2014 Marketing Trends for Small Business

As 2013 winds down, we not only look backward to take stock of all that has happened, but also begin to look forward to the new year and all that awaits us. It’s a time to celebrate accomplishments, learn from mistakes, and set goals for 2014. You may already be done with the bulk of your business planning for next year. However, there’s still time to nail down a marketing strategy that will set you up for success. Here are 6 key trends to be thinking about as you develop your plan.

Trend 1: Visual Marketing

People in the social media industry have been talking about the merits of visual marketing for the past few years. In 2014, it’s primed to take center stage. If you’re not already incorporating images and videos into your social media channels and marketing campaigns, now is the time to try your hand at visual content.

Trend 2: Inbound Marketing

Historically, businesses have focused their marketing efforts on outbound marketing—that is, marketing efforts aimed at a large audience with the goal of converting a small percentage to paying customers. Examples of outbound techniques include advertising, trade show attendance, purchased email lists, and cold calling.

In recent years, marketing has been shifting away from a traditional outbound model to an inbound model, which focuses on helping your business get found by people already interested in your industry. This type of marketing aims to make your business visible on search engines, social media, blogs, and listings sites as you create and share compelling content for consumers to interact with.

In 2014, the shift away from outbound marketing to inbound will be even more pronounced. Make sure to budget for the time, personnel, and money needed to invest in developing solid inbound channels.

Trend 3: Mobile Marketing

In October, we discussed the growth in mobile device usage for local search and mistakes to avoid when developing mobile marketing campaigns. Numerous studies conducted in the past year all point to the importance of mobile search for local businesses. If you’re not already present on mobile, make sure to plan for it in 2014! (Pro tip: SinglePlatform can help you with this.)

Trend 4: Brand Authority

In today’s saturated market, it’s not enough to merely say that your business provides products or services worth using—it’s up to the business owner to prove their brand’s authority over time.

This process is not something that happens overnight. It involves investing in a number of areas, including messaging, service, and content. We’ll cover the specifics of how to build brand authority in another post later this month.

Trend 5: Personalization

In November, we covered a few different ways that you can personalize your communications. Personalization is hot right now, and will remain so in the new year. This ties in with the aforementioned inbound marketing and brand authority trends. Today’s consumers want to interact with businesses that are relevant, engaging, trustworthy, and include a human element in their business marketing.

Trend 6: Less Is More

Consumers deal with a growing amount of virtual noise every day. As a small business, you may be tempted to try and stand out from the crowd by being bigger, more extravagant, and flashier when it comes to marketing. But the success of campaigns from Apple, Google, and other major brands has shown that simplicity is often the best tactic when it comes to messaging.

The Bottom Line

There’s no secret formula when it comes to creating a successful marketing plan. However, it is important to incorporate current trends into your efforts to make sure your time, effort, and budget are spent wisely.

Have specific questions or exciting ideas when it comes to small business marketing? Share them in the comments!

[News] Square Gets Rid of Flat-Fee Payments

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Mobile Payment News] Square Gets Rid of Flat-fee Monthly Payment Option

News Source: The Wall Street Journal

Mobile payments company Square announced this week that it is eliminating its monthly flat-fee credit processing option for small businesses. All customers will now pay a per-swipe fee of 2.75%.

Previously, small businesses with transactions of $21,000 or less per month could choose to pay a monthly flat fee of $275 for the service.

Square stated that the change in payment options was prompted by customers who said the “caps and limits” of the flat fee were “inhibiting growth,” according to spokeswoman Lindsay Wiese.

Key Takeaway: Small businesses using Square may find it difficult to keep using the product with this change in pricing. However, Square’s decision isn’t too surprising—the majority of competitors in the payment processing space have historically only offered percentage-based fees. For smaller merchants, accepting credit payments from customers may still be a ways off. 

[Social Media News] Pinterest Adds New Place Pins

News Source: Read Write

Pinterest announced on Wednesday the introduction of a new type of rich pin called Place Pins. This pin type allows users to add Foursquare data to new or previously pinned images in order to tie them to a location. Users can add maps to their boards and add pins to specific locations.

Place Pins are the latest in a slew of rich pins developed for recipes, products, articles, and movies.

Key Takeaway: With this new Foursquare integration, it’s more important than ever for your small business to be present on both Pinterest and Foursquare. Make sure consumers can find you wherever they’re looking, and make it easy for them to share your business with others in a way that takes advantage of the latest social media features. Your business will reap the rewards in social word-of-mouth marketing.

