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Trend-spotting for small businesses

Trend-spotting quote from Faith Popcorn

Trend-spotting is part art and part science. I love trend-spotting, especially when it comes to uncovering the trends that are shaping my world, both business and personal. Many research firms release their predictions at the beginning of the year, which I find laughable, since trends tend to ignore the calendar.

In today’s blog post, I have consolidated a huge number of forecasts down into 5 major marketing trends that small businesses need to pay attention to. These cover the global macro-level trends all the way down to the smaller micro-trends that may directly affect your industry niche or business.

cityscape with people

Finally, as a bonus at the end of this post, I have included the 17 megatrends that Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve research group has been tracking over the years. You may not know her name, but you will recognize her trend-spotting expertise. Many of the trends her firm has identified over decades of research work.

For example, the Cocooning trend represents our need to protect ourselves from the harsh, unpredictable realities of the outside world. It started out as a consumer home trend. It has now evolved into areas such as hotels catering to our every personal desire and need, with the integration of Small Indulgences, Pleasure Revenge and Fantasy Adventure.

The top 5 marketing trends you should know

Trend-spotting 1. Integration of online, social and mobile marketing

This trend is not new. However, it is finally starting to become a reality as companies learn how to use AI, data-driven programs and tools to make real integration possible.

In the future, it may become a strategic differentiator in your customer’s experience with your company and your brand. Previously, companies were obsessed with digital marketing, especially the technology and tactics used at the bottom of the sales funnel. These tactics creeped a lot of us out, or completely turned us off with their unethical practices.

Consequently, the pendulum will now hopefully swing back to focusing on the human side of marketing. Businesses need to learn how to use these tools to build ongoing engagement and longer-term brand equity instead of focusing on short-term lead conversion and sales generation tactics.

Pay close attention to how your customers react to AI and data-driven marketing, and whether your competitors use it.

In other words, use technology to make your long-term customer experience a priority. You have access to digital tools and technology to incorporate your customers’ stories into your brand story and empower them as your loyal brand ambassadors.  

National Positions

Brands that are more willing to interact with customers publicly will have a strong impact—and brands that can show how this engagement influences their products and services will make an even bigger impact.

adults conversing with digital devices

Trend-spotting 2.

​Personalization: Connecting Content & Data—Ethically 

Your company’s demonstration of respect for personal privacy and information will now form an important part of your reputation. 2018 was a rocky year for consumers' privacy, riddled with high-profile corporate scandals such as FaceBook.

As a result, trust tanked. New laws such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)—plus California’s privacy law, which comes into effect in January 2020—means you must pay close attention to how to handle your customers’ privacy, data and financial details.

As a consequence, people are starting to notice which businesses “walk the talk” and are trustworthy, and which ones don’t. Earn your customers’ trust by respecting them and being totally transparent and ethical about how and when you use their information. 

Give them control over how their data is being used. As a result, you will earn their trust. In a global online economy marked by hacks, leaks and identity theft, people will favor the businesses that can promise them a safe business experience.

flower blossom in field

Trend-spotting 3.

The continued rise of green consumerism 

Millennials are leading the charge when it comes to environmental concerns impacting their purchasing decisions. From vegan health and beauty products to free-range protein and recycled plastic products, their conscious choices around lifestyle and purchasing are driving the sustainable movement.

Consequently, their influence will only continue to grow. Global data shows firm evidence for this. Millennials (aged 22-35) are more likely than any other generation to say that they would pay extra for eco- friendly or sustainable products. Over 60% say this, compared to 55% of Gen X (aged 36-54) and just 46% of Baby Boomers (aged 55-64). Gen Z (58%) are close behind, and figures for this generation are only likely to grow as its members’ disposable income grows. (data from Global WebIndex research)

Audience taking photos at concert

Trend-spotting 4.

Gen Z takes the stage and makes big waves

Generation Z, our youngest generation, has increasingly taken the place once held by millennials among marketers. Gen Z are leading the charge towards new forms of brand-consumer relationships based around experience and entertainment. Their adoption of creative and social media tools is blurring the boundaries between experience and technology. 

Their influence is already impacting retail. As Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve research group reports, immersive events are customer candy for this generation—and the more digital integration involved, the better.

