The year 2012 will prove big for small businesses that embrace a mix of both new and traditional marketing strategies. Social media still remains a large part of business success as does content, authenticity and the ability to take risks. How will small businesses fare in the coming year? What marketing trends will move small businesses to the next level?
Here are my predictions for the driving forces that could make or break the small business game in 2012:
The Social Media Divide
Businesses who have already embraced social media and are using it well already have a leg up in 2012. The social media party is an open invitation and those who choose to RSVP sooner, rather than later, will see increases in everything from sales to consumer loyalty and positive brand perception. Small businesses that utilize social media will move far past those that do not. Social media is not new anymore. Now, customers are looking to businesses to offer solutions to pressing needs, problems and desires. Businesses that rise to the top in 2012 will not be the ones looking at what they can gain from their online communities but rather, how they can prove they are focused on helping their customers fulfill a need.
Content Remains King
Businesses that take time to find out what their customers want—and provide it—will win over those that don’t. Content remains king in 2012 and those with purchasing power will have no problem looking elsewhere if they don’t find it where they need it. Businesses who are vigilant in providing consistent, timely and unique content across multiple mediums will thrive over businesses still struggling to come up with a content plan. It’s not enough to just blog anymore. Updated social media posts won’t cut it alone. Uniqueness will shine through and consistency is of utmost importance in 2012.
You won’t hear “there should be an app for that” much in 2012 because most likely, there already is one (or someone is working on it). Small businesses that embrace mobile applications, mobile marketing and content customized for mobile viewing (think mobile-friendly websites and landing pages) will win out in 2012. More, now than ever, customers are on the go and getting their content through their mobile devices. In fact, Gartner Inc. predicted that by the end of this year, the number one way consumers will interact on the Internet will be through tablets and smartphones. If the first part of 2012 is spent optimizing current content for easy mobile access, the second part should be strategizing additional mobile tactics such as geolocation, brand-specific apps or mobile purchasing opportunities.
Businesses that step out of their boxed-in-traditional-media concepts (think print ads, coupons and direct mail pieces) and embrace well-rounded campaigns that include engaging content and social media are the ones to watch in 2012. Because social media has lost a bit of its shiny allure, small businesses will need to focus on strategic traditional marketing, coupled with online strategies, for a robust, integrated marketing package. Integration of marketing tools will prove big in 2012.
Risk is Worth it
Businesses that move past “we can’t afford that” and decide to invest in their people and products will move ahead in 2012. Whether it’s addition of staff, investing in solid branding and design, or stepping on to the social media scene, small businesses that choose to put it all on the line, so to speak, will see dividends multiply as they soar past their competition. Big risk will reap big rewards.
Other Predictions to Note
On an organizational scale, savvy businesses in 2012 will come to appreciate the need for content specialists, social media strategists and chief content officers. Strategies will be developed that center around customer engagement and customer service. The notion of typical “nine-to-five” responses and requests will be replaced with real-time engagement.
Authentic voice will also rise to a new level in 2012. Businesses that move out from behind corporate speak and show real personality will win the hearts of customers. This will also be true for businesses that embrace non-traditional work schedules, telecommuting and flexible schedules for employees. It makes perfect sense as the need for 24/7 monitoring and communication with customers becomes more prevalent.
So there you have it—my predictions for small business marketing in 2012. How will you choose to dive in and make in impact this year?
Melissa Harrison is CEO of Allée, a marketing and PR company in Albertville. She is also the author of the e-book “Stop Selling: A Content Marketing Guide.” Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook or email.