[Social Media News] LinkedIn Adds Showcase Pages for Companies

News Source: TechCrunch

LinkedIn unveiled a new feature this week called Showcase Pages. This feature allows companies to create individual pages focused on a specific product or service, rather than having all of their items grouped together on the Products tab of their Company Page.

With this change, users now have the ability to follow specific Showcase Pages for products or services they’re interested in, rather than receiving all updates published by an entire company.

Companies can create up to 10 Showcase Pages. The feature comes at no extra cost, although the hope is that companies will pay to promote their new Showcase Pages with sponsored updates or ads on LinkedIn.

Key Takeaway: If your business has several products or services, this new Showcase Pages feature will help you provide more detailed information to prospective customers. It will also give you the ability to post updates for users interested in a particular product or service, allowing you to tailor communications to your LinkedIn followers in a more sophisticated way.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

4 Ways to Encourage Mobile Check-ins at Your Business

Getting people to check-in at your business on Foursquare, Facebook, and other location apps is a great way to get free exposure on social channels. But although local check-ins require very little effort, some customers require additional motivation to pull out their smartphones.
Here are 4 easy ways to encourage mobile check-ins:

1. Post Reminders

Sometimes, a simple reminder is all that’s required. Strategically place signs around your establishment with check-in information; you can even use QR codes to take visitors right to a specific check-in screen.

2. Plan a Unique Giveaway

If a simple reminder isn’t enough to spur customers to action, a unique incentive often can be. Reward check-ins with a free item, upgraded service, or other perk to get your visitors excited about sharing on social.

3. Offer Special Discounts

A one-time giveaway can encourage initial check-ins, but ongoing benefits will keep your visitors engaged long-term. A more structured loyalty program for customers who check in on a regular basis can also help boost your social buzz.

4. Use Check-ins for Charity

Not all incentives need to be in service of personal gain. Partnering with a charity can have a positive impact on your company’s reputation and also help spread the word about your business. You can donate a fixed amount per check-in, or offer your products or services to a charity for free. Customers will feel good about helping you serve the community—and you’ll feel good about the extra social media exposure.

The Bottom Line

Check-ins are an easy way to increase brand awareness and foster loyalty from your customers. With a few simple motivators, your customers will go from lukewarm to fired-up about checking in at your business.

Mobile Marketing: 4 Mistakes to Avoid

With so much buzz about the importance of making your business visible on mobile, you may be tempted to put all of your marketing eggs into the mobile basket. While there are definite advantages to mobile marketing, there are also a number of pitfalls that can hinder the success of your campaigns.
Here are 4 basic mobile marketing mistakes to avoid:

1. Running a Mobile Campaign Without a Mobile-Friendly Website

If your campaign links back to your company website, you’re bound to lose out on conversions if your site isn’t optimized for mobile. Get your mobile site in shape before investing in related marketing.

2. Repurposing Existing Creative for Mobile Campaigns

Mobile ad units have a different set of design needs than other digital or print creatives. You may be tempted to modify existing marketing collateral to save costs on mobile campaigns—but it will cost you in the long run if a poorly-executed concept leads to diminished returns.

3. Failing to Provide Unique, Valuable Content

Is your mobile marketing campaign built around a special offer, discount, or piece of content not available elsewhere? If not, your audience may not be motivated to connect with you. Be creative: Consider how you can use the mobile channel to your best advantage. A high-value offering will contribute to high-value results.

4. Not Tying Discounts to In-Person Visits

Getting someone to visit your establishment is a big step, but it doesn’t guarantee that they’ll ultimately make a purchase. Encouraging onsite conversions with offers tied to check-ins on location-based apps or QR codes placed exclusively in your store can help you make sales and also generate social activity around your business—a definite win-win.

The Bottom Line

If you’re going to invest in mobile marketing, be sure to optimize your content and offers to make the most of the medium.

Building a Mobile Website? Avoid These 5 Mistakes

Creating and maintaining a mobile website is an essential part of marketing your business in today’s mobile-centric world. But not all mobile sites are created equal.
Here are 5 mistakes to avoid when building your business’s mobile website:

1. An Unprofessional or Dated Design

You may be tempted to cut costs by using a less experienced designer or not refreshing your design on a regular basis. But nothing will turn viewers away faster than a page that looks bad. Invest in a good designer and make sure to periodically refresh your styling to stay current.

2. Slow Page Loads

Mobile users have a very low tolerance for slow performance. Make sure that your site doesn’t contain any unnecessary content or features that will negatively impact load time.

2. Complex Navigation

On a smaller phone or tablet screen, simplicity is essential for a good user experience. Make sure your navigation is organized, streamlined, and easy to use so that viewers can get where they want to go.

