5 Trends That Should Be Guiding Your Business Marketing in 2020

Don’t waste your time trying to attract customers with tactics based on outdated information. Here’s the latest about the types of marketing that people truly respond to.

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Some business owners are making decisions based on outdated trends and information. Let’s face it: It’s hard to keep up with the changing times.  

But misinformation and outdated information can hurt you in the world of SEO and marketing — especially when what’s gospel one month is forbidden the next. Not only can it leave you with Google penalties and poor rankings, but it can also cause you to focus your time, effort and money on the wrong things. 

Even for our super nerds who spend hours every week following the latest SEO news and testing and tracking, staying on top of industry changes and trends is a challenge. What’s a busy business owner to do?

You have a business to run, so we put together a little 2020 cheat sheet for you. Ditch the old SEO myths about what works and what doesn’t. Focus on the things that matter most.

#1 Email is still your only owned direct line to customers.

Things have changed a lot over the years in terms of where and how we communicate with our customers. Think of all the changes Facebook has made since businesses first jumped on board. 

Back then, all we had to do was create a page and ask our customers to “like” it. Now Facebook pages are virtually irrelevant from an organic point of view, and if you want to see traction on Facebook, you’d better be investing in ads. The lesson is this: Don’t put all your time and energy into things you can’t control or don’t own.  

These external platforms that we get excited about are always subject to changes we can’t control. The platforms and the pages or profiles we have on them aren’t technically ours. It’s a smarter move to invest in something that you do own, like your email list.

“Email is dead” has been touted time and time again, but the numbers tell a different story. Take a look at these stats from recent research by Emarsys, SaleCycle, OptinMonster, Fluent, and Campaign Monitor:

  • 80% of business professionals believe that email marketing increases customer retention.
  • 59% of respondents say marketing emails influence their purchase decisions.
  • Marketers who use segmented campaigns note as much as a 760% increase in revenue. 
  • 68% of millennials say promotional emails have influenced their purchase decisions.
  • 60% of consumers have made a purchase after receiving a marketing message by email.
  • Email reaches about 85% of people (versus the abysmally low reach rate of an organic post on social media).
  • Email marketing has $44 return on investment for every $1 spent.

Another crazy stat: Email is the preferred promotion channel for 60% of consumers, while only 20% of consumers who follow brands on social media want to see promotional messages. 

Our theory is that even though social media advertising can be very effective, at their core, social media platforms exist as a place for people to socialize. That’s what people hop on Instagram and Facebook to do. It’s no wonder people are more comfortable receiving promotional messages and more willing to engage with businesses in their inbox than they are in their feed.

But not just any old email will do. Make it personal if you really want to see results from your efforts. 

  • Something as simple as a personalized greeting can offer a sixfold increase in transaction rate.
  • 74% of marketers say targeted personalization increases customer engagement. (Econsultancy)
  • Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. (Campaign Monitor)
  • 53% of marketers say ongoing, personalized communication with existing customers results in moderate to significant revenue impact. (DemandGen)

Think your list is too small? Well, you have to start somewhere. And research by GetResponse suggests that you might be better off with a smaller list. Its stats show that email lists with fewer than 3,000 subscribers have the highest click through rate (CTR).

Don’t wait until you hit a certain goal number of subscribers to start engaging with your customers and potential customers through email. It’s the only owned channel you have. Use it wisely and regularly. 

A couple more tips: 

  1. Avoid words like “free,” “money” and “reminder” when sending out emails to your customers. Emarsys research shows that emails with these words in the subject line are more likely to end up in your customers’ spam folders.
  2. Be considerate of the “From” name or email address you’re using. If the people on your list don’t recognize either, they’re more likely to report your email as spam. According to Mailchimp, 43% of people will report emails as spam if they don’t recognize either the “From” name or email address.

#2 Google loves Google My Business, and so should you.

Google’s not the only search engine out there, but with 87.96% of market share, it’s definitely most business owners’ and marketers’ top focus. And guess what: Google loves Google. Like a lot. It loves all things Google, and that includes Google My Business (GMB).

Your GMB profile should get a lot of your love and attention because it’s what Google is going to show your customers before it shows them your website. Don’t ignore it, and fill out everything you possibly can.  

When Google tests new features, roll with it. Not every feature will make you happy (like the recent test showing competitors in a business’ GMB profile), but give your GMB profile lots of love anyway. Check back regularly to see if Google has made any changes, if customers have asked any questions you could answer, if you can add new services and if there’s anything else new going on.

