching, so now is the time to look at the business plan you did at the beginning of the year. If you’ve been very efficient, you may have already reviewed it once or twice already. So, are you on track to do the things you wanted to do? If not, what are the reasons? It could be that some of the goals you set yourself are too big, so you could cut some of them down into sizable and achievable chunks. Maybe the goals you set were too adventurous…in which case, you could put one or two on the back burner for next year…of course, you might just need to push yourself that little bit harder to achieve them. It’s totally up to you how you approach goals that have not yet been reached.

Take a look at what you have achieved and be proud! What went well and what didn’t go so well? Make notes of what to avoid next year.

head-1345064_640Now is also the time to plan for the rest of the year – what are you going to do on Social Media? What blogs are you planning to write? Make a list and try and stick to the schedule. Do you have any events coming up, such as networking events, markets, craft fayres etc? If you do, plan how you can be more efficient and get more sales or meet more people.

If you have website, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and look at it objectively. Is it easy to navigate? Can you find the ‘contact’ details? Are the terms and conditions up to date and easy to understand? Do all the links work? You could review your ‘About’ or ‘Home’ pages, update the information and add a new profile picture. If you sell products online, are all the products current? Are old products still showing…do they need to be deleted?

At this time of year, it’s a good idea to ask current customers for some feedback, so you have new recommendations in the run up to the end of the year.

Is there anything you’d like to do as a push leading up to Christmas, such as a competition or incentive for customers? Now is the time to plan this.

What are you competitors doing? Are they doing something you could use to improve your business?

puzzle-210784_640Finally, we all like to learn new things, so make sure you are up to date with the latest news and technology – is there a social media site you’d like to learn more about? There are lots of free courses online so take advantage of them and learn something new to help your company progress. If you don’t have time to do this or learn new things this year, put them into plan, so you add them into your business plan for next year.

If you have any useful hints or tips to help with reviewing your business, please let me know in the comments – I’d be interested to hear from you. Happy reviewing!

How Content Marketing can benefit your small business

How Content Marketing can benefit your small business

The Content Marketing Institute, which is an online resource for information on everything marketing related, defines content marketing as…

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action”

Stuart Miles (7)The key word here is ‘valuable’ content; content that will speak to your customers, content that they want and need, maybe information that solves a problem they have. In order to do this, you need to know your existing customers and research and get to know your prospective customers, so you can deliver that all important content. It may take some time to get it right, but when you do, you will have the opportunity to expand your business, build your reputation and ultimately be known as an expert in your field.

Once you can provide the right kind of content, it brings much more to your ‘table’.

More traffic to your website

If you can solve a problem that your customers have and write about it on your website, when potential customers search online for a solution, they will visit your site. Stuart Miles (6)Depending on what you do, that could lead to a sale or a request for your services…and they are likely to return to your site in future.

If you can find a way to tailor your content to your target customer’s needs and wants, they will trust you and you will get repeat business.

More sales

When a person finds a site they like, that speaks to them personally, or they feel that it speaks to them personally, they will return again and again. And if they are returning, they are more likely to turn into customers. As everything is online these days, we all turn to the internet if we want to buy something; I like to read about what I want to buy first and find out as much as I can about that product before I buy it. I am more likely to buy from a business that knows what they’re talking about and one that seems to know my needs.

Enhances your brand

It sounds a bit rude to say this, but it is fundamentally true – people are generally interested in themselves, in their likes and needs. This isn’t about being selfish, it’s human nature. When someone first looks at your website or interacts with your David Castillo Dominicibusiness, they are not in the least bit interested in your brand, no matter how hard you’ve worked on it. They are more interested in what you can do for them. If you provide something that makes their life easier, less stressful, and cost-effective and generally entertain them, they will then become interested in your brand as they will see it as something they relate to.

If you are consistently publishing new, unique content on your blog or website and then promoting it on social media, more people will get to see your name and start to relate to the things you write about. If they like what they see, they’re more likely to tell their friends and so your audience starts to grow and they become more aware of your brand.

Content marketing is cheaper than other forms of marketing

The title of this last section basically says it all. If you can research and write your content yourself, it is more economical as you’re not spending money on getting someone else to do it for you. You’ll also learn so much from the research you do, that you’ll find more content as you go.

Stuart Miles (5)When you publish your content on your blog or website, make sure that you promote it on every social media site that you have…with maybe a jig around of the title or introduction. You can also contribute to larger sites to get your name out there.

