It’s been one heck of a year. If you own a small business, give yourself a pat on the back and then several more pats after that, because you deserve it.
Thanks to the pandemic and economic uncertainty, many small businesses are focusing on survival.
Even ones deemed “essential” that provide local services have seen their growth opportunities shrink in 2020.
Thankfully, with the new year upon us, lights are beginning to shine at the end of the tunnel.
With some elbow grease and a little luck, SMB owners can market their business, scale their revenue and get the reputation they deserve in 2021.
So what are some of the key marketing trends for 2021 that SMB owners can leverage to achieve these goals?
In this article, I will introduce emerging trends for SMB marketing in 2021 to help you take your business to the next level and enter 2022 stronger than ever!
It’s no secret that 2020 has proved to be one of the most challenging years in a generation for small businesses and society in general.
But when it comes to SMB marketing, there are some trends that you can take advantage of.
For instance, online search traffic, marketing influencers and even advertising costs on certain platforms like Facebook have all seen growth in 2020.
Consumers have gotten used to searching for and learning about local services online more than ever before.
Likewise, small businesses have adapted by marketing and selling online more than ever before.
Some of these advancements in digital marketing won’t last but many will. So, let’s look at the landscape to find some hidden gems and marketing trends that will define 2021.
Here are the top emerging trends in digital marketing for 2021 that small businesses can start exploring to increase their sales!
What social networks should your small business focus on in 2021?
Facebook still leads the pack in consumer usage. For that reason alone, it should continue to be at the forefront of small business digital marketing.
Facebook’s 2020 numbers exceeded 2.5 billion monthly active users and 1.7 billion daily active users worldwide. This blows all other social channels out of the water.
And in the U.S. alone, as recently as 2019, over two-thirds of adults reported that they use Facebook.
Bottom line? If you’re not marketing to customers on Facebook, then your chances of growing your local business drop by a lot.
But Facebook is beginning to crack and Instagram is showing signs of filling the void.
Every year, fewer young people use Facebook. In 2015, over 70% of teenagers in the U.S. were Facebook users. That number dropped to barely above 50% by 2018.
That means Facebook’s average user is getting older and total active usage is already peaking.
But Instagram has experienced steady growth year over year, including in the pandemic-hit 2020.
In 2010, only about 10% of U.S. adults used Instagram, but that number grew to about 37% by 2019.
By comparison, the size of Facebook’s adult userbase in the U.S. has virtually flatlined since 2016.
Even more telling is that the average time users spend per day on Facebook. It decreased from 2017-2020 and is projected to stall from 2020-2021.
Whereas average daily time on Instagram has increased every year since 2016 and will continue to grow into 2021 as well, as per the below chart.
These numbers don’t even do justice to Instagram’s surge since the pandemic started.
Instagram usage during the past several months has increased by about 40%. This number is around 70% for the Instagram Live feature.
This growth likely won’t be sustainable once the pandemic ends. That said, there’s no sign that Instagram activity will slow down any time soon.
So what do these statistics mean for small business marketing going into 2021?
Every small business owner should strongly consider increasing their marketing on Instagram.
Whether you increase your budget for Instagram ads or share more organic posts to promote your service, all small businesses stand to benefit from Instagram marketing.
Below I’ll outline a couple specific ideas of SMB digital marketing strategies you can take from Instagram in 2021.
First off, what is reputation marketing?
Reputation marketing is the strategy of using customer reviews to promote your company’s reputation in creative ways across different channels.
Sharing stories of your work as screenshots of customer reviews or images of the job done captioned by a review goes a long way towards success.
Creating Instagram reviews to market your business online is an excellent way to attract leads and grow sales.
That’s because about 80% of users go to Instagram for help in making purchasing decisions from local businesses.
And social proof is effective for these users. Social proof is a type of reputation marketing whereby you utilize customer reviews as “proof” of your company’s reputation.
So using Instagram for social proof reviews attracts new leads via brand awareness. It also validates potential customers’ decisions when they’re closer to the point of sale.
And remember, get more reviews from customers to generate more social proof for your Instagram reviews and grow your business in 2021.
I bet you thought that SEO on Instagram was impossible?
That’s because Instagram used to only allow users to search for content by hashtags, location tags, usernames and profile names.
But in late 2020, Instagram announced its largest upgrade ever, at least for small business digital marketing: Instagram keyword-searching.
Starting in 2021, businesses can optimize their Instagram posts for target keyterms.
So if you’re a window cleaner in Fargo, North Dakota, you can attract leads by posting reviews or photos of sparkling clean windows with the headline “Fargo Window Cleaning.”
Before, your post only would’ve appeared in Instagram Search if both you and the buyer used the hashtag #fargowindowcleaning.
And be honest, no one would ever search for such a hashtag (no offense Fargo—we love the film and show named after your fine town!).
With small business SEO on Instagram, your local company can start using Instagram more in 2021 to become the top service provider in your region!
