Small Business Marketing Trends for 2021

March 12, 2021

Marketing lies at the core of small business success. You can sell the best products or offer the best services, but you will not succeed if no one knows you exist. There are numerous ways to market a business, ranging from the ridiculously expensive (like buying a Super Bowl ad) to the free (social media) and everything in between.

Normally, it’s smart to update your marketing strategy every year. But 2020 has been anything but normal, and 2021 doesn’t appear, at the moment, that it will be either.

So, while you still should update your marketing plans, it’s crucial you pay attention to consumer behaviors (Are people shopping in-store? Are they continuing to buy more online?), state and federal regulations, and the state of the economy. (Essentially, the same applies to B2B businesses—will most of your “courting” of clients be done online?)

Developing an Integrated Marketing Plan

If you don’t have a marketing strategy, now is the time to develop one. Here’s a quick overview.

Identify Your Customer or Client

1 – Create a customer profile or buyer persona. Do this by gathering as many facts about your customers as possible, including basic demographic data, such as age, gender, level of education, income, where they live, etc.) and psychographic information like goals, values, emotions, etc.

2 – Define your goals. What is your aim? Do you want to attract new customers and clients, build brand awareness, cement your relationships with your current customers, etc.?

Your overall goal—every company’s overall goal—is to build trust with your clients and customers. People, whether B2B or B2C, do business with people they know, like, and trust

3 – Get specific. As you’re developing or updating your strategy, be specific in what you want to attain and how you plan to measure success. Saying “I want more people to buy our toys” is not a definitive goal. Instead, do you want to sell more products online, do you want to expand to other markets, do you want to target a specific age group?

4 – Marketing channels. There are numerous marketing channels: TV, radio, podcasts, social media, email, direct mail, to name a few. Each marketing channel can—and often should—have a different goal. Not all channels have the same ROI (return on investment). But crafting the right message for each channel ups your chance to succeed.

Remember, you’re creating an “integrated marketing plan.” Every marketing channel should support other ones. Siloed marketing efforts aren’t effective—cross-promotion is key. For instance, your marketing will be more effective if you reinforce your direct marketing efforts with email and text messages.

5 – Measure your success. Don’t skip this step. You won’t know what works and is worth repeating if you don’t measure your results. Many of the measurement tools are free, including Google Analytics for your website and the social platforms’ analytics tools. If you prefer, there are third-party tools that also offer analytics.

Email – The Most Effective Marketing Strategy

Now let’s look at a few marketing strategies that should work for you in 2021.

Email is still the most effective marketing tactics for most businesses, delivering the highest ROI of all the marketing channels—you get $42 back for every dollar you spend.

Despite its success as a marketing channel, the 2020 Small Business Marketing Email Marketing Statistics Report reveals only 66% of small businesses use email marketing to “promote their businesses or communicate with leads and/or customers.”

According to the report, email marketing is most effective when it’s “personal, targeted, and crafted with the customers’ objectives and objections in mind.”

According to HubSpot, the average open rate of emails is 20.9%, though that varies by industry. But you don’t just want people to open your emails; you want them to click a link in them. The percentage of consumers who click a link after opening your email is the click-through rate. HubSpot says the average click-through rate across all industries is 7.8%.

You also should be concerned about your bounce rate, which is the percentage of all the emails you sent that could not be opened by the intended recipient. HubSpot says the average bounce rate across industries is .63%.

Direct Mail Makes a Comeback

Perhaps the most surprising successful marketing channel of the past few years is direct mail. There’s no better proof than one of the most successful digital retailers in the world, Amazon, mailed catalogs to many of its customers this holiday season.

Marketers have rediscovered direct mail because it’s effective. According to a recent study from the Go Inspire Group, direct mail generates five times as many purchases as email campaigns. Even better, if you combine your email and direct mail marketing campaigns, your results will be six times more effective than just using email alone.

Why does direct mail work?

  • 41% of Americans like to check their mail And since fewer companies use direct mail than email, direct mail has a better chance of standing out.
  • 88% of millennials look through their mail, and 59% say the information they discover in their mail is more useful than email.
  • Younger consumers don’t associate direct mail with “junk mail” the way older consumers do. In fact, many associate emails with junk mail.
  • 42% of direct mail recipients either read or scan their mail compared to the average email open rate of 20.9%.
  • Brand recall is 70% higher for direct mail than digital ads.
  • RetailWire reports direct mail’s average lifespan is 17 days, while email generally has a lifespan of a few seconds.

Direct mail offers business owners many options, including postcards, catalogs, group ad mailers, and more. You can improve your chances of success by targeting your existing customer base since consumers are more apt to toss mail from companies they don’t know. The exception: they’ll hang on to direct mail if the category interests them. The USPS Every Door Direct Mail program helps you target the customer demographics you want.

Best Practices in Common

There are some activities you should utilize in both email and direct mail marketing.

1 – Personalization rules: Both email and direct mail are more effective when you personalize your marketing efforts. HubSpot notes the easiest way to improve your email open rates is to personalize your subject lines, so they’re unique to each recipient.

The ANA (Association of National Advertisers) attributes the advancement of AI technology with enabling businesses to discover more about their customers’ behaviors and preferences, which allows them to personalize their direct mail more easily. This includes using custom images and making personalized offers.

2 – Landing pages: Create specific web landing pages for your email campaigns and your direct mail offers.

There are plenty of other marketing strategies that are finding success.

3 – Video: According to the Search Engine Journal, “With the popularity of YouTube, dynamic imagery, and AR, video content and visual storytelling” will continue to be popular.

4 – Voice: Still relatively new, voice marketing (via Siri, Alexa, etc.) is rapidly gaining popularity. This year ComScore predicted about half of all searches would be from voice. Younger consumers are voice converts— 65% of 25-49 year-olds speak to their voice-enabled devices at least once a day, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

5 – Social media: You can’t ignore social—it’s ubiquitous. Hootsuite reports 82% of North Americans are active social media users. And a report in The Manifest reveals that 74% of social users follow businesses on social media, and 96% of these consumers engage with the companies they follow. While using social media is free, don’t overlook buying social ads. According to The Manifest, 67% of consumers have bought something after seeing an ad on social media.

Integrate Your Marketing

As noted above, your marketing will be more effective if you integrate your marketing strategy. Media Post advises businesses to start by sending a direct mail message and follow up a week later with an email. They also suggest sending two emails for every piece of direct mail you send.

And according to a report in Multibriefs, consumers use at least three marketing channels when deciding to make a purchase, so using an integrated approach will be crucial in 2021.

This is a guest blog post from Rieva Lesonsky of Small Biz Daily, a small business and entrepreneurship expert with a passion for helping individuals identify their career goals.

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