Marketing for entrepreneurs has long been a tricky exercise. In many ways, entrepreneurs aren’t selling a product or service so much as they’re selling themselves. So, while all businesses have to be aware of modern trends in customer communications, it may be even more important for entrepreneurs to pay attention so they can plan ahead.
Joseph Ashford is the founder of K4 Global, a consultancy firm that works for established professionals and promotes them across all sectors of the media. Representing professionals at such a high level isn’t a simple matter, especially when you take into account everything from cultural awareness to shifting consumer expectations. In other words, he’s learned a lot on the job.
Ashford has a unique perspective on what marketers should be paying attention to as they look toward the horizon. We’ll share what he’s learned and what he thinks that entrepreneurs will have to contend with in 2021.
A new attitude
Before entrepreneurs can implement vertical integration or a bold and daring Facebook campaign, they need to address the larger needs of their customers. This will be the single most important factor when it comes to carving out your success for this year.
For 2021, Ashford has said, “I believe that content, not advertising, is the future of marketing, that marketing has evolved completely from the days of pitching a product or service.”
Customers aren’t impressed with traditional marketing anymore. Conventional outbound marketing often involves companies boasting about how great they are and then waiting for a flood of people to tear down their doors, just hoping for a taste. However, most markets are saturated enough that this isn’t a feasible option anymore.
This is why content has become such a big word with marketers. Who are you talking to? What are you saying? How are you saying it? Do you understand the differences in which someone consumes content on Twitter as opposed to Facebook?
Most entrepreneurs have multiple demographics that they can target. For instance, a toy store owner might market both to children as well as hobbyist collectors. A cleaning service might target both the wealthy and cash-strapped parents who would do anything for a break. So it all comes down to what messages are being conveyed and on what platforms.
This one has been on the rise for a while but may become even more important this year. A multichannel experience is one where you’re marketing across different mediums. So maybe you send both an email and text message about an upcoming sale, with the email detailing more information than the text message. Or you introduce a new product on Facebook, but also send an email invite to schedule an in-person demo.
This new trend is leading us closer to a personalised experience for customers. For example, let’s say that you ran a retail clothing business that sells hats and sweaters. You have a customer who loves your sweaters but can’t stand your hats. For a truly 1:1 experience, you would be sending only information about your sweaters so as to not annoy them with information about the hated hats.
There’s an art to sending out information about your company. Too little, and you’ll likely miss out on some opportunities to connect with different demographics. Too much, and you’ll have people reaching for the unsubscribe button. The only way out of this dilemma is to keep putting the customer first, and shifting your communications according to their needs.
Map your growth strategy
If you’re looking for marketing trends for entrepreneurs in 2021, chances are you’re planning to grow this year. Joseph Ashford recommends having a solid strategy in mind before you dig into your marketing goals.
For example, if you’re planning to grow by increasing the number of products or services, you might focus your campaigns on how you’re expanding customer choice and convenience. If you were planning to streamline your operations, you might highlight your new-and-improved ordering process or reduced prices.
Joseph Ashford has seen too many brands get caught up with the wrong marketing. They ignore what works about the product or service and highlight the wrong aspects of it. They stay silent about improvements to the company when they should be making customers aware.
Mapping your growth strategy all ties to what people crave these days: transparency and honesty. Having a relatively clear-cut path forward gives entrepreneurs more to say than your standard marketing spiel.
Networking still works
Less of a trend for 2021 and more of a fixture for all time, networking is still a force to be reckoned with. It has nothing to do with making best friends everywhere you go, but instead putting in the time, showing your face and building up a solid reputation.
Said Joseph Ashford, “The power of forging positive relationships everywhere you go is extremely potent, and you never know when a passing contact will turn into a significant piece of your success.” As with the other tips for marketing, networking is about focusing on someone other than yourself. It’s about listening to the potential client first before declaring that you’re the person for the job.
Entrepreneurs have such big ideas that it’s hard for their enthusiasm not to get in the way sometimes. While that go-getter persona is an asset, it’s one that needs to be constantly leveraged and harnessed in a way that benefits everyone.
When asked about the single most exciting trend, Joseph Ashford answered “Social responsibility in business.” K4 Global was founded on awareness, something that Ashford takes great pride in. And while the issue is large, complex and often without obvious answers, there’s a lot to be said for entrepreneurs who don’t shy away from difficult topics simply because they’re messy.
Ashford has worked with numerous people who have garnered poor reputations for any number of reasons. The internet has given everyone a voice, and not all of those voices are as truthful as they could be. When he works on campaigns, he focuses on how to improve the reputation of a business by reframing issues and putting them into context.
Entrepreneurs tend to have lofty dreams, but when it comes to marketing, it might make more sense to think on a smaller scale. So instead of advertising 10 amazing facts about your product, focus on its Unique Selling Point (USP). Instead of talking about your general background and goals, talk about your specialties and highlight the specific experience that gives you an edge.
And when it comes to your audience — especially when you’re looking at social media — remember that the quality is more important than the quantity. Ten thousand followers on Facebook won’t mean much if those people aren’t actually utilising your product or service. (Because chances are, they’re not actively telling friends and family about it either.) A following of 15 intensely loyal customers might turn out to be a far more impressive figure by comparison.
To that end, consider the relative worth of a micro-influencer, or a person or group with between 1,000 and 20,000 followers on social media. The caveat for micro-influencers is that you’re looking for those with a loyal following who also happen to fit in with your demographics. Not only is the ROI likely to be higher for this kind of marketing, but you’re more likely to establish real relationships on a deeper level.
K4 Global has to stay on top of marketing trends or the company risks being left behind. Joseph Ashford is an innately talented entrepreneur who has managed to hone his skills based on years of experience. It’s why entrepreneurs can trust these tips to carry them through this year and beyond.