2021 is the year to go all in on Google My Business.
First off, what is Google My Business and why is it important?
If you aren’t using Google My Business in your small business marketing, you’re missing out on a big opportunity.
Google My Business is Google’s platform that promotes businesses across Google Search and Google Maps.
When you search for a local business or a nearby service, you’ll likely find Google My Business listings.
For instance, customers can look up Google My Business profiles and find profile snippets via the “Local 3-Pack” for local companies.
Benefits of Google My Business include greater visibility for your business on Google Search and Google Maps. This leads to more search traffic and increased revenue.
Make sure to check out our guide on Google My Business optimization to learn how to set up, verify and improve your Google My Business listing.
Google My Business also has one other key element: customer reviews on Google.
There are lots of ways to get Google reviews. But no matter the method, customer reviews mean more 5-star ratings, higher search traffic and more collateral for social proof.
Remember, you can’t get Google reviews online without a Google My Business profile.
So what about 2021 makes Google My Business so special?
To start, online searches for business services are up in 2020—way up.
Google searches have increased by over 100% for local services including the term “available near me” from 2019-2020.
Whether those increases will continue at the same rate into 2021 after the pandemic ends isn’t foreseen. But current trends show that some level of minimal growth is expected.
With customers relying more on search engines to find local businesses, Google My Business will pay off more than ever before.
Let’s look at two ways for Google My Business to prove fruitful in 2021.
Local Services Ads are a form of paid advertising on Google for small, local businesses.
Google launched them back in 2018 but they’ve started to take off in the past several months—and not only because of the global health pandemic.
That’s because Google is aggressively expanding the availability and the features of Local Services Ads. This means they’ll become vital to your success in 2021 and beyond.
And guess what? They’re the first thing potential customers see when they search for your business service on Google. That’s the kind of advertising placement that’s nearly priceless.
(Though speaking of price, Local Services Ads tend to be cheaper than the traditional Google Ads, so that’s an added benefit too!)
For 2021, Google is increasing the number of metropolitan areas where they display Local Services Ads. More industries and business types will see availability increase too.
And new features for 2021 include Local Services Ads bidding to help small businesses manage their ad spending for digital marketing budgets.
You can’t qualify for Local Services Ads without a Google My Business profile. Plus, your ad can’t rank well without lots of customer reviews, which also require Google My Business.
Learn more about Google Local Services Ads to start getting more leads and closing more sales in 2021.
Google regularly updates its Google My Business features for companies to take advantage of. With better features comes more benefits and leads for your business.
Remember that Google’s main motivation is to provide the ultimate user experience on its website. That’s how Google constantly stays ahead of its own competition.
With more potential customers relying on Google to find and evaluate companies, it’s important to use Google’s upgrades to stay ahead of your own competition in 2021.
And as your customers become more tech-savvy, their expectations will rise.
They might ask themselves why they should choose a local electrician if they can’t communicate with the company directly on the first page of Google Search results.
In that spirit, a new messaging feature in Google My Business could completely change how businesses find and talk to leads online.
Google has observed “an uptick in the number of messages sent to businesses” since the start of 2020. So they decided to make it even easier for customers to message businesses.
Now potential customers can send messages to businesses from any post within their Google My Business profile—directly on Google Search or Google Maps.
And if the customer calls and you can’t pick up, Google will prompt them to leave a message on your Google My Business. Because who checks voicemails still these days, right?
These leads are essential for your business growth.
Because according to 2021 marketing statistics, phone and messaging leads, including from Google, are more likely to buy than leads who have to navigate multiple websites.
If you’re not going all in on Google My Business, your 2021 sales growth will stall.
So make sure that when customers search for your services that your Google My Business profile is the first thing they see.
With the dawn of a new year, there is promise for hope and a fresh start.
It’s been such a difficult 2020. Setting your business up for success in 2021 is key to growing your business and becoming the go-to service provider in your region.
So let’s review the major 2021 digital marketing for small business.
First, don’t forget about Facebook but also start taking Instagram more seriously.
Use reputation marketing and Instagram reviews to engage your audience and reach new customers.
Second, think strategically about captioning your Instagram posts and even how you define your business on your profile. Instagram SEO has all the makings of a gamechanger.
Third, look into Local Services Ads by Google and see if you qualify. They’re inexpensive and enable small businesses to capture more leads.
And last, check that you have claimed and verified your Google My Business profile.
Then invest resources into posting and messaging on the platform. Most people will begin to expect service from you right on Google—and many already do!
One common denominator between these marketing trends and your ability to successfully leverage them is customer reviews.
Customer reviews are a great tool to use on Instagram. They will also make or break your growth opportunities on Google My Business.
The more Google reviews you have, the more your Local Services Ads and Google My Business profile will appear online.
Which is to say that the more reviews you get, the more money goes into your company’s pockets in 2021. And after a year like 2020, we could all use a little bit of good news.