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GROW YOUR BUSINESS

The Top Digital Trends Small Business Owners Need to Know About

10-minute read

Emily Thompson

27 June 2022

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Is your business online? Or are you still living like it’s 1992? As many as 85% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses. In addition, at least 78% of location-based mobile searches result in an offline purchase.

Here’s something else: In a recent Forbes survey, 78% of small business respondents said technology would be a top investment. There’s a good chance your competitors could be among them. Listen, if you’re not online now, there’s no need to panic. However, going forward you may want to consider developing a solid digital marketing strategy.

The good news? We’re here to help. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the latest technology trends and help you create a digital marketing strategy that helps attract new customers and entices them to come back for more.

Why Digital Marketing Is Becoming More Important

More consumers are spending more time online.

You’ve heard it for years, and we’ll say it again — every year, more people spend more time online. According to Pew Research, 85% of Americans say they go online daily, and just under a third (31%) say they’re online “almost constantly,” which is up from 21% in 2015.

In fact, more than half (56.6%) of consumers prefer to shop online now, and can you blame them? It’s quick, convenient, and there’s a boost of endorphins when you see a new package at your front door.

The bottom line: If the majority of Americans are searching for you online, you need to be there too. Nowadays, most businesses, including both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C), need some type of digital presence — whether it’s a website, social media channel, online review, or a combination of each.

It’s more cost-effective than traditional marketing.

Print advertisements can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $160,000. Meanwhile, a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign usually runs between $9,000 to $10,000 a month, but can even be much less depending on the size of your business.

Moreover, digital marketing makes it easier to measure a return on investment (ROI). Most digital campaigns offer tracking tools to view visitors, impressions, conversions, and more. With digital marketing techniques, you usually can see how many people viewed your campaign and became customers. On the other hand, it’s much harder to track the effectiveness of traditional marketing efforts, like print ads, postcards, or billboards.

Best of all, you can tweak digital marketing campaigns so they have a better chance of becoming more effective over time. If your YouTube series isn’t popular, try posting on Facebook instead. If your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaign is struggling, consider adding blog content, and adjusting your keywords so they match the phrases consumers are searching. When you track and pivot your marketing techniques, you can continually learn and improve your campaigns over time.

Digital marketing can target the right customers.

As a business owner, you probably have an ideal customer in mind, as well as people who aren’t good prospects. Digital marketing efforts can uniquely target the right customers who are ready to buy. For example:

  • A social media marketing campaign can attract the attention of nearby customers who represent your target demographic.
  • A digital advertisement can appear only to customers who are researching solutions, like the one your small business offers.
  • A lead-generating e-book can capture information from potential customers who are reading about your services.
  • An email campaign can be sent to leads who have opened and clicked on at least one email from you, thereby demonstrating interest in your product.
  • A reminder email can be sent to customers who have abandoned products in their shopping cart, with the goal of getting them to purchase.

Digital marketing is only evolving with time, and today’s data can target your customers in ways you never thought possible. This is so different from traditional marketing techniques.

Many print ads, for example, target only readers of a specific publication. And you may never really know where the reader is on the buyer’s journey. Are they truly interested in buying your product or service?

Meanwhile, billboards target everyone who drives along a certain road. If you’re advertising a restaurant, hotel, or another frequented location, this can be very effective. But for most small businesses, it’s not worth the cost. Finally, television advertising can be incredibly expensive, and again, difficult to know if someone was actually interested.

There is a time and place for traditional advertising, but in today’s world, digital marketing is often better at putting your business in front of interested customers.

We all can agree that technology today is different than it was even five years ago. New social media channels have popped up (Hello, TikTok and Instagram Reels), email marketing platforms are better at collecting the data, and Google changes the way it ranks content more often than it has in the past.

For most people, there’s always something new to learn. Here, we’ll help you catch up, so your small business can start using some of the latest, most effective digital trends. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Trend #1: TikTok keeps growing and influencing.

In September 2021, TikTok reported reaching 1 billion monthly active users, and this platform is continuing to grow. Creative influencers are using it to reach a younger generation. But according to The Digital Marketing Institute, brands that target an older demographic are becoming successful on TikTok too. In fact, the Institute reports that Gordon Ramsey and Rod Stewart have experienced recent success on TikTok.

