SCORE

Marketing is the lifeblood of every small business, and it’s a facet of your business you need to continuously stay on top of.

What worked for you in 2017 will not necessarily get the same results in 2018.

As you plan your marketing strategies for next year, you might gain some insight from Infusionsoft’s annual Small Business Marketing Trends Report. But let me warn you, the news in the report is not all good.

You might want to benchmark your 2018 marketing goals against those of the small business owners in the report.

Their number-one goal is to attract new customers (31 percent), followed by retaining current customers (25 percent). They’re planning to increase their marketing budgets to reach these goals—38 percent plan to spend more to manage their social media, 30 percent will invest in digital advertising and search engine optimization, and 24 percent will increase spending for website analytics.

The report shows, however, that business owners, while “embracing digital marketing to some extent,” are not doing enough to be competitive. For instance, 28 percent aren’t going to increase their digital marketing budgets—and 15 percent have no plans to use digital marketing at all. Part of the problem seems to be that 46 percent of entrepreneurs don’t know if their marketing efforts are working, while 17 percent know they’re not effective.

Most of the business owners say they don’t have enough time to implement digital marketing strategies. This is made even more difficult because digital marketing is constantly evolving, making it nearly impossible for entrepreneurs to keep up.

The digital marketing tactics they are practicing are:

  • Social media management: 49 percent
  • Website analytics: 36 percent
  • Search engine optimization/digital advertising: 28 percent
  • Email marketing service: 27 percent
  • None of the above: 24 percent
  • Customer relationship management: 21 percent
  • Marketing automation: 12 percent

The second-biggest challenge the business owners are dealing with is converting leads into sales. The survey indicates they might be more successful doing this, if they used a CRM system and marketing automation tools.

What’s next?

Social media tops the list of marketing tactics entrepreneurs plan to use next year—74 percent will invest in it, and 40 percent will spend more on it in 2018 than they did this year. Social media already works for them—it’s their number-one channel for finding customers.

The top platforms:

  • Facebook: 75 percent
  • Instagram: 38 percent
  • Twitter: 35 percent
  • LinkedIn: 23 percent
  • YouTube: 21 percent

If you want to be competitive next year:

  • Invest in social media advertising—it’s an important tool for customer acquisition and can help you generate more leads.  
  • In the report, Facebook expert Mari Smith says your Facebook posts and/or advertising, needs to be mobile-friendly because a whopping 90 percent of Facebook users access the site from their mobile devices.
  • Increasing your use of video will help you stand out in the market, since only 27 percent of small businesses incorporate videos in their marketing efforts. According to Smith, “micro-videos” (10-30 seconds long) are very effective. Plus, she recommends you use Facebook Live.
  • One of the most effective marketing tactics—email—is underutilized. Only 27 percent of small businesses have an email marketing service. Email allows you to market directly to prospects and existing customers without have to go through social media.
  • Expand your use of marketing tools. The report says of the businesses that use social media marketing, many are using social media management tools. But the report adds, more small businesses should use marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) tools. These help you automate customer interactions and more effectively communicate with them.

Going into 2018, the report stresses how important digital marketing will be for small businesses. If you don’t get a handle on it, your business could easily get left behind. Sound overwhelming? Find a SCORE mentor to help you today.