Marketing has always been a tricky matter for small and medium-sized businesses, but has evolved relatively quickly since the advent of the Internet and subsequent increase in the number of firms competing through the Web. At the same time, traditional forms of brand management including product packaging, physical ads and customer relationship optimization are still just as important as online components, meaning entrepreneurs need to balance their campaigns across channels and mediums.
One of the main themes driving the evolution of marketing has been technology, as consumers continue to purchase and use a wider range of gadgets for their shopping activities, and businesses have a larger variety of solutions to help them capitalize. Last January, BrightLocal released the results of its SMB Internet Marketing Survey, and revealed that 37 percent of entrepreneurs were set to expand their advertising budgets specifically for Web-based campaigns.
What's more, the analysts found that small-business owners are seeing more value in Internet marketing campaigns, with 32 percent arguing that their strategies are proficient at converting new clientele. So long as entrepreneurs are leveraging the right solutions to handle the modern demands of marketing, maximize efficiency of spend and capture the greatest possible volume of prospective clientele's attention, the Web can be a highly advantageous environment to compete in.
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Because marketing is becoming more heavily rooted in technology, SMBs will need to ensure they are creating the right lines of communication and support between their ad teams and IT departments. Should the two segments of the business not see eye to eye or work together well, the chances of moving on timely opportunities will be inherently lower. As the years progress, the intertwining of marketing and IT departments will intensify, and now is the time to prepare.
Smoothing out relationships
Gartner recently urged companies to find ways to be more flexible in their IT-based marketing programs, working specifically toward the goal of creating a well-oiled machine that generates ads effectively. Unfortunately, the analysts stated that too few businesses are actually embracing the newfound synergy between IT and marketing, predicting that 75 percent of application leaders in organizations will not work toward speed and flexibility goals within the next two years.
At the same time, the researchers argued that roughly half of all social marketing app activities will involve IT in one form or another in 2018. This would be a dramatic rise from the estimated 30 percent frequency Gartner recorded in its latest research for this year.
"IT's increased involvement in social marketing application advisory and decision-making will result in the further contraction of the social marketing application market," Gartner Research Director Jenny Sussin explained. "This means the number of independent, social-only vendors will decline and leave customers with two options: social media suite offerings, or multichannel marketing solutions such as those supporting multichannel campaign management or marketing business intelligence. We are already seeing some of this today in the rapid consolidation of the social marketing application space."
By connecting IT and marketing leaders in a more organic and comprehensive fashion, SMBs will be doing themselves a big favor, with so many more technology-driven advertising trends expected to hit the private sector in the coming years. Without this sort of collaboration and teamwork between what once were two very different lines of business, advertisers are likely to struggle when working toward short-term, timely objectives.
"Marketing has always been an area focused on innovation and competitive differentiation, however, new technical forces for social, mobile, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) have opened up a plethora of new ideas and opportunities for marketers," Kimberly Collins, Gartner research vice president, asserted. "Speed and organizational agility of both business and IT departments are needed to test new ideas and innovations to keep pace with market changes. The pace at which IT delivers new solutions, or supports existing implementations, must be the same at which its partners in marketing operate."
Considering the fact that SMBs will tend to have smaller marketing and IT departments, these tasks might be a bit easier to achieve in the space when compared to the demands placed on larger enterprises. No matter what, though, entrepreneurs need to take a leadership position in getting their advertisers and technology professionals to work together in a progressive and unified fashion.
"New technologies are presenting opportunities to get modern marketing projects moving."
New technologies equal opportunity
Some of the passing fads that arose in the past five years or so might come back with a vengeance, namely localization. Back around 2010, many small businesses were focused on driving sales through local marketing campaigns, bringing passersby into stores and strengthening the overall image of Main Street in the process.
Although localization did not truly grow to a state of maturity, new technologies are going to present opportunities to get these projects moving once again, and more successfully, including the IoT. At the same time, more advanced analytics and business intelligence solutions are hitting the market today, which will give SMBs more accurate and timely insights so as to better inform decision-making for smaller or larger campaigns.
Localization and business intelligence are only two of the marketing trends that will be highly rooted in IT, and leaders need to understand how important it is to use every available option when competing in the saturated markets of the modern era. With the right marketing solutions, plenty of collaboration between advertising and IT departments, and a commitment to remaining current with the demands of today and the future, entrepreneurs can get more out of their branding budgets.
Cloud services can be invaluable in virtually all of these pursuits, as the technology will bolster collaborative power across the company while setting information up to be used for more advanced purposes.