If you think TikTok could be effective for your business, here’s how to get started:

  • Set up your account and get familiar with the platform. The first step involves logistics, of course. If you’re new to TikTok and having trouble navigating, try watching a few tutorials or reading this article.
  • Brainstorm a creative idea. What information would you like to share or promote? Start jotting down ideas as soon as they pop into your head! Explore other similar businesses to learn how they use TikTok too. It may help get the creative juices flowing.
  • Think about what your customers want to know. If you’re a handyman, what do most customers need to have repaired? If you’re a nail technician, what creative nail art will capture someone’s attention? And if you’re a yoga teacher, can you share some moves and greet followers with a namaste?
  • Explore effects, hashtags, and challenges. Just like SnapChat and Instagram, you can add fun effects to give your video a creative boost. You also can beautify yourself by removing dark eye circles and adjusting the video’s lighting. When you’re ready, post your video with a popular hashtag or participate in one of TikTok’s ever-popular challenges. These challenges are online bandwagons that can help your content get noticed fast.

A good recommendation is to just get started. Your first video might not go viral right away, but if you continue to participate and learn, you’re certain to experience some success. Just like with any other marketing technique, keep analyzing what works and adjusting the content.

Trend #2: More people are buying products via social media.

E-commerce websites, move over. Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube offer online shops that are quickly increasing in popularity. In fact, social shopping, or the act of buying a product through a social media channel, is forecasted to reach $1.2 trillion globally by 2025.

Social shopping can present big opportunities for small businesses with brick-and-mortar stores. But it also can add a tad more pressure. Keep in mind, many Gen Z and Millennial shoppers are looking on social media before arriving at your e-commerce website.

The amount of care and attention you put into social media photography and content should be equal to or greater than what you offer on your business’s website.

To experience success:

  • Set up social shopping on your account. Most platforms make it easy by partnering with Shopify or another e-commerce service provider.
  • Showcase high-quality, creative images of your products on Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, and any other social media channels you participate in.
  • Include more than one image or video of each product.
  • Add keyword-rich descriptions and hashtags to social media content.
  • Measure your content and decide to make adjustments, based on what you learn.

Above all, give social shopping a chance if you think it might complement your existing e-commerce efforts. Don’t give up too soon. Sometimes it takes a bit of time before your content takes off.

Trend #3: Customers want to engage directly with you online.

Today’s customers expect to directly converse with your business, whether it’s at 10 a.m. or 2 a.m. When they see chat functionality, which has been around for some time, they typically want responses and answers to their questions fast.

This can be tricky for many small business owners who are short on resources. But if you offer the functionality, set expectations, and stay consistent within your ability, customer chat services can help you increase your sales. One study predicts that retail sales from chatbot interactions will increase to $112 billion by 2023.

It’s easy to see why. Chatbots can:

  • Help point customers in the right direction quickly, thereby eliminating the need to spend extra time browsing for products and services.
  • Make customers feel like they’re experiencing “white-glove” service with personalized recommendations and offerings at any time of the day.
  • Serve in a sales role, keeping customers interested and motivated to find just the right product.
  • Build relationships with customers by learning from them and answering important questions.

Whether you have an e-commerce website or not, customer chat functionality can give you the opportunity to reach more customers and engage on a deeper level online. Just imagine taking the in-person interactions you have in your store or office, and offering the same personalized service online to an even greater number of people on the internet. For some small business owners, it can be a huge opportunity.

Trend #4: Customers are searching for content that answers their questions.

Your customers have questions, and you have the answers. The past few years have seen an increase in questions being asked via search engines, including queries done by voice activation. In fact, voice searches now account for 20% of all Google searches.

Fortunately, it can often be easy to address your customers’ questions in detail, thereby boosting your business’s credibility and establishing trust. And blog content is one of the best ways to answer these questions and get ranked in Google’s search results to boot.

The first step is to understand your target customer and their top questions throughout the buyer’s journey. Start collecting these questions during meetings, while on the phone, and when interacting with shoppers in your store. You also can send out a customer survey or conduct interviews. Finally, there are audience listening tools you can explore purchasing to help you gather insight.

