With the new year upon us, it’s time for local business owners like you to take a long, hard look at your advertising strategy if you haven’t already. Examine any part of your marketing that involves getting the word out about your business. Advertising mediums you’re most familiar with probably include newspapers, direct mail and the web. If your budget’s a little bigger, your strategy may also include things like television, radio and even billboards. Typically, advertising is the part of your marketing strategy that requires the largest financial investment.

And since it’s so expensive, it’s time to start asking yourself questions like, “Are there things I’m doing that I shouldn’t be anymore?” “Am I throwing dollars at anything that’s not giving me a good return on my investment?” “What could I be doing that I’m currently not?”

This year, the biggest advertising trends revolve around how you can use the latest technology to set your business apart from others. There have been a number of improvements that make doing so more feasible than ever, with the latest and greatest technologies accessible to just about anyone.

Let’s dive in.

1. Take personalization to the next level.

Soon, Generation Z (those with birthdays after 1996 and before 2010) will account for about 40% of consumers in the U.S. And their buying power? It’s estimated to exceed $44 billion. Wowza.

When it comes to interacting with your brand, these potential customers want a more personalized experience. That means they want your advertising messages and your customer service to be uniquely tailored to them, or from your perspective, hyper-targeted.

Hyper-targeting is more involved than populating emails with a first name you have on record, or addressing someone by name over the phone (though these are still great practices). It dives deeper into consumers’ interests, past interactions with your brand, and predicted future behaviors.

A great example of this is how Netflix uses your preferences and viewing history to recommend TV series and movies they think you’d enjoy. Because they know just how important it is to offer great recommendations, Netflix puts a lot of effort into optimizing its algorithm. A team of around 70 engineers researches and tests its algorithms to stay competitive.

If you don’t have a team of 70 engineers, that’s OK. You’re not out of the personalization game just yet.

How can small businesses hyper-target their messaging?

  • When you buy ads on social media, pay close attention to the targeting options. Move past geographic location, age and gender, and try targeting additional factors like career and interests.
  • Use your CRM system to segment customers by product or service category, so you can target your text and email communications to them with tailored messaging.

2. Get in on Facebook advertising sooner, rather than later.

I just mentioned better targeting your social ads to smaller segments of consumers. One of the best channels for this is Facebook.

And the timing has never been better. Facebook is still a relatively cost-effective advertising option. How much an ad on Facebook costs can range from $0.31 to about $0.61 per click, depending on your industry, the size of your audience, the quality of your ad, and the time of year. And, you can cap your investment at a dollar amount of your choosing. So the risk you’ll overspend is pretty minimal.

Because of the low barrier to entry, it’s expected that in 2018, Facebook will continue to accelerate the number of small business advertisers it serves. The more advertisers, the more competitive, and the more it will cost you for each click (CPC). So get in now while the getting’s good (and while you can stretch your dollar a little further).

3. Give cross promotions a try.

We recently shared a blog on how small businesses can save on advertising by teaming up with one another, something we called cross promoting.

Few small businesses take advantage of cross promotions today. Perhaps it’s the entrepreneurial spirit that made you successful in the first place that also makes you unlikely to rely on anyone else when it comes to running your local business.

But the big brands have been teaming up more and more, giving them a huge strategic advantage when it comes to brand recognition and broad dissemination of their messages. So cross promotions could be a way to stretch those ad dollars and get your business in front of new groups of consumers.

Popular cross promotion opportunities:

  • Trade counter space for promotional materials.
  • Feature each other in your e-newsletters.
  • Team up on direct mail pieces.
  • Make friends on social media.
  • Share give-aways and samples.
  • Join forces with charitable giving.
  • Print special offers on receipts and box stuffers.

4. Optimize your content for voice search.

Last year, 20% of online searches were voice searches. By 2020, that number will likely be closer to 50%. So it’s safe to say voice search giants like Alexa and Siri are here to stay.

What does that mean for your advertising strategy? It means that how you optimize your content for ads and search engines is changing.

Remember when you first began using search engines to find information online? Most of us typed out full sentences into the search bar before hitting Enter and viewing our results. As search evolved, we began to understand that we could get the same, or even better, results out of Google by entering just a few of the key words or terms we wanted results to match. So a search that used to look like, “Where can I find a plumber to unclog my drain in Pittsburgh?” started to look more like, “plumber unclog drain Pittsburgh.”

But with voice search on the rise, the phrases we search are reverting back to full sentences. They’re including more complete thoughts and questions, with words like “who,” “what,” and “where.”

To pivot, you’ll want your ad copy to cater to these types of searches. Think less keyword stuffing and meta tags and more conversational copy and complete answers. Respond to these natural language questions with natural language answers, and you’ll be on the right track.

5. Use data privacy as a selling point.

90 percent of small businesses report that they don’t proactively protect their businesses’ and customers’ information. That number is startling when you consider the potential cost of a hack could range anywhere from $84K to $148K. For many local business owners, that would put you out of business altogether.

Think an attack won’t happen to you? It may not. But cyber security and data protection isn’t just about keeping you out of trouble. Nope, selfishly, it could be the advantage you need to stand out from the competition.

Are there small businesses that compete in the same space as you and offer a very similar or identical product or service? What do you do in your advertising to set your business apart? Depending on your industry, data privacy could be your “in” with consumers. Nothing encourages brand loyalty like feeling safe and protected. So if consumers hear that you take their information and privacy seriously, that messaging could be what you need to convert leads into paying customers.

A great first step in creating a data privacy plan is to make sure you protect your customers’ credit card information. Here’s how a small business can address credit card security.

6. Stop pressing buttons, and automate it.

If you’re spending much of your day manually setting up advertising campaigns on social media, search engines, your online listings, via text and email, and so on and so forth, you’re wasting valuable time you could be using to run and grow your business.

The biggest brands use marketing automation and business automation software to streamline repetitive tasks. Sound expensive? Hold on. Remember when I mentioned at the beginning of this post that the latest technologies are becoming more and more accessible? The same goes for these automation tools. While there are expensive options out there, tools like Thryv help small businesses like you automate much of these advertising tactics so they can re-focus on their businesses.

Curious? Learn more.