1. Revving up reviews
Online reviews matter, but buying them is unethical. So people will be finding new ways to generate legitimate positive reviews. One example: Grade.us builds a “review funnel,” channeling customers from their experience with you directly to review sites via URLs and QR codes. You must make it easy for fans to play up your business’ name.
2. Visual appeal
Increasingly, marketing will help people think in pictures. “Infographics will dominate not only for social media marketing, but support graphics for editorial articles and press releases,” says Melih Oztalay, CEO of SmartFinds Internet Marketing. “These visual representations of knowledge present complex information to be easily consumed by the reader.”
3. Social scale-back
“After falling in love with all things social media, small business owners are cutting back, limiting their involvement to two or three tools, rethinking networking and introducing measures for their marketing efforts. Many have wasted precious time and money [on social media] in 2013 and now are looking to be more strategic and pragmatic about what’s working and what’s not for 2014,” says Donna Marie Thompson of Peak Profit Potential.
4. Local leverage
Micro-shopping will continue to build momentum in the coming year. “Small and local business will be hot: Shopping local and locally grown will become more popular. People are recognizing that when they shop locally, this keeps dollars local,” says Bill Corbett Jr., president of Corbett Public Relations. Business owners should be looking for ways to build up their home-grown credentials in all their marketing.
5. Return to roots
It will be the year for keeping it real. “Do what best fits your brand. I would never do video. I just don’t feel comfortable doing that, but I love print and radio interviews,” offers Dave Wakeman, principal of Wakeman Consulting Group. “Your marketing needs to reflect who you are and not what some ‘ninja’ or ‘guru’ is telling you that you have to do.”
6. Embrace the basics
The tried-and-true will still hold sway. “Some ‘old’ techniques like traditional direct mail are seeing a resurgence as online mailboxes become more and more full and traditional ‘snail mail boxes’ remain relatively empty,” says Linda Pophal of Strategic Communications LLC.
7. Reward the repeaters
Regulars are the life-blood of any business and as such should be rewarded for their year-in, year-out devotion. As small businesses look to hold their ground in a still-uncertain economy, the smart ones will be giving their regular customers discounts, special sales and invitation-only events to help keep them incentivized,” suggests David Rusenko, founder and CEO of Weebly.
“Brands are taking advantage of current news topics in the moment things happen and attaching news to their brand in some way to capitalize on the newsworthiness,” according to Melissa DiGianfilippo and Alexis Krisay, owners of Serendipit Consulting. “This can be done through relevant blog posts, social media sharable graphics or media opportunities.” Approach with caution: Not every event can be leveraged for PR purposes.
9. Making websites work
“According to research recently conducted by Peer 1 Hosting, 81 percent of online shoppers will not shop on a site that can’t deliver a faultless online shopping experience. Further, 65 percent say they’ve abandoned an online shopping cart because of website time-outs and slow page loads,” explains Robert Miggins, SVP business development at Peer 1 Hosting. The ever-growing emphasis on online contact will bring with it a marketing imperative to keep pages working seamlessly.
10. Instream advertising
“It works by pitching a format-appropriate message in the social portal of your choice. In the past it was only big business’ game, but more and more small businesses are jumping on board since it’s possible to set geo-targeted parameters very specifically and therefore pay substantially less than you would for a nationwide campaign,” says Daniel Zayets-Volshin, managing partner of WebsiteBoston.com. “The growth of instream advertising models is going to be one of the most fruitful marketing trends of 2014.” (How 3 Small Businesses Use Instagram for Marketing)
Mobile apps. Mobile messaging. Mobile advertising. Whatever your marketing strategy, make sure it fits on a phone or tablet. Do it strategically and thoughtfully—but do it. Smart phone = smart marketing.