This is a guest post written by Wes Towers.
As someone involved in online marketing, I’m often asked this time of year what the next ‘big thing’ will be in marketing. At the start of every year, people take stock of their lives and make New Year’s resolutions. Likewise, business owners around the globe work on goals for the coming year and are typically searching for a magic bullet. While there is no magic bullet, I have some predictions I believe will help SMEs grow in 2016.
In recent times we’ve seen an increase in AI (Artificial Intelligence). For instance, Google is using software called RankBrain, software designed to learn and better understand the intent of users. We’ve also seen software like EyeQuant emerge, that attempts to tell us how exciting a website design is.
What does the trend toward AI mean?
Does it mean we need to get more sophisticated technology and systems? I believe the opposite is true in many ways. I know that may sound counter-intuitive but here’s the truth – as technology becomes more “intelligent” and human-like, we should focus on being human too, even in the online world.
What we’ve learned offline, through real world, human interactions, can help our marketing in the online world. By doing so you will make your marketing more efficient and effective. It’s not artificial, it’s just intelligent.
What does all this mean and how can you apply it?
It’s simple really. What’s old is new again. The basic fundamentals of business and marketing are back in town. Below are a few ideas I suggest SMEs ramp up in the coming year, and none are directly related to online marketing. It’s time to become humans again!
Your existing customer base should be your most effective marketing tool. A recommendation from a friend or trusted advisor is one of the most powerful forms of marketing. The effectiveness of word-of-mouth marketing is proven.
For a number of industries, referrals from existing customers generate the majority of their new business. Think of it as grass roots, spontaneous promotion. It's cheap and effective but people often make the mistake of thinking they can’t influence it. There are simple strategies you can use to encourage more referrals. Try asking! By simply prompting happy customers to refer others to you, you can produce fantastic results. This can be done face-to-face, on printed material, or online (via email for example).
Two or more businesses working together to offer customers special incentive deals can be very effective. Joint promotions can be used to add value to your customers’ experience. This can make them feel they’re getting extra value for their money. It can also be used to expand your exposure into new markets. Think creatively to find a meaningful Joint Promotion that makes sense and everyone benefits.
For instance, a local bookstore and the coffee shop down the street may decide to join forces and launch a promotion offering a free coffee voucher upon purchase of a book. This way customers of the bookstore have a fantastic shopping experience, while the coffee shop gets greater exposure into the local market.
Another simple tactic is developing loyalty schemes. The Pareto Principle suggests 80% of your revenue is generated by 20% of your customers. Something as simple as sending out birthday cards to customers (assuming you have that information) is a cost-effective way of showing appreciation of your customers and letting them know that you value them and their business.
Consumers like to know something works before they buy, and they don’t always trust what you say about your own business. What others say about your business carries much more weight. Including testimonials in your marketing material increases the believability factor. Again, it’s the human element that makes them most effective. Ideally, use video testimonials where possible so they can see and hear from a real human, making it more relatable and believable.
Wes Towers’ mission is to empower a new breed of entrepreneurs with cutting-edge websites that attract more leads, graphic design that converts more sales and systems that multiply results affordably and fast through his business Omnific Design. He is also the author of: The Simple Manifesto – Marketing principles to save you time, increase profit and create your dream business in a SNAP!