About 50% of small businesses do not have a marketing plan, and this is a terrible call. In today's digital age, there’s more competition than ever. A local brick-and-mortar store is no longer competing only with other local businesses; it's competing with the entire internet. This is why it’s important to think about how to market your business.
Though word of mouth is a powerful thing, it isn’t everything. Nonetheless, a fair amount of small-business owners do little more than print some business cards, believing that a comprehensive marketing plan would take up too many resources, whether they’re bootstrapped for time or money. The truth is that a marketing strategy doesn’t have to be expensive; it just has to be smart. In a survey, a whopping 81% of small businesses reported that they experienced revenue growth in 2018 after investing 5% to 10% of their annual revenue in marketing.
In 2020, marketing strategies have gone mostly digital. The latest marketing trends don’t require a huge investment, but they do require some know-how.
Email Marketing Is Something Consumers Actually Want
Email content is one of the few platforms you can personalize to suit your target audience, and about 65% of marketers were already doing this in 2017. In 2020, it’s more prevalent than ever, but even if you don’t follow the personalized newsletter trend, an email list is still one of the most effective ways to target new customers and retain old ones.
According to one survey, 4.24% of visitors from email lists completed a sale versus 2.49% of visitors from search engines like Google and .59% of visitors from social media. Overall, email is about 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
Weirdly enough, email marketing and SEO are also closely linked. It’s no secret that search engines downrate websites with high bounce rates, but a newsletter lets you vaguely control the quality of potential customers who visit. If you’re referring your target demographic to your website via an email blast, they’re more likely to be engaged because they signed up to be there in the first place.
Using Shoppable Posts
The year 2020 has brought an uptick in shoppable e-commerce posts thanks to a newly added Instagram feature that puts products front and center, but the desire to buy online is nothing new. A whopping 72% of Instagram users have purchased a product on the app, and 70% of Pinterest users specifically use the app to find cool products. Basically, users look at social networks in the way we looked at malls in the 1990s: a place to hang out, have a conversation and maybe buy some things.
Shoppable posts are available in either your Instagram grid or via Instagram Stories, but in 2020, Stories are gearing up to be the more popular shareable option. Make sure you’re using a business account so you can track engagement and which types of posts hit with your target market.
Interactive Content and Personalization
Consumers are no longer just passively viewing ads. Modern users have gotten quite comfortable with ad blockers and commercial-free Netflix and Hulu. That’s not to say they reject all marketing efforts, but efforts do need to include them in the conversation. This is why personalized content and interactive ads are most effective in 2020.
The majority of buyers (91%) reported that they’re looking for more visual and interactive content, and 80% admitted they’d be more likely to do business with a company that offered them a personalized experience. Campaigns that include interaction:
- Stand out among boring, faceless ads
- Keep customers engaged and reduce bounce rates
- Are more shareable
- Foster brand awareness
Interaction doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, fast-food chain Wendy’s regularly roasts users on Twitter, which is indeed interactive and personalized (and hilarious). The campaign eventually made the brand go viral and was featured in articles on Buzzfeed and Bored Panda.
To a less-viral extent, e-commerce brand Fashion Nova raises brand awareness by reposting photos from consumers who tagged their posts with #novababe. This effectively functions as a word-of-mouth campaign where your consumers are doing free advertising.
Election-Year Marketing Is a Brand-New Beast
Marketing during an election year is absolutely nothing like marketing during any other time, and unfortunately, 2020 is an election year. This means you’re vying for attention among all the candidates and political-action committees that have billions of dollars to dump into campaign advertising. As a small business, you can’t possibly compete with spending, but you still have a shot if you plan your marketing efforts around the political climate. To get a leg up, you should:
- Avoid politically driven ads: The Federal Communications Commission has specific rules about these, and social networks like Twitter are already banning them. Facebook ads, on the other hand, are greatly scrutinizing political content, and posting fake news or sensational political information could get your Facebook Page down-ranked by the algorithm.
- Increase your marketing budget: During an election year, you’ll need extra funds to stand out among the billions of dollars of political ads. Political ad spending hit a new high in 2020.
- Fight news fatigue with unique content marketing: In order to drive attention away from the election cycle, you’ll need to adjust your content marketing plan to include high-quality content. For example, a coffee company blogging an in-depth deep dive into climate change as it relates to the coffee industry may stand out on a particular week where the issue of climate change is trending online. In this case, it’s OK to get political (as long as you practice search engine optimization within your blogs and it suits your overall brand message). Alternatively, people are also looking to escape with things like kitten memes and sarcasm.
Search Engine Marketing Isn’t a Blast From the Past
Yes, most people ignore pop-up and sidebar ads, but there’s one blast from the past that’s still kicking in 2020: search engine marketing. About 68 percent of all trackable website traffic comes from either organic or paid search engine marketing. So, which is the best option for your business?
Google largely dominates search engine marketing, and many small-business owners utilize their pay-per-click ads, which limit spending while boosting your position on the search engine. Spending can also be limited through Google’s latest Google Ads update, which allows for artificial-intelligence-drive smart bidding. There’s also pay-per-click shopping ads that place specific products front and center based on the keyword.
