Hottest Marketing Trends for Small Businesses

Kick-start your marketing efforts with some of the year’s best ideas and strategies for small businesses.

Consumers want to feel good about where they’re shopping.

Big-box stores are hardly in danger of extinction, but consumers are increasingly conscious of the types of businesses they patronize. They want to know about where the products come from and who produces them, plus the company’s mission and its charitable partnerships. The “shop small” trend, popularized in part by campaigns like American Express’ Small Business Saturday, can be a boon for your business. Focus your marketing efforts on showing what your business is all about and what sets you apart from your big corporate competitors, like personalized service or items from local artisans.

Social media engagement trumps popularity.

Having tons of fans and followers on social media sounds great, but what does it really mean? If likes aren’t translating into dollars spent, it doesn’t mean much. That’s why engagement gives you a more accurate sense of your popularity and reach. Pay attention to your social media posts: What gets the most traction? Do you notice any trends? Figure out what your online audience loves and cultivate that. Having an engaged niche audience is better than having a bunch of casual, disinterested followers. While you’re at it, rethink the social media platforms you’re on. Instead of spreading yourself (and your message) thin by posting everywhere, consider focusing your efforts on a few platforms where you have the most engagement.

Online booking is on the rise.

Customers might want to engage with businesses over social media, but that doesn’t mean they want to call and make appointments over the phone. If you own a salon, spa, or any other business that requires appointments, consider investing in an online booking system, like Square’s appointment scheduling software. People want the ease of scheduling or canceling bookings without having to call during business hours or wait on hold, and if your business doesn’t offer that, your customers might decide to take their business elsewhere.

Email quality is more important than quantity.

Getting your customers’ attention over email is more challenging than ever, especially with some Gmail users who relegate any marketing messages to their Promotions tab. The solution is not to overwhelm your subscribers with a barrage of email. Instead, be thoughtful about your messaging, and make it worthwhile for customers to open your email. Send special offers to select groups of your subscribers, plus email-only deals that you’re not also listing on social media or your website. If they know that they’re getting something special, shoppers are more likely to open your email — and less likely to unsubscribe.

Online storytelling is gaining popularity.

Along with understanding the supply chain and manufacturing process, customers are also interested in the story behind their favorite products and services. That’s where online storytelling comes in, which can include photos, videos, and other personal accounts. Try making a video of how one of your best-selling products is made, or post a photo timeline of how an item comes together, from the drawing board to the shelf. When customers understand the work that goes into what they’re buying, they’ll better understand the value (and price).

Personalization beats mass-market efforts.

Companies are moving away from a global focus to smaller, regional concentrations. This is something where small businesses have an advantage, because you’re already attuned to the needs and interests of your customers and community. Look at information like your sales data (who’s buying what and when), social media (what types of posts are prompting the most engagement), and email newsletter open rates (what’s getting customers’ attention) to get the full picture of your audience. Use this information to tailor more personalized messaging to shoppers.

Transparency is key.

As consumers become more discerning about where they spend their money, they’re increasingly interested in learning more about the entire supply chain. Companies like the online fashion retailer Everlane are promoting “radical transparency” in their supply and manufacturing process. Small businesses have a built-in advantage when it comes to transparency, because when you’re not a huge corporate entity, your processes and organizational structure should by definition be a lot more simple and straightforward. If you’re proud of where you source your products and how your manufacturing process works, share that with your customers.

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