Smart business leaders know how important it is to get the word out about their products and services.
But identifying the marketing tactics that work best for your business requires regular work, especially if you want to get the best return on investment possible.
Marketing options will always continue to change as technology and culture changes. If you don’t stay in touch with your customers’ (and potential customers’) behavior, you could quickly fall behind.
Here are a few of the latest trends that will affect how you choose to make your small business visible and relevant to potential customers.
Location-Based Searches are Growing
We’ve all watched smartphone use grow exponentially over recent years. Consumers have been increasingly taking advantage of smartphones’ location services to discover what’s around them for use in real time.
In fact, location is often one of the top factors in your customers’ choices for where to shop or dine. They know that as long as they have their phone, they’ll be able to find what they want with little advance notice.
Interestingly, this Think With Google column reported that in 2018, consumers stopped adding local qualifiers such as zip codes or neighborhoods to their searches, assuming that their phones would automatically filter the results accordingly.
Mobile users also began getting more specific with their searches. Instead of just searching for the type of store, restaurant, or other establishment, they began to search for specific products and services (example searches: “best cheeseburger near me” or “where can I buy socks near me” or “where can I get a manicure near me”).
If you want your small business to show up in location-specific searches, lay the foundation with a great mobile website and listings on maps services (such as Google Maps and Apple Maps).
Give some thought to what questions your potential customers will be using in these searches. What words do consumers use when they’re looking for a business like yours?
Try use Google Trends or Google Analytics to get some insights, and combine that data with your own personal experience and customer research to refine how you describe your services online. Then, adjust your website and other online content accordingly.
Google’s “Featured Snippets” Can Place You Ahead of Competitors
You’ve probably noticed that certain queries in Google result in a highlighted text box at the top of the search results page. The text in the box aims to answer the search query quickly, eliminating the need for the user to even click through to a website in search of the answer.
These “featured snippets” and “answer boxes” have been around on Google in various forms since about 2013, according to this Search Engine People blog, and they show up in about 17 percent of all search queries. However, this number might rise as search engines get better at interpreting the meaning behind each query. These days, search engines are even suggesting related questions and answers within the same answer box — all above the rest of the “traditional” search results listings we’re used to.
This gives certain websites (potentially yours) the chance to leapfrog ahead of those other results if you can get your page featured in these boxes. To get your content featured in on “page zero,” as some people call it, you’ll need to hone your content accordingly.
Again, identify the queries that are the most important to your potential customers and make sure to answer them on your site. You can do this on an FAQ page, for example, or make sure to provide a bulleted list or a table of data, all of which can indicate to search engines that your answer is easy to digest and read. Going into significant depth on the topic on the rest of the page is also a good way to demonstrate to search engines that your site is a source of authoritative knowledge on a specific topic.
Many SEO platforms provide “featured snippet” tools that can guide your efforts to be featured in these boxes.
Native and Contextualized Ads Attract More Attention
You may remember the annoying, blinking banner ads that used to haunt the sidebars of most free websites.
These are the kinds of ads that have inspired many to install ad-blockers, and have caused many others to experience various levels of “banner blindness” — the term used to describe what happens when our brains automatically ignore anything that looks like an ad.
However, there are still effective ways to visually advertise your business online.
For example, sophisticated ad creation tools allow advertisers to display ads that are more in line with the content that they’re displayed next to. Retargeting tools allow advertisers to “follow” people across the internet after they’ve demonstrated an interest in their products or services. If you advertise in search engine results or on social media, you can now target your ads down to very specific levels, from geographic regions to age or gender.
Perhaps most importantly, social media outlets, and search engines and other ad engines give advertisers the ability to display content in a format that resembles the rest of the content on the site. These “native ads” tend to be viewed and clicked on more often than banner ads because they don’t disrupt the reader’s experience as much.
Consumers Expect a Consistent Brand Experience
Your customers, and especially those from the Millennial generation, are looking for personal experiences. They want consistency, engagement, and for your company to have a “personality” that they identify with and feel good supporting.
Thankfully, there are digital tools available that are making it easier for customers develop this kind of relationship with your business over time.
For retail, “multi-channel” point of sale systems are replacing old-fashioned cash registers, allowing customers to have the same purchasing experience wherever they buy (in-store, online, or through social media).
From a marketing perspective, these tools are powerful because they track both in-store and online customer behavior in the same place. These paper-free digital systems also allow customers to enroll in loyalty programs and update their email addresses right at checkout, which makes it easy for business owners to stay in touch and provide tailored recommendations.
A consistent in-person brand experience is also important for non-retail stores. When visitors and potential partners visit your office, they should get the same sense of your company’s values and personality that they get from your website and marketing materials.
You can cultivate a strong brand in your office by developing a strong sense of style, especially in the lobby, and by investing in high-tech lobby tools like digital signs and visitor check-in apps.
To learn more about how to make a great impression on in-office visitors, check out these posts:
- 5 Ways to Style a Beautiful Reception Area
- “Wow Features” to Try in Your Reception Area
- The 3 Ways Your Reception Area Makes an Impression
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