Here are five current marketing trends that every small business owner should know about when developing their marketing strategies.

1. Enhanced direct mail (print)

The printed mailshot is still a powerful direct marketing tool when accurate and targeted data is used to good effect. The tangibility of physical mail can have a very persuasive effect. So, in order to grab people’s attention, print marketers are adding value to their direct mail with some ingenious innovations. One such innovation is the multidimensional mailshot , a physical and personalised experience that delights the recipient. The most innovative companies and organisations are making their mailshots more sensory by including smell, sound, and texture.

2. Branded content is becoming ‘content brands’

Branded Content is loosely defined as “a form of advertising that uses…content…to promote the particular brand which funds the content’s production”. It’s been a big emerging trend in recent years. But many companies are getting it wrong by creating content that merely advertises a product or service – savvy audiences can generally see right through it. A recent study shows that consumers avoid branded content because they feel overwhelmed by marketing messages. This is why there’s a movement towards something known as Content Brands, where a company creates a storytelling brand specifically for an audience with the long-term aim of converting them into customers of the parent brand

3. Social media automation (SMA)

SMA is made up of software applications that allow you to automate your social media output. With so many channels to manage, it’s a great way to save time, create structured social media campaigns and stay in touch with your audience when you’re not online. However, there’s a balance to be struck: too much automation can make you appear inauthentic and spammy. So, if you do jump on this bandwagon, make sure you don’t fall into last years trap of over-automation.

4. Digital assistants

Probably the biggest game changer on the horizon. If you’re familiar with Microsoft’s Cortana), Apple’s Siri and Google Now, then you already have a taste of the potential. And if you own one of the more advanced setups like Amazon Echo, you definitely have an idea of where search marketing is heading. Digital assistants will take info-seeking to a new level of accuracy and relevance. Using AI software, they tap into vast pools of aggregated data and deliver users exactly what they need when they need it.

Digital assistants are more effective because they don’t just rely on search engines: they go straight to directories/listings and find the most relevant results. They are also voice activated, meaning SEOs will need to optimise written content accordingly. This method of info-seeking is set to take over from the standard internet search. So if you want to stay ahead, you’ll need to organise and optimise your online information within these data pools.

It’s about connecting with audiences by aligning marketing activities with real-world events. You may remember Walkers ‘Countdown to Kit Off‘. It was an ingenious example of moment marketing centred on Leicester City’s shock title challenge. Gary Lineker, the ex-football star and current TV presenter, boldly stated he would present Match of the Day in his underwear if Leicester won the title. As the year progressed, it became clear the Foxes had mounted a serious challenge. Walkers seized the opportunity and created a campaign in which Gary Lineker was gradually unclothed in a kind of natty strip-poker. Other companies have successfully utilised this ‘in-the-moment’ tactic, with the recent Olympics being hailed as a milestone in personalised moment marketing.


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