10 Trends in Small Business Marketing Strategy

The Source Local Marketing Blog Explores the Latest Trends Driving Small Business Marketing Strategy in 2023 -- Are You On-Trend?


The Latest Trends Driving Small Business Marketing Strategy in 2023

As we’ve reached mid-year, here is a look at the latest trends driving small business strategy in 2023.  AI dominates the headlines, but we’ve identified some more practical (though not necessarily sexy) trends you should tackle first.

HubSpot recently published a list of 50 trends.  That’s a lot to absorb, so here is our list, consolidated down to the most important (we think):

  • Targeting Becomes More Scientific
  • Clear Value Proposition is Critical
  • One Thought at a Time
  • More Video
  • Expanding Reach Options
  • Test First
  • Then Scale Up
  • Better, Smarter Data
  • Marketing Automation
  • AI Marketing Tools

Getting past the clutter of AI discussion, the simple fact is most small businesses are not positioned to take advantage of AI because they’re not doing the basics really well.  Our trends list considers the foundational factors that have emerged as essential in the digital era of small business marketing strategy.



#1:  Targeting Becomes More Scientific

We developed our Basic Marketing Formula to provide a structured method for developing small business marketing strategy:


Targeting is becoming more and more scientific.  Here are 3 key ways to leverage this trend:

  1. Use your data to build a REAL target — not just what you perceive anecdotally;
  2. Enhance with 3rd party data to be as specific as possible;
  3. Don’t be afraid to be VERY specific, because most advertising and data platforms can find just about any combination these days, and there’s no point in wasting outbound marketing on people who don’t fit your target.

Read More:  Audience Targeting  

#2:  Clear Value Proposition is Critical

Messaging has to be clear and to the point.  And our next two trends speak to that.

Your value proposition needs to be:

  1. Easily understood;
  2. Quickly communicated;
  3. Distinctive (attention-grabbing);
  4. Easily engaged.

Great marketing communication remains an artform, regardless of the growing influence of ChatGPT and other such tools.  In fact, we love these tools and use them in our work.  But they have yet to demonstrate the ability to REPLACE quality copywriting; so far they can merely ENHANCE it.

Read More:  Brand Messaging

#3:  One Thought at a Time

Great marketing in the digital era of small business marketing strategy builds on ONE thought, and ONE thought ONLY.  The days of rambling on over multiple hot buttons are long gone.

Your business may provide lots of different products, or a variety of services.  But your marketing needs to be siloed for each variant.  You can’t kill two birds with one stone; attempting that risks missing both birds completely.

In today’s over-communicated society, there is only room for one idea at a time.

Read More:  Just How Short are Attention Spans These Days?

#4:  More Video

People’s consumption of short videos has exploded.  According to KhrisDigital, short-form videos now account for over 80% of all mobile traffic, and 73% of consumers prefer to watch a short video to learn about a product or service.

“today, A 15-30 second video is worth a thousand words”

So if you’re not incorporating more short-form video content into your marketing and content plans, you’re not on-trend.

#5:  Expanding Reach Options

Once you’ve identified your target (who you want to talk to) and crafted your message (what you want to say to them), it becomes important to consider how best to reach them with that message in a time and place where they can ABSORB the message and RESPOND.

And that aspect of small business marketing strategy in the digital age is definitely becoming more scientific, too.  In fact, we recently identified problems with REACH strategy as one of the big results-killers for small business advertising.

Read More:  3 Reasons Advertising Fails & How To Avoid Them

We rely too much on old methods of reach at a time when our options have exploded.  Most commonly, that’s because we buy the reach first, and then worry about targeting and messaging — really as afterthoughts.  Why?  Because the selling happens on the reach end of the basic marketing formula.

#6:  Test First

The digital era of small business marketing strategy gives us the ability to easily test any idea before we “go all in” on it.  That’s why we created our proprietary Bullseye Digital Marketing Method.

Essentially, it provides a structured method to develop all the ideas (combinations of targeting, messaging, and reach) you feel are plausible — meaning you like them and feel they have the potential to succeed — and test them to see what actually works before you pour your entire budget into things that may fail.


Read More:  About Our Unique Bullseye Digital Marketing Method

#7:  Then Scale Up

Once you’ve used testing to determine what gets the best results and drives the best Marketing ROI for your business, then it’s time to double down.

And it’s easy to say yes to scaling tactics up when you have a good idea what the results will be on the other end.  By using the traction you demonstrated in your testing, you can project what your return on investment will be.

Read More:  Half of My Marketing Budget is Wasted, But Which Half?

Then, you’ll need to determine how much is too much.  Like anything else, there is a point of diminishing return.  Basically, you’ll saturate the market at a certain point and it’s inefficient to gain any additional customers via that same effort.  Honestly, that’s a great problem to have…

#8:  Better, Smarter Data

Data is one of our big trends.  Collecting it.  Visualizing it.  Enhancing it.  All of the data things.

