As local businesses continue to face an anemic economy, recognizing trends that are reshaping how you market your business provides a critical edge. Here are 10 local business marketing trends for 2012 and beyond.
1. Technology disruption accelerates
Web-based or “cloud” computing, mobile commerce and social media marketing are three fast-growing mega trends that are reinforcing each other at the same time. The cost of software will drop dramatically as the same functions become available cheaper or even free. For example, a free online scheduling service just launched — called GoBook — gives local businesses a new way to book appointments via the Web. It’s perfect for businesses such as hair and nail salons, auto repair shops, dance studios, personal trainers, health clubs and medical offices. GoBook also lets customers book appointments via Facebook or with a mobile device.
2. Segmentation picks up steam
As marketing dollars remain tight and more small businesses move to digital, mobile and social media, targeting specific customer “segments” becomes both easier and more compelling. Local businesses should look at their existing customers and target new markets to identify which ones are the most profitable. (Our article on The Magic of Customer Lifetime Value for Local Businesses can help.)
3. More and more mobile
Usage of smartphones and other mobile devices is skyrocketing. Research firms have been stunned by how fast some small businesses have moved to tap into mobile commerce. Mobile searches on Google have quadrupled in the last two years alone. Widespread adoption of mobile technology has occurred more rapidly than for any technology of the last 100 years, including radio, television and the Internet. Bottom line: Your business must be visible on mobile (find out how and get help here).
4. A co-marketing comeback
In years past, businesses with complementary products and services often teamed up to market themselves – a movie theater and restaurant, for example. In a slow-growth, value-seeking market, such partnerships can help businesses squeeze more out of their marketing dollars while delivering value-added service to customers.
5. Social soars
Any debate about social media’s staying power is over. Social is now part of the day-to-day marketing fabric of just about any business, from large to local. If you haven’t done so already, getting up to speed on social media from a business standpoint is critical. A great place to learn is ShopTalk: Social Media, which offers social media marketing advice for local businesses.
6. Reputation management rocks
The explosion of web-based business directories, local search engines, review sites, blogs and social media has created a vast digital world where bits and pieces of information about your business exist in places you never heard of. As the digital universe expands, online reputation management will become even more critical to running a successful business. (Learn more and get help with reputation management here.)
7. Geo-targeting gets real
Search engines and social media sites have been rushing to offer new and better ways for customers to find products and services on a geographically-specific basis. As local businesses start taking greater advantage of these tools, creating local marketing campaigns online will take off.
8. Ideas as capital
In a slow-growth economy, innovation and great marketing ideas will be your most valuable asset. In 2012, small companies will use more web-based computing and other low cost, easily available technologies to execute faster. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking great ideas only come from brilliant people. Game-changing ideas are out there just waiting to be spotted and made your own.
9. Value is bigger than ever
Whether you sell to consumers or businesses, customers are better-informed than ever. That puts more pressure on you to clearly articulate the value that your product or service delivers – and how you are different than everyone else. In 2012, every company’s “value proposition” will be more closely scrutinized by customers.
10. The year of local listening
Facebook, Google +, Twitter, Foursquare, blog comments, online surveys and other methods offer local businesses unprecedented opportunities to gain valuable feedback from customers and prospects. As more business owners tune in to this goldmine of marketing information, “local listening” will become more important than ever.