The holiday period is finally coming to an end and we are now firmly in the grasp of a new year. And with every new year comes new opportunities and new challenges. Now is a great time to think about how your business will make the best of 2018 and to help you, we’ve put together a list of new year’s resolutions you should incorporate into your business strategy.
Learn about the Internet of Things and Machine Learning
During 2017, these two terms became major buzzwords in the business industry. Although these technologies have not yet been developed to its full potential it is expected that it would have a major impact on the way we live, work and communicate with each other. But what exactly is this technology?
The Internet of Things (or IoT for short) refers to the way in which all our devices are becoming connected to the internet and with each other. Think, for example, about your FitBit device that tracks your physical activities and wirelessly syncs with computers and smartphones to transmit your data in understandable results.
Way back in 1959, Arthur Samuel started proposing the idea of giving computers the ability to learn without explicitly being programmed. This has become known as Machine Learning (or ML). By connecting them to the internet, these machines have access to a vast library of data that helps them analyse even complex data and make certain decisions based on the results.
Both IoT and ML will have a major impact on the data we collect about our customers, buying behaviour, website use, etc., as well as how that data is analysed and the information it will provide. As a business, you would need to prepare yourself for the number of opportunities that IoT and ML will present and make a strategic decision as to how you will make use of these opportunities. Another important consideration would be securing all your connected devices and protecting the data you collect on your customers.
Apply the Pareto Principle to your marketing efforts
The Pareto Principle is a common business principle that can be applied in many ways in the business world. For example, it was found that 80% of a company’s sales normally come from 20% of its clients. In terms of Content Marketing, make it your goal this year to create 80% content that is engaging, relevant and helpful and only 20% that is directly promotional.
Why? As a society we have become wary of the sales pitch. Just think about how many times you have skipped over the magazine article that is indicated as a promotional piece. Or how many times you fast forwarded past the television ads on your PVR.
People are far more willing to listen to what you have to say if it is relevant to their current situation or helps them solve a problem or gain a better understanding of a topic. Don’t be tempted to always blast your audience with ‘me-me-me’ content. Rather make the focus of your content about them.
Competing with big brands can be hard for smaller businesses, particularly when it comes to marketing. And competing in terms of content marketing becomes increasingly difficult every year as more brands realise just how effective content is in reaching customers. The good news for small and medium businesses is that you don’t have to compete on a national level. As a local business, you have the advantage of targeting your content geographically. In addition, you would have better insight into what resonates with the local market and what type of content would be relevant to them.
That means posting more local content in the form of blog posts, infographics, videos, anything that targets a specific geographic area.
In a recent study, Google found that 76% of smartphone local searches end up with a store visit. Not only that, but according to Moz, the quantity of inbound links to your website from locally relevant domains is a significant ranking factor. In 2017, ‘Proximity of Address to the Point of Search’ overtook the usual suspects for number one ranking factor, indicating the importance search engines give to local relevance.
So, in 2018 focus on creating more local content and work on getting more inbound links from locally relevant domains. Also make use of Facebook Advertising features to target your ideal customers in a specific location. You can also use Facebook pixel to help drive your Facebook ads. The pixel is a piece of code you place on the backend of your website to help track visitors to your site and allows you to run highly targeted campaigns on Facebook.
“Marketing is becoming increasingly personal and this trend will keep going as we move into the new year. No longer will stock images, generic nurturing campaigns or impersonal call to action convince consumers. In order to succeed, you’ll have to provide high-value and personalised content every step of the way” (Harrison Doan, Director of Analytics at Saatva 20 Small Business Trends and Predictions for 2018.
In 2015, research company Gartner predicted that by 2018, companies that have “fully invested in all types of personalisation will outsell companies that have not by 20%” (Gartner). Personalisation in marketing is all about content that is tailored to appeal to individuals based on their needs and interests.
And it has direct benefits to your business too.
- It increases conversions. According to an article by Econsultancy, Co-operative Travel saw a 95% increase in conversions and 217% increase in revenue once it implemented personalisation on its website.
- It increases sales. According to MarketingProfs, companies using a personalised content marketing strategy saw an increase of 19% in their sales.
- It reduces bounce rates on your website because you have targeted the right people in the right way.
- It reduces costs, by reducing marketing waste.
- It improves customer retention.
In 2018, commit to getting more personalised in your marketing. You can do this by sending your existing customers personalised offers, tailored to their preferences and buying behaviour.
Get to know your customers
If you want to make the most of out of your local searches and personalisation strategies, you have to know your customer. Part of this is understanding the Buyer’s Journey and then crafting your marketing strategy to appeal to your ideal customer at each stage of their journey.
Buyers differ tremendously in terms of what content they are looking for, depending on the stage of the journey they are on. In the Awareness Stage, for example, they are looking for a solution to a problem, an answer to a question. At this stage of the journey they are not ready for the sales pitch or to close a deal. During the Consideration Stage, they have found the solution or the answer is only now deciding which option is best for them. This is where you want to nurture the lead and build a relationship of trust with them. It is only during the Decision Stage, where the buyer is ready to make a purchase decision. This is where they decide whether they are going to buy from you and where you need to make the right offer to get them to take that final conversion step.
I would add to the above journey the post-purchase group. Don’t forget to continue to engage with your existing customers to show your appreciation and to ensure that they keep coming back to your business.
Another way of getting to know your customers is to invest the time and effort into creating Buyer Personas. I know that this might seem like an academic exercise, but it is well worth it to ensure that you fully understand who your ideal customers are and how to best market to them.
