In a nutshell: These are the cutting-edge trends that will shape marketing today and in the future.

If you can’t adapt – and quickly – you’ll be left behind.

New tools, technologies and methods are always popping up, and you need to constantly be figuring out how to leverage them in your small business. If not, your competitors will. And you’ll be outpaced. To help you see what’s ahead, below you’ll find three marketing trends you can use.

Voice Technology

The Amazon Echo launched in 2015, and the Echo Dot was the best-selling product of the 2017 holiday season. Amazon’s Alexa app also claimed the No. 1 spot on Apple’s App Store, while the Google Home app was among the top 10. What does this all mean for marketing professionals? You have access to homes across the globe through smart speakers; it’s now significant enough for you to pay attention and figure out how to maximize this channel.

One of the challenges with smart speakers is that you’re required to provide useful, non-visual (remember: no screen!) content to the audience. But if you’ve implemented a content marketing strategy, it may be a matter of repurposing some of that material to fit a voice-enabled smart speaker platform. An example of a company participating in this new channel is VaynerMedia. Its CEO and cofounder Gary Vaynerchuk offers a daily motivational quote to its subscribers. This gets VaynerMedia in front of people that may not have known about it, reminds its audience about the company every single day and shows that VaynerMedia is on the cutting-edge of marketing technologies. A win-win-win for sure.

Big Data

Even the smallest of businesses are collecting data on their customers. But most just don’t know what to do with it. Gone are the days that in-depth data analysis is only for major companies with big budgets. According to Forbes’ “Ten Ways Big Data Is Revolutionizing Marketing and Sales,” customer data (revenue per customer, responsiveness, loyalty and engagement, etc.) is only part of the equation. Big Data can help to optimize pricing strategies, reduce go-to-market costs and improve marketing strategy and segmentation, among other uses. Start by determining what you would like to know, then work backward to determine which data to leverage.

An example of how a small business caught in the Pacific Northwest’s unpredictable weather used Big Data to improve efficiency and profitability may convince you it’s possible for your small business. According to Inc.’s “What 3 Small Business Learned from Big Data,” the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, struggled with predicting zoo attendance (based on weather forecasts) and staffing.

It compared historical attendance records against local climate data from the National Weather Service. The zoo used the information to determine zoo attendance (to the hour) and how many staff should be on site. Additionally, it analyzed data that showed what times people bought tickets online and offered time-limited deals to increase ticket sales. In two years, the zoo’s online ticket sales increased more than sevenfold (while on-site purchases remained steady).

Chatbots

You may not think of a chatbot as providing a personal touch, but it does just that when a person isn’t available. By leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to address customer questions on demand and in a personalized manner (versus a frequently asked questions page at your website), you’re delivering a better customer experience. This also frees up you and your employees to spend more time on more widescale marketing efforts.

According to “Can Virtual Experiences Replace Reality?” a report put out by Oracle, 80% of senior marketing and sales professionals expect to serve customers through chatbots by 2020; only 36% have implemented them so far.

An example of an AI-powered chatbot is Apartment Ocean, which integrates with Facebook Messenger and helps real estate businesses automate the initial conversation with potential clients. The chatbot asks pertinent questions (those a real estate professional would ask initially) to understand a potential clients’ needs. It follows up with questions based on the potential client’s response and then converts the chat into a transcript that allows you to reach out based on the information you’ve already gained. And there are many chatbots that have already been customized for a multitude of different businesses that you can just plug and play.

Stay ahead of your competition by implementing the latest marketing trends this year has to offer. As a small business, you’re more agile than the large corporations to give these tools a go – and quickly.

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