Once you have a list of questions, it’s time to create high-performing content. Some ideas:

  • Write blog posts that answer questions. For example, if you’re an interior designer, you can answer questions about the top kitchen trends this year and how to keep your renovation within budget.
  • Add an FAQ page to your website. List out all of your customers’ top questions and keep your answers brief. You can even add code to the page that tells Google it’s an FAQ page and should be ranked a bit higher than other pages.
  • Create “how-to” videos. Have you ever searched “how to…” on YouTube? Many people have. Use video to give customers step-by-step instructions on how to fix, build, or understand a topic in your industry.

Once you’ve published your content, sit back and see how it performs in search engine results. Find out if it’s bringing in new customers and helping you reel back in existing customers.

How Do You Create a Digital Marketing Strategy?

Creating a digital marketing strategy isn’t much different than any other marketing strategy. The difference is it focuses on executing through technology and digital communication tools. With digital marketing, you also can plan to gather more data than you would with traditional methods.

If you’re just getting started with digital marketing and looking for a simple guide, check out this article. It can help you set up your first website, walk you through searching engine optimization, and start executing on email marketing campaigns, digital advertisements, and social media channels.

Above all, remember this — your digital marketing strategy should be rooted in what your audience needs, where they’re looking for you, and what your competitors are doing. T

ry techniques that position your company differently than other similar businesses (so you don’t get lost in the crowd), but also address your customers’ needs.

And don’t forget to measure your campaigns. One of the best parts of digital marketing is its unique ability to pinpoint performance. Use this for your benefit.

Why Business Insurance Matters for Digital Marketing

If you already have business insurance, you’re off to a great start. Did you know your general liability (GL) policy also can protect you from lawsuits associated with digital marketing campaigns? Yes, unfortunately, your creative campaign could unintentionally hurt or offend others and result in a costly lawsuit.

For example, you could inadvertently:

  • Copy another business’s slogan or logo.
  • Feature music without providing due credit or paying for usage rights.
  • Publish photography on social media without purchasing it or giving credit to the photographer.
  • Perform libel or slander regarding a competitor’s business in your blog content.

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If you face a lawsuit and have a GL policy in place, you typically should have some protection. Your insurance can help cover the costs of hiring a lawyer, legal fees, and even part or all of a fine.

If you’re still without general liability insurance, now’s the time to consider purchasing that protection. It’s important for most businesses, especially if you’re diving into digital marketing. After all, the more you advertise, the more you open your business up to potential new risks.

Next, you may want to consider purchasing cyber insurance too. Digital marketing tools and platforms can be easy doorways for hackers. Plus, once you gather customer data, it becomes a worthy prize for someone to steal.

Another threat can come from ransomware, where hackers prevent accessing your business information and demand a payment to unlock it.

Fortunately, cyber insurance can help cover the costs of finding and repairing a data breach, notifying customers, credit monitoring services, and even the costs of putting prevention measures in place. Trust us, it can be worth the extra expense, especially if you face a disastrous data breach.

Get a quote for general liability insurance or cyber insurance today.

The Time for Digital Marketing Is Now

If you’ve had your mind on digital marketing campaigns and exploring new technologies for your business, there’s no need to wait. Chances are, your customers are already online and would love to meet you there. Plus, you never know how it could improve your business, whether it’s through sales, brand awareness, customer service, or all three.

If you’re new to digital marketing, just start small. Develop a strategy and begin executing. Remember, the beauty of digital communication is that you can easily and quickly pivot and make edits. You also can measure, learn, and listen. Don’t be afraid to get started. The tools are already there. You just need to roll up your sleeves.

Written by

Emily Thompson

I earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (go Bucky). After realizing my first job might involve carrying a police scanner at 2 am in pursuit of “newsworthy” crimes, I decided I was better suited for freelance blogging and marketing writing. Since 2010, I’ve owned my freelance writing business, EST Creative. When I’m not penning, doodling ideas, or chatting with clients, you’ll find me hiking with my husband, baby boy, and 2 mischievous mutts.

This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer

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