Most small business owners are so busy that it’s hard for them to keep up—with the daily to-do list, let alone with the times.
At Infusionsoft, our mission is to help small businesses succeed. And we know that too many small businesses are falling behind the curve on the marketing trends, tactics, and tools that will help them compete and succeed in an increasingly digital world.
To find out where they need the most marketing help, we surveyed 1,000 small business owners from across the United States about their goals, tactics, and challenges for the coming year. Our 2017 Small Business Marketing Trends Report revealed that nearly one in five small business owners doesn’t plan to do any digital marketing in 2017—and many more aren’t embracing tactics like email marketing, content marketing, SEO, and digital advertising.
Does your business need a marketing update? Here are 10 signs you might not be ready for 2017.
1. Your contacts are stored in spreadsheets or Gmail
When you started your business with a limited number of contacts, storing their information in a spreadsheet or in the contacts section of your email client might have worked fine. But the more your business grows, the more unsustainable that plan becomes.
A spreadsheet isn’t a secure place to store information, creating risks for both your customers and for your business. Plus, without a centralized database, your employees may not be able to access the information they need to ensure customers enjoy a smooth and consistent experience with your business.
In our survey, only a quarter of small businesses said they use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to organize contacts. In addition to storing contact information, a CRM allows you to keep track of customer notes and details like purchase history. And if CRM is integrated with marketing automation, as is the case with Infusionsoft, it can also track contact customer behavior like emails opened, links clicked, and online forms completed, allowing you to tailor your marketing efforts accordingly. Learn more in this guide, “More Than Sales: Using CRM to Grow and Manage Your Entire Business.”
2. You’re doing everything manually
If you spend half of your day chasing leads who aren’t ready to buy and the other half on repetitive emails and tedious office work, you’ll never have enough time to focus on marketing strategies that will grow your business. Sure enough, the small business owners in our survey identified finding the time and resources for marketing as the biggest challenge they’ll face in 2017.
But there’s another solution besides working more hours or hiring more people: automation. Software like Infusionsoft streamlines repetitive processes like responding to information requests, sending and collecting documents, and reminding customers about appointments and events. When mindless tasks are handled by software, you and your staff have more time for the work only people can do, like creating marketing content and building relationships with customers.
3. You’re not using an email marketing service
Email might seem like a marketing trend for 1997, not 2017. But sending email isn’t the same as email marketing—a tactic used by only 44 percent of the small business owners we surveyed.
Anyone with a Gmail or Yahoo! account can blast an email to a list of customers. But that approach likely won’t be effective in a time when consumers receive dozens of emails a day (and can delete them with a single swipe). If a customer is going to care about your particular message, the email has to be relevant to her particular needs and interests.
Software like Infusionsoft allows you to segment your customer list in order to send emails to a specific group of people, like customers who bought a certain product or who haven’t purchased anything from you in a year. When emails feel personalized, customers are more likely to stay engaged with your company—and less likely to click the “unsubscribe” button.
4. You’re not capturing leads
All businesses devote time and money to recruiting new customers, but too often, the work stops there: at attracting leads, not capturing them. If your business doesn’t have a way to collect contact information from prospects, you may never get the opportunity to introduce yourself and turn a random website visitor into someone who knows and trusts your business.
In our survey, collecting leads was the top 2017 marketing goal for only 7 percent of respondents. And 23 percent said they didn’t collect leads by any of the methods we named, like offering downloadable content, asking for opt-ins to an email list, or even asking for contact information on the phone or in person.
Most leads aren’t ready to buy the moment they land on your website. To ensure your business stays top of mind throughout the buying process, small businesses need a strategy and process for collecting contact information from those leads. Ideally, that involves giving them a reason to hand over their email addresses, like offering a helpful piece of content, a discount, or a free trial or consultation. For 19 ideas of “lead magnets” to offer your prospects, see “The Small Business Guide to Capturing Leads.”
5. You’re not following up with leads
Even more important than capturing leads is what comes next: the follow-up. Most leads aren’t ready to buy on the first encounter with your business—but most small businesses don’t have the time to keep in touch with them over weeks and months (or the capacity to even remember to do so).
But time is no longer an object if the follow-up occurs automatically. With automation software like Infusionsoft, you can drip educational content and check-in emails to the prospect over time or trigger relevant information to be sent when the prospect takes an action, like clicking a link to indicate interest in a particular product or service.
On average, nurtured leads result in a 20 percent increase in sales opportunities, compared with leads that didn’t receive that attention, according to a study by the B2B marketing publication DemandGen Report.
