Take it from me: small business digital marketing trends matter!
The Clever Catalyst was launched in July of 2019. If you’re keeping score at home, that means the first 6 months of our first year went off without a hitch; relatively of course but the first year in business is never easy. #SteepLearningCurve But the second half of our first year we had to weather a pandemic, an economic collapse and a global resurgence of the entirely necessary Black Lives Matter movement.
Why is this relevant? Well because when I pre planned this blog in January I meant to say something like trends change and we need to adjust and keep up lest we be forgotten.
Me to past self: Good thinking, Christi.
Past Me: I know, right?
The issue is not only was I a far more naive first time small business owner, than I am today (although still naive trust me) but I had no idea what fresh nightmares were waiting for me in 2020. Several of the blogs on my content calendar have been changed, augmented or replaced entirely. When it came to examine this blog, however, I thought it was the only one that perhaps became even more relevant than I had hoped.
We are living in a different world than we were last year. Small business owners and even big fat cat corporations are all navigating in unchartered waters. We’ve been screaming it on social media for months but it’s still true: If you’re still marketing like you did in 2019 you’re doing it wrong.
Here are the 5 Small Business Digital Marketing Trends that have either become infinitely more valuable than before or will prove to be the lifeline your small business needs when the seas get choppy this fall. And I’m no soothe sayer, but I’m betting they will.
Small Business Digital Marketing Trend #1: The NEW Social Media Marketing
Is it a new concept? Nope! Is it a new approach? Absolutely!
Once upon a time, in time long ago (2019), you needed to be present and active on social media. You needed to grow followings and increase your reach. You needed to educate the growing market of what you had to offer and why they should buy it from you. It was the time of capitalizing on platforms designed for recreation as a form of marketing. It was a time for selling on social.
This has changed a lot since the start of the year. Social media has become an even more essential tool in the small business marketer’s tool belt, but for a very different reason. Instead of reaching everyone and trying to sell yourself to the highest number of people, now the priorities have been shifted to connecting, responding and engaging with your existing customers.
Covid saw the rise of many people checking in and following their favorite brands. Many businesses are finding success in just showing up on social media. Businesses that didn’t have social media accounts are creating them. Businesses that are being affected by the pandemic are sharing the effects; sharing photos, stories and engaging with their clients and customers. Businesses that are experiencing disruptions in service or a change in policy are updating their customers with these updates to keep things moving smoothly- nothing does that like social media does. The need for self-promotion has waned a bit, as most consumers are eager to support their favorite small businesses. Now you just need to show up.
Another change in social media marketing has been the need to clarify your values. The Black Lives Matter movement and the growing outrage over animal cruelty, environmental degradation and the continued violation of basic human rights has made it a time for standing your ground. Consumers care about who they buy from right now. The desire to buy from small businesses has skyrocketed but so has the desire to buy from black owned businesses or LGBTQ+ friendly businesses or environmentally responsible businesses. It is not enough to just have values anymore. You have to become an advocate for those values.
Small Business Digital Marketing Trend #2: Being more Present
If you weren’t worried about your online presence before, now is the time to panic. In 2019 people went out and shopped, dined, and visited the same stores they always did. If they were feeling adventurous they might go for a stroll in a shopping center and find a new store. They might drive across town to try out the new boutique their friend told them about last week. They might be on vacation and window shopping. There were dozens of ways your potential customers found you naturally.
That time is gone, at least for now. People want to know where they are going before they leave the house. They need to know where the place is, they need to know if they are open, they need to know their mask policy and they need to know WHAT shop, store, cafe, etc they are visiting.
That usually happens the same way. “Hey Siri, what sushi restaurants are near me?” If you’re a sushi restaurant within walking distance to the person searching but you aren’t online, like really online, then you might as well be in the next state. In order to make a sale, you have to be found. That starts with showing up in search.
Small Business Digital Marketing Trend #3: Check your Branding
This trend won’t apply to every business, but it certainly applies to my favorite types, teeny, tiny micro businesses and solopreneurs. I am old enough to remember learning to write cover letters in school. I remember channeling my most professional voice and putting my best self forward. I remember using all the big words I knew and stretching the truth about my levels of experience. Why was I such a nerd? Well at the time that was how you were supposed to be.
My cover letter now, 12 years out of high school, would have made my (what on earth was that class called)’s teacher very upset with me. My tone is very casual. I use incomplete sentences, I end sentences with prepositions and I actively use puns in job interviews. You know what else? It works for me.
And I’m not alone. A lot of brands are finding a lot of traction by becoming more approachable. I’m sure you follow some small business owners that share stories on social media about their struggles and successes already. People like connecting with their brands. They like knowing the names and faces behind the brand. They like interacting with their brands.
This doesn’t mean you need to revamp your entire branding strategy. It does mean you can benefit from working in some more warmth. If your branding is too dry, if you don’t introduce yourself to your audience, if your company feels cold and unapproachable, your business will probably stay cold and unapproachable.
Small Business Digital Marketing Trend #4: Put Some Content into Your Marketing
Content marketing is marketing with content. Content is images, blogs, emails and/or anything you are creating to be marketed to a specific audience. This blog is content marketing. The comic strips within are content marketing. The social media posts that may or may not have driven you to read this blog are content marketing. If I sent out an email with a link to this blog it’s content marketing. If I record a how-to carve a pumpkin video, that is content marketing.
Why do you want content marketing? Simple, because it shares more information about your brand with the world. This blog may help a potential customer realize what makes us so special and decide to start a conversation. (Fingers crossed) This blog may be used as a reference for a small business owner hoping to keep up with the trends. (Also fingers crossed) This content will even serve as a well of potential social media posts, ad material and/or reference work to show in the future.
Content helps you stay relevant. It helps you define your brand, rather than letting others do it for you and it helps to establish your brand as the industry expert it is.
Small Business Digital Content Marketing Tip #5: Embracing your Small
There are no two ways around it, small businesses rock. I’m admittedly biased but I love the idea of the small, no-name start up taking on the world and changing the market. An entrepreneurial Cinderella if you will.
Similar to how being professional used to be the only way to be, being embarrassed of your size used to also be the unfortunate standard. People would say things like “It’s just a side business, it’s nothing too fancy.” Or “It’s not like I’m Jeff Bezos” or “Who cares to hear from me, I’m not a business I just sell all these handmade crafts to willing buyers.”
Well I got news for you honey! A side business, no matter how small is hella fancy! No body is Jeff Bezos, well except Jeff Bezos and I’m guessing what you lack in literal TRILLIONS of dollars, you more than make up for in spunk. And newsflash selling anything, even just your time to anyone who is paying for it makes you exactly and precisely a small business.
So instead of feeling ashamed of your modest size, embrace it. Not only are small businesses the coolest businesses BUT they are also very en vogue right now. Roll with it baby cakes.