Knowing your customers and engaging with them on their terms is one of the most important ways to ensure that your small business marketing campaigns are successful. However, the technology and media landscapes are changing so quickly that it can be hard to keep up.

It is disheartening to realize that the website you spent countless hours and dollars developing just a couple of years ago may now be so hopelessly out of date that it is actually costing you customers. Similarly, the simple straight-forward marketing messages you may have used quite successfully in the past are quite likely no longer performing nearly as well.

What’s going on? A new study from Adobe, The State of Content: Rules of Engagement for 2016, helps explain some fundamental shifts in the marketplace, as well as confirms some time-honored truths.

Based on online surveys taken by over 12,000 people who used at least one digital device (the US sample was 2,008) in September 2015, the authors have compiled a wealth of statistics regarding how people interact with and share online content. The following sections highlight some of the key findings, as well as how you can leverage them for your small business marketing.


Design for All Types of Device

Time was you could design a website at 800 x 600 pixels and be relatively confident that it would look good to just about everyone accessing it from their desktop computers. If that’s still your mindset, then Dorothy you’re not in Kansas anymore!

According to the Adobe study, US consumers regularly use on average 6 devices each, and typically use between 2 and 3 of them at the same time. And, while 40% of those “multiscreeners” admit to feeling a bit distracted when using multiple devices, a full 82% report feeling productive.

Interestingly, the study found that the “multiscreen” mentality was a double edged sword. Consumers expect that content will load quickly and display correctly regardless of the type of device they use. (73% of US respondents cited proper display on all devices as “critical” for a good experience.) However, if they encounter content that does not display well on one device, many are willing to switch to a different one for a better experience. For example, they study found that:

  • While 41% of people would completely abandon content that takes too long to load, 37% would switch to a different device and attempt to view the content.
  • 53% of people would switch devices if they thought content would be experienced better on a bigger screen.
  • 30% would completely abandon content that does not display correctly on the device they are using, but 49% would switch to a different device.

Even with those statistics, it is clear that your odds of losing customers is better than 50% if your content does not display correctly on the device your customer happens to be using. One way to tackle this requirement is to create a separate design for mobile devices. See How Mobile Friendly Is Your Design? 12 Tips to Follow, for tips on site design, then see how well you did by entering your site in the Google Mobile-Friendly Test.

However, with the speed at which screen sizes are changing, and the speed at which new devices (everything from tiny smart watch screens to giant curved LED TV screens) are being developed, a better approach is responsive design. With responsive design the site display is altered based on the device used to access it. See Responsive vs. Mobile-Friendly Websites: What’s the Difference? to understand your choices. For a quick overview, check out the 10 Tips to create effective responsive design infographic, and the Google Responsive Web Design page.


Keep it Entertaining and Make it Video

The Adobe study not only found lack of patience for sub-par user experiences, it also found low tolerance for anything long, complicated, and not sufficiently entertaining. For example:

  • 41% of people would abandon content due to excessive length.
  • 66% of US respondents prefer watching news videos to reading news articles
  • 59% of US respondents prefer skimming short stories to learn about trends than reading in-depth articles about them.

And while those of us in the US can take some intellectual solace in knowing that only 25% of us reported that the entertainment value of content was more important than its accuracy, it is somewhat mindboggling that a full 42% of French respondents valued entertainment over accuracy. (Je dis ça, je dis rien.)

Other recent studies have also found that video is becoming a critically integral part of any marketing program, and small businesses can’t afford to avoid it. For example, a Cisco study found that video will represent 79% of all Global Internet traffic by 2018. An Animoto study found that a large majority of people would rather watch a video about a product than read about it, customers are 50% more likely to read an email newsletter that incudes links to videos, and 25% of customers lose interest in a company that does not provide video content. And, 2/3 of respondents in a recent Invodo study reported preferring to use visual content, such as demonstration videos and walk-thoughs, to get help on their own than to contact customer support. Video is even more important for mobile device users. Another Invodo study found that mobile video views increased 150% between 2014 and 2015, and that in Q4 2015 mobile video views exceeded desktop video views. Finally, and perhaps most compelling, a 2016 Wyzowl survey found that 74% of respondents who watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service subsequently bought it.

As the adage teaches, give your customers what they want. If your small business marketing strategy does not include video, it should. If you use video sparingly, now is the time to expand your efforts. It is an ideal choice for everything from product descriptions and demonstrations, to branding, customer relationship management, customer reviews, technical support, expert commentary and advice, or just letting your corporate personality shine through. Your website should include your videos, but don’t stop there. Post videos on your blog as well as social media sites like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, and Instagram.

If you’re new to video, start with How to develop a video marketing strategy for small businesses. While you could buy yourself a professional video setup, you can also shoot and compile a very professional looking and sounding video using nothing more than your smartphone and some free editing software. These resources are worth checking out:


Make it Funny and Keep it Light

The Adobe study not only found that viewers prize entertaining content, but also that they respond to humor. 75% of US respondents reported that when marketing content is funny it makes a company appear more relatable. It also found that “making people laugh” is the top reason that people share content with others. 75% of US respondents reported sharing content, so a good way to get your content in on those shares is to make people laugh.

The preference for entertainment over information documented in the Adobe Study (and apparently most prominently displayed by the French), harkens back to an age-old controversy in the advertising copy world: clarity vs. cleverness. This post from 2013 highlights the arguments, and documents a case study that shows that old attitudes favoring clear marketing content are giving way to newer preferences for clever copy.

So how do you go about implementing humorous marketing without going overboard? It can be a very fine line between funny and offensive, or even funny and off-putting. When Humor Converts (and When It Doesn’t) provides an in-deph look at how to effectively use humor in any small business marketing campaign.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that your primary goal needs to be to create effective marketing, not just effective humor. For example, you might remember a series of “punny” K-mart videos in 2013 that promoted their free ship to home program with the “ship my pants” tag, and other equally witty shipping puns. (See the Kmart entry in this post for an example). Unfortunately though the funny spots generated tens of millions of views, Kmart sales actually declined that year.

So, to make your marketing humor successful, make sure that it is not only funny but also relevant, informative, and includes a call to action that will advance the customer relationship or the sale. This example from IKEA shows you how it’s done:


For further content marketing insights from the Adobe study, including customer attitudes towards trading personal information in exchange for more relevant content suggestions and advertisings, read the full The State of Content: Rules of Engagement for 2016 report.


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Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I'm the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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