Content marketing — which largely aims to boost search engine ranking through search engine optimization — can provide lasting traffic, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Utilize marketing tools like Google Ads and Google Analytics to find meaningful keywords for your website’s content strategy and analyze whether or not your SEO strategy is effective. Google will rank you highest if it sees your brand as an authority on a specific keyword, so create meaningful, helpful, shareable content and use plenty of internal linking. If you’re unsure of how to get started, there are plenty of budget-friendly webinars that tell you everything you need to know.
Influencer Marketing Has Gone Beyond Instagram
Instagram users helped make influencer marketing a full-on craze, but the trend has gotten a little more thoughtful in 2020. Consumers want advertisements that feel genuine, and they’re no longer fooled by sponsored ads that are masked as genuine content. Everybody knows those influencers can’t possibly be using that much teeth whitener, or they’d have no enamel left. Instead, brands are letting influencers take the wheel and finding unique places to push their collaborations.
In 2020, influencer marketing has exploded with video content on social media platforms like IGTV, YouTube and Twitch and – shockingly – podcasts. A whopping 72% of people prefer to learn about products through video content instead of text, and 69% of listeners learn about new products and services through podcasts. This type of content is generally seen as more engaging and trustworthy.
Chatbots Rule Customer Service
Artificial intelligence has gotten good — really, really good. Though we’re not quite living in the drama "I, Robot," AI has become a really important part of online marketing in 2020. This is one of the few marketing tactics that focuses on a customer experience rather than an outright brand awareness campaign. One of the simplest ways to retain or gain consumers is to have an excellent customer service experience.
Chatbots are beneficial because they answer questions around the clock. They also act as an instant service with no annoying wait times. A major wait is a huge deterrent to busy consumers who just want to ask about a service before they spend their hard-earned cash. In 2020, it’s expected that chatbots rule 85% of customer service, and you can integrate this service with your Facebook Page or website.
Forget Fake News
"Fake news" has been a buzzword since President Trump took office in 2016, and it has only spiraled into consumer skepticism. The internet is absolutely full of fake stuff, from influencers disguising advertisements as genuine posts to deep fakes who are indistinguishable from the people they’re meant to portray to straight-up false facts being published in memes. This has led consumers to be extremely distrustful of mainstream media and brands alike.
By design, fake news has more virility. It appeals to consumer biases, generally has some sort of science (albeit bad science) included and sparks a conversation, but this is never a good thing for a brand even if it does have higher engagement than your average social media post. In 2020, you need to be extra careful to not use any unethical content marketing tactics that may read as fake news. Not only will Facebook punish your reach, but you’ll lose consumer trust.
To cut down on fake news (and avoid problems with the Federal Trade Commission), you should:
- Clearly mark all sponsored content: A whopping 82% of middle school students could not tell the difference between sponsored content and regular posts, so have any collaborations or sponsored content you create clearly labeled. The FTC does fine brands and the influencers with whom they work for not adequately disclosing sponsorships.
- Don’t make unverified health claims: This isn’t even legal. For example, the FTC fined Marketing Architects $2 million for promoting diet products with allegedly misleading claims. This behavior will also get you down-ranked on Facebook.
- Don’t have sneaky subscriptions: It’s become increasingly common for brands to trick users into signing up for monthly subscriptions that are near impossible to opt out of afterward. Rihanna’s brand Savage X Fenty recently came under fire for these kinds of marketing tactics, but it loses consumer loyalty and tarnishes brand trust. Even promoting pricing that’s only available to subscribers can be seen as misleading.
Keep Up on Emerging Marketing Trends
The marketing climate moves swiftly and always changes. To keep up on current trends and learn how to market your business in the most innovative ways, consider subscribing to Adweek. There are also a number of podcasts, like Call To Action, Social Media Marketing Podcast and Marketing Over Coffee, that can give you marketing tips while you’re commuting.
Consider following experienced marketers on Medium and LinkedIn or turning toward blog posts from existing social marketing technology, like Contently’s blog The Content Strategist.
- Search Engine Journal: 50% of Small Businesses Do Not Have a Marketing Plan
- Campaign Monitor: 6 Ways Email Marketing Can Boost SEO Results
- Campaign Monitor: How Effective Are Email Newsletters for Marketing a Business?
- ClearVoice: Can Content Marketing Help You Survive the Great Ad Displacement of the 2020 Elections?
- Buzzfeed: 15 Times The Wendy's Twitter Was The Most Savage
- Portent: What is PPC? Pay-Per-Click Explained
- Smart Insights: Search Engine Marketing Statistics 2020
- Single Grain: 9 Influencer Marketing Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2020
- Forbes: Top Marketing Trends for 2020
- Single Grain: 42 Digital Marketing Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2020
- Marketing Week: The Fake News Effect: What Does it Mean for Advertisers?
- FTC: Ad Agency to Pay $2 Million for Role in Deceptive Weight Loss and "Free" Offers
- CNBC: Rihanna's Lingerie Brand Accused of Deceptive Marketing by Ad Watchdog Group
- Bannerflow: Marketing with Fake News: A Dangerous Game
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.