Small business marketers should keep up with the 2012 branding trends

The books have yet to close on 2011, but it seems as if analysts are already finished with that year and moving on to the next. It's a good idea to begin looking forward rather than staring back at the past, especially when planning requires so much detail thanks to limited budgets and constrained resources. Small business marketers should especially be concerned with what the next 12 months will bring so they can adequately prepare campaigns and promotions.

While not every prognostication made by any given analyst will come to pass, many are worth being aware of simply because they can provide inspiration to idea-starved advertisers. The Market research firm Affect released a number of predictions for the coming year that indicate what the tenor of 2012 may be as well as offering fodder for promotions and areas of focus for the coming months.

Email is out and Twitter is in
Electronic mail, one of the first forms of online interaction with which most people had any kind of facility, is slowly being minimized as an important marketing tool. That isn't to say that companies won't be able to do some marketing in this medium, but it is quickly becoming overshadowed by other methods of outreach and engagement. This has left it more as a vehicle for messages with preexisting clients as well as official organizational communication.

By contrast, people interested in finding out more about a company may be more likely to use Twitter to do so going forward. Tweets are more concise as well as public. When a person emails a company, no one knows about it. This makes a business less accountable for complaints or mistakes. Conversely, someone who tweets"@" someone will likely be counting on the fact that others will see it and be curious to know how an organization intends to respond.

Google+ business
Google+ has been a long time in the making and is finally beginning to take off. The road is steep for this Facebook competitor, but it is an interesting tool for companies to use, if for no other reason than it is different than Facebook. After all, if every company has a Facebook page, it's difficult to set oneself apart from that competition. Organizations can be bigger fish in a smaller pond on Google+. Additionally, Facebook changes often to suit the needs of the balance it offers between commercial and personal roles for users.

Strategy over trends
A lot of the manner in which companies choose their social media or online marketing efforts has to do with what is popular at the moment. For example, when businesses are designing their own apps or blogging about a particular topic, it's natural for other companies to want to ride that wave of popularity. Doing so helps with search engine optimization, reader appeal and maximizing returns while minimizing effort.

However, the era of latching on to the ideas of others may soon be at a practical end. Users are increasingly demanding original content and thought leadership. Consequently, companies are expected to spend a lot more time planning their own online marketing escapades rather than watching what other organizations will do.

Metrics and analyses
Computerworld recently released the results of a Nucleus Research study of investment returns. It turns out that of all the investments in intelligence and research that a company can make, analytics and consumer data are far and away the best. In fact, companies that put money into predictive analysis saw an average of $10.66 returned on every dollar invested.

That is a compelling reason why analytics will be even bigger next year. The simple answer to the question of why is that analyses programs and models have gotten a lot better in the past few years. After accumulating data since the internet leaped to the fore front of marketing and media about a decade ago, many predictive programs have improved to the point that their affordable versions are actually about as good as the expensive programs that only large corporations can buy.

It's also important to consider that these metrics are not just useful for understanding how customers behave. In fact, they may be even more beneficial for determining which campaigns and efforts on the parts of companies are the most effective. For example, customer relationship management, ostensibly designed to offer data about particular clients, has evolved to show users which techniques and methods have yielded the most lead conversions and value.  

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