One of my favourite parts about a new year is that it gives us all a chance to simultaneously look forward and back. As 2014 gets underway, I wanted to share my own musings about what we can expect in small business marketing trends over the next several months.
1. New software will simplify marketing for small businesses.
As a small business owner, your abilities to professionally run and execute marketing programs are limited by time, expertise, and budget. However, 2014 will usher in a new era in small business marketing software that focuses on simplicity. The second generation of online marketing tools will become increasingly user friendly, appealing directly to small businesses.
While traditional marketing software designed for agencies and bigger businesses continues to add complexity and layers, scaled versions of this software will make marketing management a simple process for smaller outfits. These new products will help bring organisations into the modern marketing era with as little fuss as possible. For example, you will see products that remove the need to log into several different systems like a CRM (customer relationship management), ecommerce, financial, and social media just to get one campaign live!
2. The use of ‘live chat’ as customer service will be widespread.
When shopping in real life, sales staff is always around to help out, advise and direct customers to their desired items. Now this kind of instant customer service is easily and effectively available online, and the use of live chat will finally become widespread.
Live chat solutions have matured, and consumers are much more accustomed to the instant feedback and information they provide, which is why this is something I am now consistently recommending to my clients. Plus, I can tell you from experience that results are almost immediate and overwhelmingly positive!
3. Pay-per-click will get increasingly expensive.
The cost for pay-per-click — which translates to phone calls or email enquiries from potential customers — is steadily rising, and this trend will continue in 2014. Businesses need to plan now for sustainable alternatives. In fact, in order to retain a current ranking in search results, it isn’t unrealistic to think some categories or industries will end up paying double what they paid last year. It is important to consider what would happen to your profit margin if this price increase takes place in your industry. Have Plan B ready to go if it does.
4. Digital producers will expand their role.
Digital producers — experts who provide valuable content that can attract customers — might not be so new, but you will see their job role open up in new ways in 2014. There are so many varied channels like video, social media, and blogging to keep on top of, and digital producers create powerful content for these channels. Yet, a digital producer remains a master at the technologies behind them all as well. Also called a marketing technologist, this is the type of person who can think strategically about business goals, create compelling content to reach those objectives and make it work in an integrated way across a number of platforms.