2014 Internet marketing trends for small businesses in Upstate NY

I once heard that seeing “Open” signs in the windows and doors of businesses along main street is a bad sign. Why? Because if you have to advertise your doors are open, that means there are many that are NOT and you’re struggling. Same thing with internet marketing and recognizing the need to have content for small business websites.

“Inbound marketing” is not a lofty sales concept created by internet marketers. It represents a fundamental and significant shift in responding to the way consumers are shopping – for everything from retail to services and non-profits, small businesses and large corporate entities. How can a small business somewhere like Glens Falls, Lake George, Ticonderoga or Lake Placid earn a position as a resource in their market? Content. Even in a hyper-local setting, the vast majority of buyers use the web to research, review and explore before they buy. The result is savvy buyers who know what they want and are looking for complete answers to their questions as quickly and thoroughly as possible. They explore and compare products, prices and services, often beginning with a review of a companies social persona before moving to their website and ultimately their product. 4 out of 5 consumers use smartphones to shop.

Keeping your small business website content fresh, appealing, interesting, informative and succinct will make the difference between struggling to add text for the sake of doing so and developing a specific content plan that is directed to connect with and engage your audience. Reaching your audience, telling a story and relating to them in a meaningful way is what will make them want to do business with you. Does this mean you need a small business content marketing manager? On your budget?

How can small businesses compete with content in 2014?

word-300x225The fact is that small business owners are busy. Their time truly is money. There are almost 28 million small businesses in the US; over 22 million are self employed with no additional payroll or employees. As entrepreneurs, they are skilled at wearing many hats, doing what it takes to keep one step ahead of their competitors. In the past, creating an advertising budget involved reviewing all possible ways to most effectively spend their money to make them as visible as possible: print ads in the local paper, billboards, radio and banner display ads on other websites.

Those avenues are no longer viable as a marketing plan. What does work is providing readily-available content for your prospects that provides solutions in a manner that sets you apart from your competitors. Expect to budget some money this year to a) meet with your team (or yourself!) to create and manage a concrete content marketing plan for 2014 or b) utilize a content marketing management firm that can help you achieve your goals within your budget.

How to start planning your Upstate NY small business marketing strategy:

  • Content Marketing: A blog that is active, current and engaging to your audience! Drop the dry facts and boring text…give visitors the same information in a personal, engaging way. Utilize all the resources as your disposal to create a thoughtful, consistent content marketing plan.
  • Mobile Friendly: Whether the majority of your users shop for your product with their mobile device is secondary…by 2014 internet usage on mobile devices is predicted to overtake desktop usage.
  • Social Media: Love it or hate it, social media continues it’s burgeoning growth as a critical marketing component in the small business market. Time suck? Maybe, but you will need to commit to excelling in at least one or two of these – and that includes reputation management to handle negative reviews. What to watch: Google+ is predicted to grow significantly this year.
  • Images: Photos, infographics and visuals will take front and center stage for content marketing, as we seek to engage with better story-telling techniques using less text and more “oomph”! Reader attention spans are shorter (alas), so you will need to grab them at the get-go.
  • What else? Video. Audio.

What is NOT content marketing?

  • Posting an occasional blog or two about your family vacation or employee birthdays
  • Adding a photo or quote on Facebook once every few weeks
  • Changing the pictures of your guest rooms or your About page photo once a year

Finding and posting the right content for your small business website will be just another facet in your marketing budget, but one you will definitely benefit from in 2014! It’s a natural fit for energetic small businesses who put their heart and soul into everything they do on a daily basis.

I would love to hear what your internet marketing plan is for 2014, and how you plan to engage your customers.

photo credit: Maria Reyes-McDavis via photopin cc