6. You don’t know whether your marketing efforts are effective
Compared with the days of marketing and advertising in print, on billboards, and on TV, it’s never been more possible to track the return on your marketing efforts. Thanks to website analytics tools like Google Analytics and CRM/marketing automation tools like Infusionsoft, you can correlate the clicks on websites, emails, and ads to leads and sales.
Yet nearly half (47 percent) of the small business owners we surveyed don’t know whether their marketing efforts are effective—and 10 percent know they aren’t working. Perhaps that’s because only a quarter of them use a CRM, while 39 percent use an analytics tool. Small businesses need to embrace these resources to understand where their marketing efforts are best focused, especially when working with a limited amount of time and budget.
7. You’ve never dabbled in SEO
Search engine optimization is as much art as science. In his list of 200 factors Google uses to rank webpages, SEO expert Brian Dean of Backlinko admits that while some factors are proven, others are controversial—or only the results of “SEO nerd speculation.”
As a small business owner or manager, you don’t need to understand it all (perhaps no one ever will). But you do need to at least get started with SEO tactics that will help lead potential customers from the Google search bar to your website. In our survey, 60 percent of small business owners said they don’t plan to use SEO in 2017.
To start, use a tool like Moz Keyword Explorer or Google Keyword Planner to find the phrases people use when searching for topics related to your business, then incorporate those keywords into the titles of each page and blog post on your website.
SEO also means optimizing your website for customers who are searching for you—physically. To ensure local customers are aware that your business is nearby, optimize your Google My Business profile by encouraging customer reviews and ensuring your information is consistent across the internet.
If terms like “meta description” and “backlink” are foreign phrases to you, download “SEO Basics: A Guide to SEO Best Practices for Small Business” for an SEO crash course.
8. You’re not investing in content
When we asked small business owners about the type of content they produce to help get customers, 68 percent said they post on social media—but less than half gave any other answer, like publishing blog posts, sending emails, or creating video. While social media has become an important way for all companies to connect with customers, small businesses are missing opportunities by not producing other types of content.
Content plays a valuable role in every stage of the buyer’s journey. It helps your SEO efforts that allow prospects to find your business through search results. It helps you capture those leads when you exchange a helpful piece of content for an email address. It helps you convert those leads into customers by addressing questions and concerns that prospects have before buying. And it helps them make that final buying decision. Think making quality content is too time-consuming? Don’t fret, it may not be as time-consuming or costly as you might assume. Find out what kind of content is right for your business by downloading “What Should I Make Today? Discover Your Next Content Marketing Money Maker.”
9. You think your business is too small to try video
So you have no video experience? No budget? No equipment? Good news: As long as you have a smartphone, you have what you need to create your first video.
Less than a quarter of the small businesses we surveyed create video, likely because of the aforementioned reasons. But there’s no rule that your video has to be worthy of a TV commercial. Even a basic video of you talking to your iPhone can help show there’s a real person behind your business and showcase your expertise and personality to customers. Plus, using video helps boost your visibility both in search engines and on social platforms like Facebook and YouTube.
Check out the “Infusionsoft + Wistia Small Business Video Marketing Guide” for tips on getting started with video equipment, production, and strategy.
10. Your social media use is limited to unpaid Facebook posts
Facebook is among the marketing tactics that small business owners do best, with nearly three-quarters of survey respondents saying they regularly post on the platform.
Unfortunately, doing your best on Facebook likely won’t be good enough in 2017. Since Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritize content from friends and advertisers, the average post from a business reaches less than 10 percent of followers and engages only 4 percent of them, according to a study by Locowise.
Small businesses shouldn’t give up on Facebook, but they should evolve their social media strategies to include advertising and other social platforms. Depending on the ad format you choose, you can spend as little as $1 per day on Facebook ads targeted either at your existing fan base or a custom audience you design based on factors like location, demographics, and interests.
Besides, most small businesses haven’t tried much beyond Facebook, with more than half of survey respondents saying they don’t regularly use Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Pinterest. You might find your customers hang out on a different social platform—and that you can be friends there without the fee. Want to know more about Facebook advertising? Check out our guide, “Capturing Leads with a Successful Facebook Advertising Strategy.”
If your marketing strategy shows any signs of falling behind in 2017, download the 2017 Small Business Marketing Trends Report. The report—featuring insights from MOZ, Content Marketing Institute, Buffer, Aimclear, and Wistia—outlines the many ways small businesses can start modernizing their marketing, sharing actionable advice from six leading digital marketing companies.