12 Small Business Marketing Predictions for 2015 from the Experts

What will be hot in small business marketing for 2015? We asked a dozen top digital marketing experts to share their trends and predictions for small businesses in 2015 to help you kickstart your planning and help you stay on top of what’s next. We wanted to know: What digital marketing trend or prediction is most important for small businesses in 2015? Here’s what we heard from top experts:

1) Technology and data will empower SMBs to better know their customers, resulting in better marketing strategies and more ROI.

Adam-Toporek“2015 will be the year that small business truly begins using big data to understand its customers, enabling smaller organizations to market more effectively, and to provide richer, more customized experiences. Cloud-based analytics solutions will continue to flatten the cost curve between large and small business, giving the little guys access to many of the same tools the Fortune 500 has.

“Small businesses will be in a position to understand the behaviors of their customers like never before, and this improved customer intelligence will result in more accurate marketing strategies and a greater return on investment from digital marketing. Small businesses won’t catch up to the big players just yet, but increased access to mobile, social, and web analytics will help make the marketing playing field more level than ever.”

— Adam Toporek, Founder, CTS Service Solutions
Click to Tweet this Trend, Follow Adam on Twitter: @adamtoporek

2) SMBs integrating across systems will help reduce complexity and increase effectiveness.

Steven-Jacobs-150“A new effort by small business technology companies to network various products — from payroll and accounting to point-of-sale and marketing — will help reduce the complexity across the software stack, creating renewed headroom for growth. It’s starting in back-office, automating some of the more redundant aspects of running a business, but that type of integration will make its way to the point-of-sale and eventually to the marketing and advertising industries as well.

“In terms of marketing, these tools offer small businesses two immediate opportunities. First, digital payment, point-of-sale, and booking systems yield massive amounts of data about a business’ customer base, creating a growing opportunity for software companies to build automated customer relationship management tools. Second, these tools also offer small businesses — particularly those in the service industry — a way to convert digitally through online reservations and booking engines, opening new opportunities for more efficient performance-based advertising products for local business.”

— Steven Jacobs, Deputy Editor, Street Fight 
Click to Tweet this TrendFollow Steven on Twitter: @stevenhjacobs

3) Software with service will help SMBs get more out of their digital marketing and technology integrations.

Rowlands_headshot“Local businesses are starved for time but still require technology that will help bring success to their business via online marketing. In 2015, we will see what ReachLocal is calling Software with Service take hold over the traditional Software as a Service (SaaS).

“This category acknowledges that the do-it-yourself approach to integrating technology into local business is failing far too many organizations and what they really need is state-of-the-art technology along with expert service.”

— Sharon Rowlands, CEO, ReachLocal
Click to Tweet this Trend, Follow Sharon on Twitter: @SharonRowlands

4) Consumer behavior will drive more SMBs to invest in mobile and differentiate themselves with online scheduling and payments.

sterling headshot-2“If I have to pick one trend, then it remains mobile. Mobile continues to grow in importance for consumers and especially in the local market, which is dominated by SMBs. However, the overall market is growing in complexity, and this is another theme — the challenges of addressing more channels and platforms as consumer behavior becomes ever more convoluted and hard to track.

“As an offshoot of mobile, I would say that online scheduling and (in-app) payments are a very important consumer trend to be aware of and potentially take action on. The convenience of online ordering or scheduling and in-app payments is going to differentiate those businesses that offer these things and disadvantage those that do not. Most SMBs can’t implement these things themselves, but there are third party directories and marketplaces that do and can be leveraged.”

— Greg Sterling, VP Strategy & Insights, Local Search Association
Click to Tweet This Trend , Follow Greg on Twitter: @gsterling

5) Mobile marketing will become the new “must-have” for SMBs.

Melinda-Emerson Headshot“Mobile web marketing will become the most important thing for SMBs to focus on in 2015. Small business owners need to make sure their websites are mobile ready with mobile offers, hours of operation, and click-to-call features. They will also need to focus on mobile-optimized content on their websites.

“Text/SMS campaigns and mobile ads will also become more prevalent. Business owners will also need to employ a mobile social media strategies as Millennials are a key demographic to engage this way.”

— Melinda Emerson, Quintessence Group Consulting & Author
Click to Tweet This Trend, Follow Melinda on Twitter: @SmallBizLady

6) Social will be more about paid than organic, forcing SMBs to adapt.

anita-smallbiztrends“Social media becomes less valuable to small businesses as social platforms continue moving toward less visibility for organic efforts and more focus on paid promotion.

“That means techniques like email marketing, lead generation activities, search engines, content marketing — all will have to pick up the slack.”

— Anita Campbell, Founder, Small Business Trends
Click to Tweet This Trend, Follow Anita on Twitter: @smallbiztrends

7) SMBs will adapt to shift in social by investing in advertising and building their own channels.