Finally, with content marketing, you are attracting customers to you because they’re interested in what you have to say…and ultimately they will come back again and again.

If you want to influence your audience to your way of thinking and to look at your products or services, you must provide them with something they want or need, be their solution, show them that you provide valuable content and that you value their custom.

 

Images courtesy of 1-3 ) Stuart Miles, 4) David Castillo Dominici 4) Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Find your niche and market, market, market

Find your niche and market, market, market

If you’re going to make a success of marketing your business, you need to hone in on what is the best niche for you to be in. What will sell well? What will make you the most money?

You might like everything you do, but in order to be a successful business, you need to be able to distinguish your brand from your competitors, find what you are really good at and establish yourself as a dominant leader in that area. Even the biggest names can’t be everything to everyone; there are always going to be those small groups of people who need a particular product or service not met by the bigger companies…which is where the small business can step in.

What are you good at? 

This first question is probably the most important. It’s not ‘what would you like to be good at?’ You need to be really honest with yourself – where do your talents really lie? VladoWhat skills do you have? What do you enjoy doing? Once you have decided what you are good at, make a list of your skills and talent in that area. For example, if you love knitting, crocheting and sewing, which one do you excel in?

Once you know which you are best at…let’s say knitting for example, then you need to look at what skills and talent you have. So, it might be knitting baby clothes, knitting adult clothes, knitting toys – put the things you enjoy making most at the top of the list and so on, down to the ones you least enjoy.

What do potential customers need from your list? 

This is where you need to do some research. Of the things you are best at making, what is popular? You can look on Etsy, eBay and Amazon – are the products you are good at making doing well? Make a list of the things people need from your list of what you do well…then look at these questions and do some research.

  • Do you solve a particular problem for customers?
  • Is your product(s) something that people will come back for time and time again? This is important for repeat business.
  • If there are other people selling the same as you, can you offer something unique that they don’t?
  • Who does your product appeal to? Can you expand that to include other groups? For example, if your product appeals to an older age group, can you make it more appealing to a younger audience. The bigger your product appeal, the more you will sell.

What will people pay for?

Now you know what is marketable, which do you think people will pay the most money for…put your products in order of price…from high to low. You now have your niche – your list of the products you like to make, that you’re good at making, that have a potential audience and that are sellable.

Market, market, market

Now you have your niche and know what is marketable, it’s time to actually market it. If Stuart Miles (3)you are a small business, marketing is all the more important as you won’t necessarily have a huge brand following, nor the money to spend on expensive and extensive advertising. So, what can you do to market your niche effectively and on a budget? I have written a couple of previous blogs about this; ‘How to promote your small business online’ and ‘Marketing your small business with little or no money’. Please take a look as you may pick up some great tips.

You should try to spend at least an hour a day promoting your business…and some things are much easier than others – here are some quick tips to help you market that all important product…

  • Always remember that YOU are your business. No matter what you do or where you are, everywhere is a business promotion opportunity. Your image largely reflects on your business. Although we all try not to, most of us do judge people on our first impression of them…so make sure that you always give a great first impression.
  • Always carry business cards as you never know who you might meet and if you don’t carry them, you could be missing an opportunity to get someone to contact you.
  • Can you leave flyers or business cards at places where your potential customers are likely to be…at the gym, hairdressers, beauty salon
  • Talk to people wherever you go – if you’re in the Doctor’s surgery waiting room, strike up a conversation with someone…too many of us sit in silence in these places…do you take your children to sport’s events? If you do, you’re likely to be hanging around with other parents…talk to them. There are always opportunities to strike up conversations and promote your business.
  • Attend networking events…again, this puts you in front of potential customers face to face…sell yourself and your business
  • Sponsor a local event or charity – or run a small event for charity in your own home or garden
  • Host a seminar or training event and share your skills – a great way to get your business name out there
  • Team up with someone who has a business that links to yours and promote each other’s business on social media sites and on your websites
  • Give your website/social media pages a facelift to keep it fresh

There are many other small ways you can promote your business and, as I said earlier, it doesn’t have to cost the earth – the most valuable thing you can invest in your business is your time.

How did you find your niche and how do you promote your business? I’d love to hear from you, so please get in touch.

Images courtesy of  1) (in title) – scottchan,  2) Vlado and 3) Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net