Most noteworthy, pay attention to how this generation navigates where to go and what they get. They are the predictors who will show you how their shopping preferences will influence other generations’ purchase behaviors. 

Social media is becoming ever more powerful in steering shoppers

41% of Gen Zers are influenced by Facebook ads, 30% by what they see on YouTube, and 26% by Instagram—and that doesn’t include the additional boost delivered by seeing brands in influencers’ feeds. (data from BrainReserve study)

As a result, retailers are already shifting their approach. Stacy Martinet, VP of marketing strategy and communications at Adobe predicts that engaging content is going to play a big role in retail commerce strategies in 2019, with an emphasis on nurturing customers so that when it is time to buy, your brand or store comes to mind first. 

In addition to online, the move toward experiential commerce will be felt offline as well, McKinsey’s Heller said. Studies already show that consumers who shop both online and in-store have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel.

Hence, it’s no longer "Caveat emptor—Let the buyer beware," but “mercatus emptor—Let the marketplace beware.”

Stacy Martinet

VP of marketing strategy and communications at Adobe

It’s loyalty 101: The one-time transaction might bring in some short-term results, but it’s the true fans of your brand and products who will be lifelong shoppers

fan and dancers taking selfie

Trend-spotting 5.

The growth of micro-influencers

Several larger cultural trends are shaping seismic shifts in who people listen to. Influencer marketing is also a classic social media strategy. Brands have always relied on celebrities and leading influencers for product endorsements and generating credibility. That is now shifting to micro-influencers as consumers now rely on their peers.

As our monolithic culture continues to splinter and break up, micro-clans are emerging as major players. Micro-influencers are the spokespeople and commentators for these niche audiences. Witness the growth of paleo and ketogenic diets, cannabis products, meatless meat and a host of other culturally influenced products and services that did not exist 10 years ago. Each of these micro-clans and movements has their influencers and leaders.

 In short, you need to track both the macro-level influencers as well as these emerging micro-influencers who are relevant to your business and brands.
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Bonus content: Trend-spotting with Faith Popcorn

Here is a short list of the trends that are currently rocking our world. Read her blogs for a provocative look at trend-spotting to forecast what our future holds.

  • Cannabis highHow high will we go? The legalization of cannabis is hitting like a tsunami, much like the Internet dotcom boom of the late 90’s.
  • 99 lives – People’s lives are in high-speed mode as we deal with a crisis of too little time and too many things on our plates. Digital Nomadism is emerging as a solution to provide safe, comforting third space places away from home.
  • EVEolution – The rise of women’s influence on business and society. How women think and behave is forcing major marketing shifts.
  • Your Gender-Free Future – The era of his-n-hers is dying, thanks to the rising generation. As the BrainReserve reseachers take extra pains to note: “One’s sense of gender has nothing to do with a person’s sexual identity – who they are attracted to romantically – but has everything to do with their perception of self and how they feel in their own skin.”

The bottom line from the BrainReserve team:

You need new sensitivities, flexibility – and the ability to share information and let your customer make decisions, without being told how they should feel.

Additional resources:

5 Simple SEO tips for Small Business

Use these 5 simple SEO tips for small business. Make your small business is visible online and stands out from your competition. 

young woman searching on tablet

Tip #1. Understand your audience.

First of all, you need to identify what problems you solve for your customers. Do you have a unique selling proposition for your business? If you cannot speak clearly to your customers’ desires or needs, they won’t be able to figure it out. They will end up totally frustrated and leave your website. Make your content clear and directed specifically to what they want or need.

Most importantly, choose keywords that your audience uses to search online. Sometimes people think that they are looking for one thing, but in reality, they want something totally different. Imagine what Apple would have used for search terms when they first launched the iPhone. Nobody knew what an iPhone or smartphone was. Therefore, Apple would have included search terms such as “best Blackberry phone”, “best Palm Pilots,” “best Motorola phones,” etc. in their keywords list to make sure that they were connecting with their intended audience.

Follow Apple’s example. First include terms that are related to their search, and then add keywords that are related to when they are not sure of what they are searching for. Finally, use tools such as kwfinder or Ubersuggest to find related or alternative search terms to add to your list. Use your list of keywords consistently in your content, page titles, meta descriptions and tags.