The hottest topic around this trend is Google’s launch of GA4, and maybe more importantly the sunsetting of Google Universal Analytics on June 30th, 2023.  If that’s the first you’ve heard of that, yikes.  Go read this right now.

Yes, switching to GA4 is a pain in the butt.  But it’s worth the effort.  Because now you’ll be able to track and report so much more, and all that data will make the AI algorithms in development all across the Internet so much smarter moving forward.

Every business has key data points that control whether it grows, stagnates, or shrinks.  Some people call them Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs.  We think the best way to take advantage of the trend toward more data influencing more of our small business marketing strategy is to dedicate resources to:

  • Knowing Your KPIs
  • Tracking Your KPIs
  • Reporting Your KPIs

Like a heart monitor on a cardiac patient, this is how you know the health of your business in snapshot form at any given moment in time, and trends over time.

Read More:  Why We’re Obsessed With First Party Data

#9:  Marketing Automation

Our company was founded on several principles, one of which is making tools the big guys use against small business more readily available.  And the trend is definitely in that direction.  Small businesses have affordable access to really powerful tools today.  The challenge is they don’t always have the expertise to configure and use them effectively.

We believe marketing automation is the most underutilized of all the trends we’re sharing today.  If you don’t have a sales team, per se, marketing automation can become that function within your business.  If you have a sales team, this is a force multiplier that makes your team even more effective.

We think of marketing automation in terms of two disciplines:

  • Outbound
  • Inbound

Here are some examples:


Read More:  Ultimate Guide to Outbound Marketing Automation


Read More:  Ultimate Guide to Inbound Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is a game changer for most small business marketing strategy, and it’s the least-utilized by most companies we meet.  As you consider how to prioritize your planning for the remainder of 2023, we believe marketing automation offers the biggest bang for the buck, no matter whether you’re a B2B or D2C small business.

#10:  AI Marketing Tools

It would be silly to offer a monologue on trends driving small business marketing strategy and not mention AI.  In fact, Google has seemingly gone “all in” on AI as the future of its marketing platform.

Read More:  How Can I Start Using AI Tools in My Marketing?

But allow us to offer this mention of the AI trend more as a cautionary tale.  Much like small business marketing strategy got hijacked by the trend of social media in recent years, only to find it largely fools’ gold, we risk the same happening with AI.

AI tools can be very helpful to your small business, but they’re at a stage where they are more COMPLEMENTARY to a great marketing foundation than actually forming that foundation itself.

“you are not competing against ai.  you are COMPETING AGAINST other marketers using ai more effectively than you.”

To be positioned to take full advantage of the emerging influence AI will have on professional marketing in the next few years, you have to have the basics done well first.

Read More:  Beginners Guide to Digital Marketing

Discuss How These Trends May Create Opportunities for Your Small Business with Our Experts for Free

Another basic tenant of our company is investing in clients long before they invest in us.  And one way we do that is by offering a free initial consultation with anyone who wants to assess their marketing and discuss ways to improve their growth trajectory.

We take the time to get to know you and your business without a meter running (we hate having to pay people to get to know us, too), and there’s no pressure on you to ever take it any further.  Quite simply, if you like our ideas, great.  If you don’t feel we can have a meaningful impact on your business, we part friends.

Thanks for visiting today!  If it’s not time to schedule time with our experts yet, please subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter so you’ll receive periodic updates when we publish more helpful articles like this in our Local Marketing Blog.

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Steven Ludwig
After 3 decades as a professional marketer, serial entrepreneur and business consultant Steven Ludwig shares his best practices for small business marketing for owners, managers, and marketers with limited time, money, and expertise. Steven started his professional marketing career in broadcasting in the early ‘90s in Chicago after attending Valparaiso University. After a brief stint at an advertising agency specializing in entertainment and sports marketing where he worked with radio and television stations, movie theatre companies, record labels, musicians, and professional sports teams, he moved to Nashville to form The Marketing Group with his long-time business partner, Jim Wood. Having worked with some of the largest brands in the world, in 2010 he returned to local marketing primarily out of an interest and excitement for working with small business owners to build stronger companies. That desire comes out of early days in radio, where he worked closely with everything from car dealerships to restaurants, insurance and real estate agents, banks, home services companies, and specialty retailers of all kinds. Over the past decade, he has been on the bleeding edge of digital marketing technology, constantly seeking to understand complex strategies employed by giant corporations and then translate those capabilities into tactics small businesses can execute at a local level. Today, in addition to other business ventures with his wife and other long-time business partners, he still lives outside Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee and currently serves as Executive Chairman of EmpowerLocal, a digital marketing company building a nationwide network of digital, hyperlocal news and lifestyle publishers to provide efficient advertising opportunities for local, regional, and national brands.


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