My predictions and advice for 2012 can be summed up in two words – social and media.
Social. The web exists for one primary reason, and that is search. Search allows companies like Google and Facebook to make billions of dollars in advertising revenue, and it allows small businesses like yours to be discovered by new prospects.
Online content in all of its forms drives search, and it is being created at a breathtaking pace on the social networks. That's where the action is for search, which means it's the place for your business to be.
When I started my landscape business in 1988, you were considered to be legitimate if you had a quality business card and a business listing in the telephone book. Today that validation is an active presence on the social web.
The absence of a robust social-web presence for your business indicates that either you are not really in business, or you are anti-social. My prediction is small businesses will finally wake up to the fact that they have to either actively manage their social-web presence or become irrelevant.
Media. There is no question that smart marketers will get serious about photos and videos in 2012. These digital, social objects readily engage consumers, which is why the search engines love them – and you should love them too.
Consider this. Facebook is the top photo sharing site on the web – and during any given hour there is more activity on Facebook than Google. When you connect the dots you realize why both Facebook and Google are giving photos greater emphasis.
Photos instantly tell a story. They capture a moment in time that lives on for years to come. What tells a story more effectively than photos? Videos – and this explains why Google's YouTube site accounts for 25 percent of its overall search traffic.
In working with companies in many industries, I hear similar comments. Retailers say they need to get prospects in their stores because that is how they can differentiate their business from both competitors and online retailers.
Equipment dealers and rental companies want their prospects to demo their equipment so they can experience it in action. And landscape contractors know that if you can walk your best properties with prospects, your chances of closing a deal are significantly enhanced.
The solution is to use media – photos and videos – to simulate your ideal marketing and selling situations.
Use video to bring the in-store experience to your prospects. Demonstrate your equipment with it.
If you do some planning, you will learn how to use video to create ambience and make emotional connections. A live human being appreciating the fragrance of a flower, or getting quiet to listen to the sounds of birds or water is powerful.
When it comes to your small business, you are the business.
In a business environment that is heavily influence by social media, you now are the media too.
You may be thinking, "You know, I didn't sign up for all of this."
Maybe not, but unlike so many other things in business, you have full control over it and the positive effects it can have on the future of your company.
My prediction is you will make it work.
Jeff Korhan is a speaker, consultant and top-ranked blogger on new media and small business marketing. www.jeffkorhan.com; firstname.lastname@example.org