Ask the Experts: Marketing Trends and Strategies

Each month, I'm inviting guest contributors to speak about additional timely, relevant and sought-after topics that are important for cause-focused organizations to be aware of as they grow. For May, I've gone rogue and asked myself to share! But this is not just an attempt to satisfy my vanity. Though I obviously cover marketing a lot on this blog, I wanted to provide you with some clear and concise trends and strategies in one little post.

 Ask the Experts: Marketing Trends and Strategies for Small Businesses

Q. What are the latest trends in your industry?

A. I've talked a little about it before, but content marketing has become HUGE over the last couple of years, and only seems to be growing in popularity. And with apps and technology, it's now easier than ever to implement content marketing whether you're a solopreneur or multi-national corporation. There really is no excuse not to give it a try. Content marketing should be a part of every organization's marketing strategy.

If you're new to content marketing, it does seem counter-intuitive. Why would you give away free content when you have bills to pay? But the answer is all around you. Have you ever read the blog of one of your favorite authors, and then read his or her book? Did you opt-in to a free course, only to buy another product or paid course later? Do you listen to free podcasts, only to pay to hear the host speak in person at an event? Likely, the answer is yes. It certainly is for me.

Free content allows us to build what we in marketing call the "know, like, and trust" factor with our audience. People/consumers are becoming more savvy and harder to convert. So, they need you to establish credibility in order to fork over their hard-earned cash. Content marketing allows you to do just that. You want to become the go-to expert for (insert your thing here), and this is a great way to start.

Content marketing can include items such as blogging, podcasting, free e-courses, downloads, and checklists. It's a way for you to "give your content away" in an effort to secure a sale later. Marketing is all about creating customers, and then managing the relationships that brands have with customers. So, content marketing seems a very logical step in that direction.

(If you'd like to learn more, Content Inc. is a terrific book on this subject.)

Q. What is the biggest mistake you see people making in terms of their marketing?

A. I offer the same piece of advice to people all the time, no matter their industry or organization. My #1 tip when it comes to marketing is consistency. I see this mistake, well, consistently. Most of the people I work with are at small nonprofits and purpose-driven for-profits. They are so focused on their cause that they ignore, or at least have a very lapsed relationship with, the people who can support them, whether that be sales or donations. But unless you're organization has one benefactor that will never dry up, consistently talking with your supporters is one of the best things you can do. If you are only communicating with people when you want something, you're going to lose that relationship to another organization who is happy to keep them updated and informed.

Q. What is your best piece of advice for people regarding marketing?

A. The people I speak with are always crazy concerned about social media. They've signed up for all the accounts they were told are important, but they are now overwhelmed. So what happens? They do nothing. Or maybe they post now and again on the platform they know best, but let the others collect dust bunnies. 

I get it! Social media is important. And it's difficult to keep up with, even for those of us who work with it regularly. But my best advice with social media as it relates to your marketing is to remove the profiles from your website that you aren't going to update. They're making you look bad. Once someone has looked at your Twitter profile, and seen that it hasn't been updated since 2013, they aren't going to go back to check it out again later.

I don't recommend deleting profiles because handles can be very hard to secure these days, but remove them from public view. Hide the accounts, if that feature is available. You can always go back and use it later if you'd like, but right now, it's doing more harm than good. And you have plenty of other things to keep you busy anyway.

(If you'd like to hear more about other ways to get back your time and focus your energy, check out my free e-course.)

Q. What is one thing readers can do this week to improve their marketing?

A. Make a plan! Marketing shouldn't be haphazard. It's a strategy for creating customers/donors, satisfying their needs or wants, and then getting them to come back. This shouldn't be left to chance.

Even if your initial plan only covers this week, do it. Then, block some time on your calendar to plan further out. And if you need to, ask for help. Marketing is one of the best things you can do for your business because it helps you get noticed and grow. Be intentional, not reactionary. Your time is too valuable.

Q. Anything else we should keep in mind?

A. I'll end on a similar note as Jen did in last month's Ask the Experts social media edition. We worked side-by-side for several years, and maybe our minds have started to meld. But keep in mind that social media is rented real estate. Email lists are owned.

Social media is difficult to keep up with because the rules can change at any moment. For example, up until a couple of years ago, businesses were seeing huge numbers of views and engagement on Facebook. Then the algorithm changed, and numbers drastically dropped. Now, it takes a lot of strategy, and sometimes money, to hit those same figures. That made some people mad, but remember, social media networks are first and foremost, for socializing between friends. Businesses have been smart to get in on the game, but you can't blame the platform for protecting their model, and then monetizing it to outsiders.

However, email lists are yours to keep. They are a direct line to people's inbox, whereas only a fraction of your Friends, Followers, and Fans see your social posts. Email is the way to go, and many people have forgotten that because of social media's flashy appearance.

Do yourself a favor. Start content marketing. Start building your email list. Then, talk to the people who have asked to be in relationship with you. You'll be glad you did!

I expand on some of these ideas in my free e-course, 5 Things to Stop Doing This Week. Jumpstart your marketing and communications, free up your time, and focus your energy.



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 Marketing Trends and Strategy for Small Businesses

 Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.