And don’t forget about Google Posts. They’re still getting plenty of screen time and showing up super high in search results. Google’s even showing Google Posts when words in the post are relevant to the search query. Think of them as social posts or free ads for your business, and make them a regular part of your strategy.  

Another tip:

Google has recently started allowing searchers to request quotes from multiple businesses directly through GMB profiles, as long as those businesses have their messaging turned on. If you can answer messages promptly, definitely enable this feature. It can give you a leg up on competition and allow you to sweep up leads before they have a chance to really consider the competition.

#3 Reviews are still super important.

We’ve all seen some of the stats, but here are the latest from BrightLocal, ReviewTrackers and Harvard Business School:

  • 82% of consumers read reviews for local businesses.
  • Review ratings are the biggest driver of clicks in local search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • According to experts, review signals make up 15% of Google local pack ranking factors.
  • 91% of 18- to 34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business.
  • Businesses ranking in Google’s local position Nos. 1-3 have an average of 47 reviews, while businesses in position Nos. 7-10 have 38 reviews.
  • Every one-star increase in a Yelp rating leads to a 5% to 9% increase in revenue. 

Of course, you don’t want to go raking in the reviews if your business and your service aren’t up to par; 57% of consumers only use businesses with four or more review stars. You want good reviews, and the best way to get them is to offer the best service to each and every customer. 

But how recent the reviews are matter, too: 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past two weeks. Don’t focus on getting reviews temporarily — make it an ongoing part of your sales process and marketing plan. 

And don’t forget to respond to reviews, both positive and negative: 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews, and 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business that responds to their negative reviews.

There’s some debate right now about what the “perfect” review star rating is. While some stats show that having a five-star rating earns a business 39% more clicks from Google Local than having a one-star rating, other studies show that people are a bit suspicious of five-star businesses. Great, now we have to worry about too many bad reviews and too many good reviews? No. Just do your best and leave it at that. 

#4 Content is the bee’s knees.

Content, especially video, is what people want. So give it to them. Create content that answers their questions. That provides value. That educates them before they ever pick up the phone to call you.  

If you want to read an excellent book on how to do this well and why you should do it in the first place, check out They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan.

Two things to keep in mind when deciding what format your content should be in or how long or short it should be is searcher intent and topic.  

Long-form content is the talk of the town right now, but don’t create long content for the sake of having long content. Make your content as long as it needs to be. Grab your reader’s attention and pull them in. Dive deep if it’s something worth diving deep on. It all depends on what the topic is. 

For example, if your customer only wants to know if you offer financing and what your financing plans look like, make it easy for them to quickly find the answers they’re looking for. If they want educational content that explains something more complicated in more detail, don’t be afraid to write a novel.

Likewise, don’t just make video content because everyone else is doing it. If you can’t make the video helpful, informative or entertaining, don’t do it. When in doubt, entertain.

Another tip:

Voice search is already here, and it’s going to get even more popular as we all get more comfortable having Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant in our homes. By providing helpful, informative, conversational content, you increase your chances of being the suggested answer on these devices. So don’t write in jargon, write conversationally.

#5 Your website must look great and be easy to use on mobile.

Where are you going to house all that content? A lot of it will go on your mobile-friendly website, of course. 

More and more consumers are doing research online before ever picking up the phone or submitting a form. Make sure they find what they need, beyond what’s on your GMB profile. 

Create a website that looks great and is easy and intuitive to use on mobile, and pack it full of content that educates and convinces the customer. You want everyone coming to your website to easily see why you’re the best choice and how and why they should hire you. 

That means testimonials, easy and intuitive navigation, helpful and original content and videos, photos you didn’t grab from a stock photography site, and fast loading times. And it needs to be optimized so it actually shows up in a search.

If you’ve been putting off switching from “http” to “https,” investing in SEO and content, or building your website to be mobile-first or mobile-friendly, you can’t afford to wait any longer. 

About the Authors

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the co-founders of Spark Marketer, a Nashville, Tennessee-based digital marketing company that works primarily with service businesses. They’re also the co-hosts of the "Blue Collar Proud (BCP) Show," a podcast that’s all about having and living the blue-collar dream, and the co-authors of the book Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love. They're also co-creators of the award-winning app Closing Commander, which helps contractors close more estimates effortlessly. Both regularly speak at service industry trade shows and conferences across the nation. Visit www.facebook.com/sparkmarketerwww.facebook.com/bcpshowwww.facebook.com/groups/bluecollarproudnation or www.facebook.com/closingcommander.


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