3. Too Much Content

Likewise, cramming too much content on a page requires tedious scrolling and careful reading—the last thing a mobile user wants. Keep your pages readable by providing just the basics. If you’re working with a responsive site, consider breaking up larger chunks of content into separate pages to improve your readers’ mobile experience.

4. A Confusing Conversion Pathway

If you’re an online retailer, your ultimate goal is for site visitors make a purchase. But if your mobile e-commerce pathway is confusing, difficult to navigate, or involves too many steps, people may abandon your site. Keep the checkout process as simple as possible to capitalize on mobile customers’ tendency to make a quick purchase decision.

The Bottom Line

Invest in a well-built, visually appealing site and keep things simple, and your business will be ready for mobile primetime.

5 Reasons Your Business Should be Present on Mobile

Last week, you learned how mobile search can help you connect with new customers. But you may still be feeling skeptical about the value of mobile. After all, it’s no small commitment to manage your business listings, maintain a mobile-friendly site, and create marketing campaigns with mobile in mind.
So why should you set aside the time, money, and resources needed to invest in mobile? Here are 5 compelling reasons:

1. 55% of All Adult Smartphone Owners Surf the Web on Mobile

At the end of 2011, 93.1 million consumers owned a smartphone. If over half of them perform online searches on their mobile device, that’s an audience of more than 51 million potential customers—definitely worth going after.

2. 77% of Mobile Searches Happen at Home or Work

People are increasingly likely to research local businesses on mobile, even if there’s a PC available. And on-the-go searches are a growing part of the mobile search equation. Having up-to-date listings and a mobile-friendly website will ensure than potential customers can find you wherever they happen to be, whenever they happen to be looking. 

3. 75% of Mobile Searches Trigger Follow-up Actions

The majority of consumers who perform a search on mobile will go on to take further action, whether it’s calling a retailer, visiting a store, making a purchase, or sharing information about a business. If people can find you easily on mobile, they’ll be highly motivated to engage with you.

4. 63% of Mobile Searchers Act within 1 hour of Initial Search

Not only do a high percentage of mobile searchers follow up with businesses—they also do so quickly. And the more quickly consumers take action, the more likely they are to follow through, which is great news for your business.

5. 55% of Mobile Conversions Occur within 1 hour of Initial Search

Consumers who find your business on mobile are primed to make a purchase shortly after they discover you. 81% of mobile conversions happen within 5 hours of search; of that segment, 55% occur within an hour.

The Bottom Line

Mobile is an important mode of search for consumers, helping them find and act on information quickly. With the number of mobile web users growing each year, it’s worth the investment to make sure your business is putting its best foot forward in the mobile space.

Looking for New Customers? They’re Looking for You on Mobile

Whether you’re a smartphone junkie glued to your screen 24/7 or a reluctant cellphone user, the reality is that mobile devices are an essential part of 21st-century life. But are you taking advantage of this fact in marketing your small business?

SinglePlatform’s newest brief, “How Mobile Search Can Help You Find Your Next Great Customer,” highlights the importance of being present in the mobile space. A few key takeaways include:

Consumers Are Using Mobile Search to Make Decisions

According to current research, 75% of mobile searches are conducted to get real-time, location-based information, and 45% of mobile searches are goal-oriented. Consumers are increasingly turning to their mobile devices to make decisions about which businesses to visit and which products to buy.

How can you capitalize on this widespread shift toward mobile search? Make sure your information is available and up-to-date on mobile.

Accurate, Detailed Business Listings Are a Must

The first step is to take control of your listings on search engines, map services, online directories, social media, and mobile apps. You can find and update your listings manually, or partner with a company like SinglePlatform to mange all your listings in one place.

Mobile-Friendly Websites and Apps Can Help You Secure Business

The second step is to invest in a mobile-friendly website or app for your business. There’s nothing more frustrating for a potential customer than visiting a site that’s hard to navigate and view. Check your current site to make sure you can easily get to (and read) key information such as store hours, location, and product listings. And if you don’t have a mobile site—consider investing in one.

Mobile Services Trigger Quick Actions

Customers who find businesses on mobile act quickly. Within an hour of search, 56% call a business, 54% make a purchase, and 51% visit a store. You don’t want to miss out on this kind of customer engagement.

The Bottom Line

If you’re investing in your business’s mobile presence, you’re already on the path to success for reaching new customers. If you’re not, there’s no better time than the present to get started.

Want more information on how to make the most of mobile search for your business? Download the full brief now.