Throughout 2006, I've been watching and interpreting the marketing stats and studies that impact small businesses to give you tips on staying one step ahead. Now, with 2007 fast approaching, let's look at a roundup of the hottest trends, from changes taking place among consumer audiences through what to watch for in traditional and online marketing. Here's the info you need on the most important trends and how to make the most of them to increase sales and grow your business in the New Year.
1. College Grads
If you're searching for the most effective way to reach this desirable prospect group, move your marketing dollars into online media. The internet is now the primary source of media and entertainment among college grads, whose top planned purchases upon graduation are professional clothing, travel/airline tickets, health insurance and furniture according to the "Y2M: eGrad College Graduate Survey". Nearly 80 percent of respondents are online purchasers, making them ideal candidates for your online campaign.
2. Affluent Working Women
The big news is that this group is increasing in size, and the best way to reach them may be online. According to The Media Audit, affluent working women with family incomes of $75,000 or more are growing in number, and 94.3 percent access the internet during an average month. About half are now considered heavy users of the internet, while heavy use of radio, television, newspapers and direct mail has all declined within this group. To increase sales from this expanding audience, alter your media spending to place greater emphasis online.
3. Asian Population Growth
The southern region of the U.S. boasts the fastest Asian population growth rate (31 percent), followed by the Midwest (24 percent), the Northeast (23 percent) and the West (19 percent), according to an analysis of Census Bureau data in the "American Community Survey" by Kang & Lee Advertising. Asians represent a prospect group with higher than average household incomes and education levels. Can you offer a product or service that will appeal to this growing market?
Want to build buzz? Lucid Marketing's study, "U.S. Adults: Word of Mouth Communications," found that women were more likely than men to share a positive experience with a business or recommend an enjoyable product; full-time employees made substantially more daily contacts than those not in the workforce; and people with household earnings of more than $100,000 were more likely to make recommendations than those earning less. So buzz marketers should direct efforts to these three "chatty" groups.
Trends in Traditional Media
5. Yellow Pages
According to a study from the Kelsey group, marketers targeting younger demographics should transition away from print. Only 28 percent of teens said they would turn to print Yellow Pages first to find a local business, product, or service, while 47 percent said their first choice would be search engines. And just 44 percent of respondents between the ages and 18 and 34 favored print Yellow Pages.
6. Simultaneous Media Usage
There's no longer such a thing as a captive media audience--consumers are frequently participating in more than one form of media at any one time. Seventy percent of web users, for instance, watch TV occasionally to regularly while online, according to BIGresearch's "Simultaneous Media Survey." It also found that nearly 65 percent watch TV while they read, and 51 percent of radio listeners read the newspaper while listening. The rise in multitasking among consumers mandates an integrated media approach and an increased emphasis on advertising within the most relevant and engaging content.
This past year, many of the websites of major newspapers have become the number-one portals in their geographic markets and are drawing a larger, younger and more affluent readership. The audience that reads a newspaper's website but not its print version accounts for 2 to 15 percent of the Integrated Newspaper Audience, according to Scarborough Research, and that represents hundreds of thousands of readers for many newspapers in larger markets. They're successfully attracting 18-to-34-year-olds to their sites, and the online readers are more upscale, which can make them a more desirable audience. If you're an advertiser in the "print" newspaper, you can negotiate for a combo rate to run online as well to reach these additional readers. And if advertising in the print newspaper is too expensive for your business, you may find more affordable rates online by drilling down past the main pages to place ads on content-rich, but less frequently visited web pages.
Hot Online Trends
8. Web Conferencing
As business travel becomes increasingly challenging due to increased security, advance check-in times and transportation delays, online workshops and meetings that require no travel are coming to the forefront. It's more desirable than ever to demo your new product to a group or make a sales presentation without anyone ever leaving home. Participants can watch your presentation on their computer monitors and hear you live on their computer speakers or by phone. In fact, I'm now transitioning to this technology to deliver webinars, and you can, too.
9. Online Research
Whether you sell exclusively online or primarily through a brick-and-mortar site, online search will have a profound impact on your sales in 2007. When asked how often they researched products online before buying them in person or in a store, 87 percent of nearly 7,500 respondents to a BIGresearch "Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey" said they did so occasionally to regularly. And a comScore research study showed that 63 percent of searchers completed a purchase in offline retail stores following their search activity. So no matter whether you sell online, off-line or both, you need a great website with deep, persuasive content that keeps your prospects and customers shopping on your site or sends them to your store.
10. Local Search
Want to know where to invest your online marketing dollars in 2007? Aim for higher rankings in the top search engines. Sixty-two percent of searchers click on a link within the first page of results, according to a report from iProspect and Jupiter Research. To win higher rankings in natural search results, you can optimize your site by sprinkling the keyword phrases your best prospects will be searching for throughout all the pages of your site, in your page descriptions and in metatags. You should also secure links to your site from other high-ranking websites. But to guarantee you'll turn up in the top search results, invest in a paid search campaign. Local search campaigns are often the most affordable and will bring traffic from your immediate market area in the New Year.