3. Email Marketing: Focus on Mobile Optimized Messages
Email marketing also takes a lead from strengthening mobile numbers. This year, small businesses need to focus on optimizing all email communications for mobile subscribers.
"It's critical for small-to-midsize businesses to optimize email for mobile consumers—especially local customers," says Kara Trivunovic, vice president of marketing services at StrongMail. She suggests adding strategies like barcodes that can be scanned on mobile devices and putting mobile coupons in your marketing messages.
Email message content is also something to think about. Trivunovic compares mobile marketing messages to billboard advertising. "The message needs to be consumed in 8 seconds or less," she says. "On mobile the consumer will glance at the message and decide to open and read. The call to action (CTA) has to be engaging and clear."
Like HubShout's Stetzer, Trivunovic also stresses the importance of quality content. To stand out, she says you need to provide content your customers are looking for. "You can create top 10 lists or offer expert tips to give subscribers value-added content that provides guidance and makes your business a trusted advisor."
4. Personalize and Customize Ecommerce Marketing
Many small businesses offer some type of ecommerce component, and this year Doug Sternberg, executive vice president of client strategy for Dotcom Distribution, says personalization and customization are hot ecommerce-marketing trends for this year.
"We see a solid growth emerging in flash sales and subscription-based models," he says. "Customers seem to love daily deals and member-based programs."
While daily deals and flash sales have unique challenges, they are both tied to successful marketing campaigns to get word out about the program via all small business marketing channels.
Sternberg sees member-based programs (where the business curates products for personalized offers) growing in popularity. "You're creating a level of personalization that customers can't find elsewhere," he adds.
Another area of customization that small businesses should look closely at this year is branding and packaging. 2013 might be the year for many online retailers to say good-bye to plain brown shipping boxes.
"We're seeing more emphasis being put on selling your brand this year," says Sternberg. "The package you ship products in represents your brand, and more retailers are changing up packaging to reflect better branding."
Sternberg says that customers should feel like they're receiving a gift when the item arrives, and using customized packaging as part of your overall branding and marketing efforts is effective.
5. Social Advertising is Hot
Eddie Machaalani, co-CEO at Bigcommerce believes social advertising is a hot trend for 2013, especially for small business e-tailers. While many business owners are still trying to understand how best to deliver relevant content to customers via social media, they also want to engage with and reach new prospects.
"Advertising on Facebook and Twitter can be that missing link to an entirely new social audience," he says. "While the value of social advertising is still up for debate, it is tough to argue how it offers some of the best targeting available to business owners; especially when you take into account the amount of time U.S. consumers spend on social media channels every single day."
To craft the best social media marketing strategy, small businesses should first consider the target audience and keywords. "Also think about the length of a campaign and possibly do a test-run for a few days to keep close tabs on the effectiveness, and then invest accordingly," he adds.
For small business owners who want to get started with social advertising this year, Machaalani recommends they consider the size of the social user base, the ability for targeting, and brand compatibility. For example, Twitter has about 200 million monthly active users, while Facebook has more than 1 billion. So in terms of sheer volume, Facebook wins.
"Another advantage of Facebook ads is the rich data behind their targeting. Small business owners can target very specific audiences even on a small budget," said Machaalani.
"That being said, some brands are a better fit on Twitter—especially if your demographic tends to be more active there than on Facebook. It pays to do the legwork and find out where your potential customers spend their time and start there," he advises.
Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has been covering small business, electronic commerce and Internet technology for more than a decade. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.
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