Entrepreneurs have faced a sharp learning curve when it comes to modern brand management and marketing, as so many trends have surfaced and gained traction in a relatively short period of time. Online marketing for small business can be characterized as a double-edged sword, as the Web has certainly helped level the playing field between younger companies and more established ones, but the tactics involved can be a bit more complex than one might think.
In 2015, some of the more prominent movements in advertising stabilized a bit, with best practices being established and better-understood among the individuals responsible for marketing, and not changing all that much compared to previous years. This year, entrepreneurs should be working to strike the right chords within their marketing programs to ensure that they are reaching the maximum number of prospects, while brand management should also target higher retention rates.
At the end of the day, the best way to go about this is understand what is taking place in the small-business advertising space, get the basics right from a strategic standpoint, and then begin to innovate once the initiative has a strong foundation. Figuring out which types of platforms and techniques will work best for the specific market the company competes within can help maintain the focus and efficiency of corporate spending in the coming months.
If you want a quick rundown of some of the more common mistakes you will need to avoid in your marketing program, check out this video from Amy Schmittauer that focuses on email advertising:
Now, let's take a look at some expert suggestions and trends that are taking shape to guide you through the planning process, beginning with the broader matters that need to be ironed out as soon as possible.
Forbes contributor Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle recently published a blog post that broke down a few of the more important steps entrepreneurs should be taking to boost their brand images in 2016. The author began by suggesting small-business owners get out to events that bring together experts on advertising either in their specific marketplaces or for the entrepreneurial community at large, and garner concepts from these experiences.
She also asserted that data collection and analysis should be priorities this year, and this connects back to the trend of analytics-driven marketing that has been building for years now. The most intelligent and guided marketing programs will tend to come back with the highest returns on investment and leveraging big data can propel entrepreneurs into the upper echelons of their respective industries.
Furthermore, Leinbach-Reyhle noted that omni-channel advertising is sure to be a bit more complex and prevalent in 2016, and the time is now to get moving on projects that connect the various platforms in use. In that same vein, omni-channel success will depend upon tight advertising practices and performances in each category.
Get real with content
Content marketing has become a foundation of sorts for all other channels, as virtually all ads will work to direct the audience back to different forms of branded writing. Small Business Trends recently offered several recommendations with respect to the creation of consistent, successful content for entrepreneurs, asserting that consistency of distribution is far more important than the volume of posts.
"Drawing up a marketing schedule can help with content advertising."
According to the news provider, drawing up a schedule and sticking to it can be helpful, but these calendars should be reasonable in terms of the capacity the company has for content creation. For example, if five blog posts a week seems ideal but not feasible, entrepreneurs should instead lower the count to ensure that they are not falling off track.
There will need to be a certain level of flexibility built into these strategies as well, especially when planning for a long period of time. The source stated that requesting and analyzing feedback from the audience can help to strengthen the content marketing program consistently over time, and this is where the agility factor will come in handy.
Mobile gains traction
Mobile Marketing Watch recently reported that attendees of the National Retail Federation's BIG Show Expo discussed some of the ways in which mobility is transforming the best practices of advertising and creating more opportunities.
"Mobile is a game-changer in the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, but it must be executed in a tailored, personalized way that gives consumers an extra incentive for making a purchase onsite," StepsAway Chief Executive Officer Allan Haims explained at the event, according to the source. "Going beyond traditional in-store promotional signage, text messages and email campaigns is necessary to fully engage with consumers on a hyperlocal level when they are in the midst of shopping in real time."
Small-business owners have likely heard about the localization trend that has been firmly attached to mobile marketing, and should consider embracing the tools involved soon. It took a little while for this to catch on, but localized mobile marketing can be a boon to revenues, especially when the firm is targeting individuals near its brick-and-mortar locations.
What about money?
Business 2 Community contributor Rachel Anderson recently provided some insights into the best practices of budgeting for entrepreneurs, affirming that analysis and tracking are critical in these matters. When small-business owners fail to create a strong plan to measure the impact of their marketing efforts before they are launched, they will essentially be flying blind and in the dark regarding the actual value of these pursuits.
In terms of raw dollar amounts, Anderson argued that the intensity of competition and age of the business will come into play when drawing up a budget. She stated that firms that have just started will need to allocate roughly 12 to 20 percent of their revenues to advertising, while those that have been around for more than five years will be looking at 6 to 12 percent.
Because this can translate to tens of thousands of dollars, careful analysis of spend versus return will be critical in 2016, and the right marketing tools can assist with these requirements.