In the past few decades, marketing for entrepreneurs has shifted dramatically.
London-based entrepreneur Joseph Ashford, the founder of consulting firm K4 Global, has watched many of these changes unfold and has seen how the trends have evolved over time. He also has some important thoughts on where everything is going.
2021 is going to be an uncertain year in many ways, so it helps entrepreneurs to be prepared with as much information as possible. We’ll look at what’s likely to dominate this year in marketing from a man who has dealt with countless clients all over the world.
Content Is (Still) King
Joseph 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.” The oft-repeated phrase of Content is King is one that drives to the heart of what the public is looking for these days.
No one wants to be bombarded with superfluous promises, they want to be addressed as if they were an individual with real concerns. They want to find companies that are adding something to a larger conversation. Specifically, Ashford is excited to see social justice being brought to the table. At K4 Global, the company has always acknowledged and tried to live up to their responsibilities to promote the kinds of values that benefit everyone.
Awareness can be applied to a range of issues and it opens up more meaningful ways to do more than just market. Entrepreneurs who keep this in mind should have an easier time planning and executing their marketing campaigns. Not everything has to be about hot button issues but tying a larger message into your content is a good way to both stand up for what’s right and connect with customers on a deeper level. Maybe it’s as simple as giving customers a little luxury even on a limited budget.
Single Out a USP
Most entrepreneurs are used to thinking big. It’s this instinct that drives them to think more, do more and learn more. Yet, this flurry of motion can quickly begin to overwhelm marketing spiels if they’re not careful. In an age of distraction, 2021 is going to be about singling out a unique selling point (USP) if entrepreneurs have any hope of ‘sticking’ after the customer gets back to their everyday lives.
A unique selling point has to be something that will set you apart from other businesses in your industry. If you’re trying to launch a brand-new product or service, your USP might be exclusivity. If you were launching a universal staple, you might distinguish yourself on price or efficacy.
Whatever it is that you choose needs to have enough of a hook so that you can draw people into the rest of your content. Only when you’ve captured their attention can you begin to expound on everything you can do for them.
Don’t Discount Networking
Networking will still be an effective strategy in 2021, especially after the isolation that defined 2020. It’s important for entrepreneurs to put in the time and effort both in their social and professional circles. Much of success in business is building up trust with people, and that takes time.
Joseph Ashford recommends meeting other entrepreneurs and cultivating relationships with them, even if there’s no obvious opportunity to work together in the future. There’s no telling what opportunities might pop up later on.
Finesse Your Social Media Strategy
“Social media advertising is a gap that businesses need to fill as it is a burgeoning market and has so much potential,” said Joseph Ashford. While the platforms aren’t necessarily new, the audiences and expectations can and do change on a regular basis.
There has been a huge push for marketing on sites like Facebook in the past 10 years. They have a way of finding people that an entrepreneur might never have connected with before. Even niche demographics have a way of congregating together online, leading to more shares that end in more sales.
However, as ubiquitous as social media may be, the nuances of it are often lost to marketers simply because of the breadth of the platform. With around 2.75 billion people on Facebook, it’s no wonder entrepreneurs have a difficult time knowing where to start. Testing different messages and asking for feedback can go a long way to getting started or evolving your marketing. It all starts by putting the customer’s needs first.
Target Your Micro Influencers
This concept wasn’t even on a marketer’s radar five years ago, but the concept has been steadily taking off. Now, instead of asking a Kardashian to plug a product to millions, you’re asking a TikTok star with 1,000 followers to partner with you.
The idea is that the mega-stars on social media might put the word out, but a smaller person with a more loyal following might actually inspire more purchases. There aren’t a lot of official definitions for this, but the general rule is that they have anywhere from 1,000 – 20,000 followers on a single platform.
There is likely going to be a limit to how much influencers will mean for any given business. It might not take too long before audiences are completely immune to sponsored content. However, if you’re partnering with someone who has built up trust with their followers (and who genuinely loves your product or service), the results can be extraordinary. Plus, because they’re the smaller stars, they’re also more likely to be within your budget.
Push for Omnichannel Marketing
SMS, emails, push notifications, social media messaging: multi-channel marketing is here to stay. Having a presence across multiple communication platforms means that entrepreneurs are that much more likely to get the loyalty they crave.
This kind of consistency is huge for customers today, and the gold standard is always going to be a 1:1 experience. So, when your rideshare drivers pull up, they send you a push notification that’s meant only for you. This kind of messaging is powerful and effective when used correctly. So, don’t be afraid to explore different avenues (e.g., podcasting or Spotify). Entrepreneurs who stretch their reach have a better chance at increasing their base.
Push Your Specialized Skills
Entrepreneurs are finding success when they highlight their specialties to their customers. So instead of marketing yourself as a financial professional, but you might say that you’re a fintech expert specializing in Ethereum.
This helps customers understand more about exactly what they’re getting into when they look over your communications. Similar to a USP, it makes specificity a priority, which can go a long way toward establishing credibility for your enterprise.
In Ashford’s own words, “To ensure the success of your marketing plans, it is vital to have strategies in place to propel growth.” How you prepare for the year and put your plans into motion will have a lot to do with how people respond to your messaging. Entrepreneurs at all stages of their careers have to remember this, as it’s all too easy for the established professionals to rest on their laurels.
K4 Global has managed to remain successful because Ashford has always been one to anticipate what’s ahead. He might not have been able to predict the proliferation of social media, but he was flexible enough to recognise its influence and start figuring out how to use it.
This is really the best that an entrepreneur can hope for. When they’re paying attention to the trends and listing to people like Ashford, they have that many more chances to capitalize on the best ways to reach out to their audience.