Ramon Ray“Social networks are going to focus more and more on monetizing their user base. This means they are going to have less ‘free’ commercial posts and want companies to PAY for promotion, such as Facebook’s coming restrictions in 2015.

“This means that small businesses need to focus on two things: 1) not being afraid to invest in advertising and measure it 2) and investing in going directly to their customer and ensuring their blog, website, and email newsletter are all as good as possible, with fantastic design and good content.”

— Ramon Ray, Publisher, Smart Hustle Magazine
Click to Tweet This Trend, Follow Ramon on Twitter: @ramonray

8) The changing consumer buying journey will require SMBs to do more comprehensive digital marketing.

laurie-mccabe“The buyer journey is evolving rapidly and will include many more digital and traditional touch points than ever. So, SMBs need to incorporate mobile, social, and content into their marketing. Buyers are doing more research, shopping, and buying on mobile devices, so SMBs must ensure consumers can get their content across all their devices.

“SMBs need social media solutions that help them actively listen, participate in, and track the social networks their prospects and customers use to engage and nurture relationships and build customer advocacy. Content feeds all marketing initiatives, and valuable, engaging, and educational content is critical to establishing and sustaining customer relationships. Since this is a time-consuming effort, SMBs need to produce, distribute, and repackage content more effectively so they get more value from it. Finally, SMBs need to create and maintain as consistent look and feel across different channels and also get an integrated view of customer behavior.”

— Laurie McCabe, Co-Founder & Partner, SMB Group
Click to Tweet This Trend, Follow Laurie on Twitter: @lauriemccabe

9) Great storytelling will power better, more effective marketing.

ann-handley“2014 was the Year of Content Marketing for small businesses. I’m capitalizing that in because it was truly the year that companies of all sizes adopted content and story as a cornerstone of their marketing.

“In 2015, the smartest small businesses will focus not simply on content and on storytelling — but they will focus on telling true stories well. In other words, they will focus not just on what story to tell, but how to tell it. That means that ridiculously good writing finally gets the respect it deserves in the content marketing mix.”

— Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs
Click to Tweet This Trend, Follow Ann on Twitter: @annhandley

10) Adapting content for multiple platforms and uses will boost effectiveness.

jerod-morris“One-size-fits-all content will become less and less successful. Preparing an adaptive content strategy is imperative for long-term success.

“Bonus tip: the podcast train is out of the station and shows no signs of slowing down. But you’re not too late. Be creative about how to impact your audience with audio, and then execute.”

— Jerod Morris, Copyblogger Media
Click to Tweet This Trend, Follow Jerod on Twitter: @JerodMorris

11) Reputation monitoring will help SMBs better manage their brands online.

gini-dietrich“This isn’t so much a trend or prediction, but something every small and local business should do in 2015: Monitor what people are saying about your organization online.

“We can no longer get away with not monitoring. There are many tools that allow you to do it cost- and time-efficiently. Don’t let another year go by with your head buried in the sand.”

— Gini Dietrich, Arment Dietrich, Inc. & Spin Sucks
Click to Tweet This Trend, Follow Gini on Twitter: @ginidietrich

12) Technology will enable SMBs to track true marketing ROI and get more out of their budgets.

reachlocal-todd-ebert“In 2015, the savviest local businesses will shift their attention from discovery to lead conversion and lead attribution. After all, why spend thousands on marketing programs to get droves of visitors but let the majority of these potential new customers slip away? Why waste good money on marketing tactics that aren’t working?

“We’re at the start of a new trend — one where business owners adopt lead conversion software that enables businesses to automatically capture, follow-up with, and convert more leads into customers by staying top-of-mind until they are ready to buy. This will make it easy for the owner to track the customers and revenue from each different marketing source. That way, they can calculate true ROI by source and squeeze more leads, customers, and profit out of the same marketing budget. This will be a winning value proposition for small businesses in 2015.”

— Todd Ebert, Chief Marketing Officer, ReachLocal
Click to Tweet This Trend, Follow Todd on Twitter: @toddebert

What’s Your Prediction?

How are you preparing to take advantage of these small business marketing trends and must-haves for 2015? What trend or prediction would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in a comment below!

Tiffany Monhollon

Tiffany Monhollon is an award-winning content, community, and social media marketing strategist who is passionate about helping businesses and professionals succeed online, currently serving as Director of Content Marketing at ReachLocal. She develops integrated strategies from the ground up, incorporating content, community, and social tactics to deliver online marketing, search optimization, social engagement, and reputation management results. She speaks and writes about online marketing and social media for sites like Entrepreneur, MarketingProfs, Small Business Trends, Media Post, Social Media Today, Business 2 Community, and the ReachLocal Online Marketing blog.

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