Small business is at a crossroads as we move into 2015.
Either they embrace the opportunities and tools presented by the disruption of the “old ways” by digital technology, or they slowly, and in some cases, quickly, become irrelevant, obsolete and broke as customers move elsewhere.
Your choice, as much of the technology can now be relatively easily outsourced, and at a very reasonable cost, certainly less than most would expect. The two major challenges in outsourcing, snake oil salesmen and not knowing what you want and need, are little different to any other category of purchased service.
So, to the trends that will influence your business in 2015 that you need to be at the very least aware of, and in most cases take some sort of pre-emptive action.
- Marketing technology will continue its rise and rise. The thousands of small marketing technology players who are currently emerging will be forcibly integrated, as the big guys buy “Martec” real estate. Adobe, Microsoft, et al will spend money, and the little guys will be swallowed as the gorillas fill the holes in their offerings, and new segments emerge. At the other end of the scale, there will remain plenty of options for smaller businesses to step into the automated marketing space. The current rash of innovations to make life easier for small businesses will continue and as those smaller single purpose tools gain traction, and more are launched to fill the niches that exist to service small businesses.
- Peer to peer marketing will continue to grow at “Moores law” type rates. Jerry Owyangs honeycomb diagram and data tells it all. Almost any service I can think of has the potential too be disrupted in some way by the peer to peer capabilities being delivered by technology.
- Content creation as a process. The next evolution in marketing, the move that I think “content” will start to make from being individual pieces of information produced in an ad hoc manner to being a process that is highly individualised, responsive to the specific context, and informed by the behaviour of the individual recipient scraped from the digital ecosystem. It means that content creation needs to be come an integrated process, more than a “campaign” . The term “content” will become redundant, it is just “marketing”, focussing on the individual customer.
- Marketing will evolve even more strongly as the path to the top corporate job. Functional expertise is becoming less important, what is important is the ability to connect the dots in flattened organisations that work on collaborative projects rather than to a functional tune. This trend is as true for small businesses as it is for major corporations. There will still be challenges as many marketers are really just mothers of clichés, but those relying on the cliché and appearances for credibility are becoming more obvious as the marketing expertise in the boardroom increases, and the availability of analytics quickly uncovers the charlatans. This will make the marketing landscape increasingly competitive on bases other than price.
- Recognition that marketing is the driving force of any successful enterprise will become accepted, even by the “beanies”. Seth Godin has been banging on for years about the end of the industrial/advertising model, the old school of interruption, but many enterprises have continued to deploy the old model, but I sense that the time has come. 2015 will be the year that sees marketing finally takes over.
- Video will become bigger part of marketing, particularly advantaging the small businesses that have the drive to deploy it and the capability to manage the outsourcing of the bits that they either cannot do, or cannot do economically. The old adage of a picture telling a thousand words is coming to life in twitter streams, instagram shares, and all social media platforms. The video trend will be supported by increasing use of graphics in all forms, but particularly data visualisations as a means to communicate meaning from the mountains of data that we can now generate. The density of data on the web is now such that new ways to cut though, communicate and engage need to be found, and I suspect those will all employ visuals in some form, perhaps interactive?
- Pay to go ad free is a trend that will evolve suddenly, to some degree it is an evolution of subscription marketing. Free to date platforms will charge to be ad free, whilst new platforms and models such as the Dollar Shave Club will probably evolve.
- The death of mass and the power of triibes will become more evident. The “cat pictures ” nature of content of social media platforms will reduce as marketers discover smart ways to package and deliver messages that resonate and motivate action. The agility of digitally capable small businesses will open up opportunities for them their bigger rivals will not see, or not be compatible with their existing business models.
- Local, provenance, and “real”. Marketing is about stories, so here is a trend made for marketers, and you do not have too be a multinational, just have a good story, rooted in truth and humanity. ‘Hyper-local” will become a significant force. Marketing aimed at small geographies, such as is possible by estate agents, and “local” produce, such as the increasing success of “Hawkesbury Harvest” in Sydney, and the “Sydney Harvest” value chain initiative.
- Paid social media will evolve more quickly than any of us anticipate, or would be forecast by a simple extrapolation. Twitter will go paid, travelling the route Facebook took to commercialize their vast reach. Some will hate it as it filters their feeds, others will welcome the reduction of the stream coming at them from which they try and drink. Anyway, twitter et al will set out to make money by caitalising on their reach.
- Social will grab more of the market in 2015 than it has had, even though the growth has been huge over the last few years. Small businesses will either embrace social and content marketing, in which case their agility and flexibility will put them in a competitively strong position, or if they fail to do so, they will fall further behind, and become casualties.
- The customer should always be the focal point of any organisation, but often they fail to get a mention. It is becoming more important than ever that you have a “360 degree” view of your customers, as the rapid evolution of social media and data generation and mining is enabling an ever more detailed understanding of the behaviour drivers of consumers. The density of highly targeted marketing, both organic and paid is increasing almost exponentially, so if you do not have this 360 degree view, your marketing will miss the mark.
- Treat with caution all the predictions you read, keep an absolutely open mind, as the only thing we know for sure about them is that they will be wrong, as with this ripper from Bloomberg who predicted the failure of the iphone. However, as with statistical models, quoting George E.P. Box who said “Essentially, all models are wrong, it is just that some are useful” perhaps some of the predictions you find around this time of the year will be useful, by adding perspective and an alternative view to your deliberations for 2015.
As a final thought, if you think your kid may be good at marketing, be sure they learn maths and statistics. “Maths & Stats” will increasingly be the basis of marketing, and the source of highly paid jobs and service business start-ups.
Have a great 2015.