A Buyer Persona is a fictional and generalised representation of your ideal customer based on validated commonalities. It takes into account aspects such as location, age, industry, gender, personal interests, job title, income group, job challenges, etc.
These exercises help you to better understand your target customer and therefore able to provide quality content that is highly targeted, relevant, engaging and personalised. It also helps your business create an effective and documented marketing strategy that is based on accurate data and reliable insights – a more proactive approach than the normal knee-jerk reaction to the market.
Invest in Video Marketing
Video consumption continues to grow year-on-year and at this stage it does not seem to be slowing down any time soon. According to a Cisco forecast, video will represent 80% of all consumer-based traffic by next year. In addition, Facebook receives 8 billion video views per day and has already launched it’s Facebook Watch – a platform that provides personalised recommendations of long-form live streams and original content. Even Quora has jumped on the video content bandwagon by introducing the ability to post video answers.
This year, it is expected that Live Video will become even more important. According to Cyberclick, about 13% of web traffic comes directly from live video. This format creates an intimacy, a feeling of being there, that is very appealing to audiences.
Make 2018 the year that your business fully embraces video in your marketing strategy:
- Create brand awareness by telling your company’s story
- Use Live Streaming to share breaking news, give a background tour or cover an event
- Create Product Explainers to show people how your products or services work
- Create Video Blogs to complement your written blogs
There are a number of ways in which to use video to attract and engage with customers. And the great news is that with today’s technology, video has become very affordable to any size businesses.
Diversify your content
“In 2018, I expect to see more diversification of content formats. More live streaming on social. More audio/podcasts. Alexa skills. Brands will continue to invest in content, as they have been over the last few years; but that investment will shift from mostly writing services and paid distribution/promotion to a whole host of services – production, more animation and video-related graphics, voice talent, etc. It’s no longer just about words – content is about creating experiences” (Amanda Todorovich, Content Marketing Director at Cleveland Clinic) – 20 Small Business Trends and Predictions for 2018.
This year, instead of focusing all your marketing effort on only print advertising, or your blog or video, look at ways in which you can diversify your content. Decide which channels would suit your brand or product the best and appeal to your ideal customers. This is where your Buyer Journey and Buyer Persona becomes critically important. If you have a clear picture of your various Buyer Personas, you can begin to think about what would appeal to them most in terms of content and distribution.
So, how can you start to diversify your content? Start with a strong base. SnapApp began their marketing strategy with a strong blog base. From here they can repurpose a lot of that information into video, podcasts, infographics, templates, etc. And the comments you receive on any of these channels would give you a unique insight into what customers would like to know more about, giving you even more ideas for future content.
But don’t feel you have to make use of every single content type. Rather identify two or three that will appeal most to your customers and would fit with your company brand. You can read more about how Content Marketing Agency Brafton increased their client’s organic leads by 94% in the Additional Resources section below.
Refresh your SEO strategy
The SEO game is never an easy one, and even less so for small businesses. Getting on the first page of Search Engine Results is a long and difficult journey for most companies. Here is where you Local SEO is going to make a big difference. We covered much of that in the previous section of this article, but here are some tips (courtesy of business2community.com):
- Get your business listed on local third-party directories and review sites
- Localise your content strategy
- Work location names into your anchor text, URLs, headings, etc.
Focus on your website speed. This will become even more important as an increasing number of people access website on their mobile phones. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting ages for a website to download and the effect is exacerbated when trying to do this over a mobile phone. Start by analysing your website with Google’s PageSpeedInsights or GT Metrix and then follow the recommendations to fix all of those issues that are affecting your site speed. The best practice is a site load speed of three seconds.
Check how your site performs on the other SERP features, such as local packs (local SEO), knowledge panels, featured snippets, etc.). They are becoming more and more popular, so track your rankings within these features. Rank Tracker will help you track 15 Google SERP features, as well as organic results.
Take a fresh look at all your on-site SEO factors and make sure that your keywords are optimised, that your title tags and heading tags are formatted correctly, that your images have alt-tags, and that your meta descriptions are in place for each page of your website.
Put it in writing
Now that you have a clearer picture of what you would like to achieve in the New Year, it is time to put your strategy down in writing. If you’re a small business you may think this does not apply to you, but, believe me, it does.
Having a strategy gives you the momentum you need to consistently produce great content that will get you more traffic and keep you existing customers coming back for more. It’s your roadmap for the year ahead, helping you to keep focused on your goal, deliver in your objectives and, ultimately, realise a return on your investment. In it’s 2014 B2B Content Marketing Study, the Content Marketing Institute found that marketers with a documented strategy “are not only more effective but also less challenged with every aspect of content marketing”.
Your Content Strategy should include the following:
- Your content marketing goals – the reason you are developing content and what you would like to get out of it.
- Your target audience – using Buyer Personas to help you identify your ideal customer
- Your content audit – reviewing your existing content to see how you can refresh, repurpose or improve on it and investigating other content types that will be a good fit for your business and your target audience.
- Your distribution channels – decide which distribution channels you will use (social media, directories, third party websites, etc.)
- Your content calendar – a flexible annual calendar indicating what topics you would cover when through which content type and through which distribution channel.
- Your content – brainstorm ideas for the actual content and start putting it together in advance so that you can distribute on time.
- Your ongoing analysis – consistently track and analyse your content and your website to see how your content strategy is doing.