It’s no secret that digital marketing is constantly evolving. The way consumers use the internet has changed dramatically over the past five years, new technologies have developed enabling brands to gain greater awareness of their audience, and just in case we miss all that, Google lends a helping hand by launching major algorithm updates every so often.
So it’s no surprise that there are yet more changes in store for 2015, but what are they? And what’s more, how does a small business keep up? Big businesses have the advantage of greater investment in marketing – they have the resources to analyse their demographic, to pitch large sums of money into campaigns that weave through every channel imaginable. It’s not so easy for smaller organisations, those which have to make more limited spends work to best advantage and who may not have the personnel to cover all bases. In light of this, we’ve picked out some of the key industry predictions for the coming year and are offering a little advice on how small businesses can keep up on a manageable scale.
Forget kings, content is the new kingdom
Bill Gates wrote in his 1996 essay that ‘content is king’. It’s a phrase that has been bandied about the marketing industry, often by those who couldn’t string a decent sentence together if their lives depended on it. But as the value of content increases, it is no longer simply the reigning power, it is the foundation of your entire web strategy.
According to Digital Marketing Magazine, search engines will be able to respond well to more complex phrases, and brands will increasingly become seen as publishers of quality, useful content. This effectively means that while key phrases are still relevant, there is absolutely no excuse for simplified content stuffed with keywords anymore. The search engines are capable of making connections between related topics, and a well written and informative piece is going to be much more beneficial than a poor quality offering that includes ten different variations of the same phrase.
Content should be at the forefront of every digital marketing strategy. Website content should be as engaging and as useful as possible, without being too heavy. Good quality imagery and video content are also valuable assets on your site. From there, it extends out into whatever forms you chose, from white papers or press releases to PPC adverts.
So as a small business, how do you found your kingdom of content?
The first, and imminently non-negotiable step is to hire a writer or team of writers. A real writer, not just an SEO who claims to be one or the only guy on the team who got an A-level in English. If you can’t hire a writer, employ a copywriting agency to take care of your content. It’s impossible to stress how important this one factor is in your strategy – would you put someone whose only semi-relevant qualification was a maths A-level in charge of your accounts? A professional writer will know how to express your brand to the relevant markets, write engaging copy and make competent decisions regarding tone of voice, style and structure.
The next steps are to create a content style guide and ensure anyone and everyone who will be writing for you has a copy. Include examples of words that can be used and ones that should be avoided, specify how numerals, dates, times, product names and numbers and so forth are expressed. This ensures consistency across all content. Consistency is vital – it reinforces the professionalism and expertise of your company and supports your brand. If you’re doing it right, no-one will notice it; consistency is one of those things that people only spot when it isn’t there.
The next stage is to ensure the content for a campaign ties in across all your channels. For small businesses the best method of attack is to choose a smaller number of channels and make sure they’re well used. Follow best practices and ensure you’re sending out a clear, relevant message over all channels and monitoring the response.
Know your kingdom’s subjects
Structured data has been getting increasing exposure at marketing shows and in discussions. Finding out about your consumers can be difficult without expensive programmes or tools to help you manage the information. This year is all about personalisation and segmentation, so if you don’t have a cohesive database, now is the time to begin one.
It isn’t easy for a small business. If you don’t have a system that stores and sorts the data for you, there’s going to be a tangle to unpick, and someone will need to be given the unhappy task of doing that, but there are obvious benefits to doing it sooner rather than later.
Even if you only have data such as names, addresses and email addresses, this is a start. Nowhere to store them? How about using your email provider? Maybe email programmes enable businesses to add data to various sets of people as they go. Segments can easily be formed and managed, so simply extrapolate the system out into other channels such as direct mail. Take a look at affluent areas categorised by post code and go through your database to see how it matches up, then divide the data up accordingly and pitch relevant products to each set. The time consuming part nee only be done once, and from there it’s simply a matter or maintenance.
And then we’re back to content – sending relevant messages about products your customers will be interested in, via relevant channels in an engaging way.
Pocket kingdoms: Mobile content
Mobile is another area that can no longer be ignored, and creating content that can be accessed easily on the move should be part of your 2015 strategy. Let’s return briefly to Digital Marketing Magazine’s predictions: “It is vital that marketers have the power to harness and understand the way consumers use their phones in response to calls to action though marketing and PR.”
Understanding how your customers are using their phones to browse, research, buy and review will prove crucial to effectively determining how to market to them. Again, if you lack resource and tools to do this, one simple way to take a step in the right direction is to use mobile-only ads on your PPC campaigns. Write adverts tailored to mobile phone users and within a month or so you should be able to make some basic assumptions about how mobile usage differs from desktop. Even if you keep it as simple as optimising those adverts and ensuring your website design is responsive, that’s a good – and affordable – start.
Keep an eye on the market over the coming year and remember to review your activity and the emerging trends periodically to ensure you stay on track and don’t miss out on valuable leads.
Contact Whitefish Marketing for help with your digital strategy
For frank and no obligation discussion for help with your digital marketing why not call us on 01303 720288? A member of our friendly team can help you with your enquiry.