Tools to use: Whiteboard, notebook, digital spreadsheet or notebook such as Evernote. Right now, I am into mind-mapping tools such as Scapple and Xmind.
Time involvement:

Tip #2. Optimize your page content.

Most importantly, speak to your audience. Use their language, not yours. Localize your content to your audience. For example, Minneapolis and St. Paul are two specific geographic regions in the Midwest, but locals refer to the entire metro area as “the Twin Cities.” If local business is important to you, make sure to include the specific geographic keywords that people use. In this example, words would include “Minneapolis,” “St. Paul,” “Twin Cities,” and possibly specific neighborhood names.  

Start by using any of the recommended tools to optimize your keywords, website page titles, meta descriptions and body content. I like Yoast, since it gives me a list of recommendations, even though I don’t always agree with it. The goal is to get all of these critical pieces working together and supporting your overall website strategy. It takes time to complete this but is an important part of a successful online strategy.

Finally, optimize your site to be more user-friendly. Here are some examples of activities that help make your site more user-friendly:

  • Optimize your site to be mobile-friendly.
  • Use SSL certification to indicate that your site is secure.
  • Create user-friendly page URLs like “yourname.com/about” instead of URLs with numbers “yourname.com/php-21565.”
  • Build an XML site map to help a) people find content and b) search engine bots to index your site pages.

Tools to use: SEMRush, SpyFu, Google Search Console, Keywords Everywhere, Yoast
Time involvement: High

auto mechanic working on brakes

Tip #3. Take care of technical SEO issues.

Some of the most common technical SEO problems have to do with:

  • Speed. Optimize your page load speed. Viewers will leave within a few seconds if your site is taking too long to load. Google now ranks page load speed as a factor in ranking your site. Check your bounce rate in your analytics dashboard.
  • Duplicate content. Google will ding your ranking if it finds lots of duplicate content.
  • Broken links. You do not want your audience to get 404 messages instead of the content they are looking for. Bad user experience.
  • Improper use of canonical link elements. Are you wasting your readers' time by sending them off on a wild goose chase? Make wise use of internal and external links to make their searches easier and faster.
  • Un-optimized pages. For example, this could include slow loading pages and unorganized content that make it difficult for your readers to scan quickly. 

Tools to use: SEMRushGoogle Search Console, GT MetrixSiteliner and Screaming Frog
Time involvement: High

Tip #4. Add credible backlinks, citations and directory links to your website.

Create business directory listings that are appropriate to your business. Make sure that your listings are accurate and complete. At minimum, include your business name, address and phone (also called “NAP”) information consistently in your business listings. Your NAP must be consistent everywhere online, or search engines such as Google will rank your site as unreliable, since the information is not reliable and potentially misleading.

Next, identify your local influencers who are relevant to your business referral network. You will want to work with them to create backlinks to your site. Furthermore, I recommend you make a list of your top 25-50 potential business directory listings and allocate time every week to complete one or two.

Tools to use: Yext, BrightLocal, WhiteSpark, Moz Local, Google business directory
Time involvement: Low

Tip #5. Monitor your top competitors.

Make a list of your top 5 to 10 direct and indirect competitors and build time in your calendar to check their websites and search listings on a monthly or quarterly basis. If they consistently outrank you in organic search rankings, investigate their approach with each of these SEO tips.

For example, use free tools such as Neil Patel’s SEO analyzer to compare their website with yours. Follow up by making the recommended changes and re-testing the results every month to track your results. I have been using Neil Patel’s SEO analyzer tool regularly since I launched my new website in January, and I have seen excellent progress towards better SEO rankings. It takes time but is worth the effort. My current goals are to clean up keywords and optimize scripts to reduce the number of requests.

Tools to use: SEO analyzer
Time involvement: Low

In conclusion, SEO takes time. First, set realistic expectations. It will take you weeks if not months to fix SEO content and technical problems to build up your SERP rankings. Three to six months is a reasonable amount of time to see improvements for your keyword rankings.

Most importantly, constantly test your content. Choose quality over quantity, so you do not get penalized for keyword stuffing or duplicate content. SEO research is an ongoing task, much like keeping your favorite mode of transportation clean and running well. Finally, monitor your results on a regular basis, so you can shift proactively if you notice changes to your site traffic.