Can you believe that 2016 is just a few more days away? If you’re like us at Hatchbuck, you’re ready to jump into the new year and continue the momentum you’ve built in 2015.

While we’re setting the deck for 2016, we thought it was a good time to look back on the year and reflect on what worked best on the marketing front.  To help, we’ve tapped into small business influencers to ask them the most important marketing lesson they learned in 2015.

Here’s what they had to say:

The Cloud Is a Given, The Focus is on Tools

Marketing technology is evolving fast, and the beauty of SaaS (software as a service) is that it gives small businesses the ability to quickly implement cloud-based technology without being tied down to long-term contracts or manual maintenance and upgrades. This is a unique advantage to small businesses, as their counter-parts in the enterprise space can find it challenging to switch out legacy systems and adapt.  Today, SaaS is the obvious choice for small business, changing the conversation from, is it in the cloud? to does it work for my business?  “Cloud is out, usefulness is in,” says Anita Campbell, Founder and CEO of Small Business Trends:


The focus going forward is on what that software can do for your small business — whether it’s marketing software or any other kind of software. And since cloud software is now the default choice of small businesses, the emphasis is on the ability to quickly get up and running, and do tasks seamlessly, without a lot of custom programming.   That’s what business owners and marketing managers looking for marketing tools will be focusing on in 2016. And that’s where the focus should be — on the usefulness of the tool, not on enterprise buzzwords like “the cloud” that we consider a given.

Your Customers Hold the Key to Your Success

You can spend lots of time and money to attract new customers to your business, but if your customers don’t stick, you’re left with a leaky boat that is tough to paddle where you really want to be as a business.  In 2015, putting the customer first was the ticket to success, according to Nellie Akalp, CEO of


The biggest marketing lesson I learned in 2015 is to think like the customer in all efforts! Where are my customers online? What conversations are they having? What outlets are they reading? Those are just some of the questions I was able to answer to target key clients and market them services resulting in fantastic ROI. I used this tactic from everything to my social media to content marketing and plan on doing so in 2016!




Deborah Sweeney, CEO of My Corporation also credits re-engaging customers to her business’s success in 2015:


Our best online marketing lesson this year is the value of re-targeting to current customers. We do a lot of work to bring new customers into our net of offerings. Once we have their attention, we have truly recognized the value of offering value-add services and ancillary services to grow our interaction with our customers. When we market to small business owners and entrepreneurs initially, they may not need certain services we offer, but re-marketing with other offers (For example, the entrepreneurs initially need a corporate filing or DBA assistance. Over time, though, they may need business licenses and trademarks.) Marketing to your own customers and providing top-notch customer service in the process will keep your customers coming back and your revenue growing! For us, that was the best success story in online marketing from 2015.




Whether you’re launching a new service or introducing a mobile app, tapping into your customer base can give your initiative instant momentum.  Rebecca Xiong, CEO of GrowEpic, leveraged GrowEpic’s engaged audience of customers to drive downloads of their new mobile app:


We have an active software-as-service social tool site with hundred of users a day. We used that to market our mobile app, telling people the app makes it easy for them to do what they do on the site already. Most apps rely on app store promotion or a branding site to promote. With our strong user-base and regular new users, our mobile app grew quickly and reached 100,000 downloads in a few months.


It Pays to Invest in In-Depth Content

The key to getting found online in 2016?  Creating in-depth, quality content that goes beyond the standard 500-word blog post will bring big returns in getting your business found online, according to Martin Harrison, Co-Founder at Copify:


The biggest lesson I learned in 2015 is that Google is increasingly favouring long form content in its search results. We have seen our rankings for several competitive terms switch from specific landing pages created specifically for that query, to long form, guide-style content such as this: advice for brands would be to invest time and budget creating new, or expanding upon existing site content to deliver genuine value to your audience.



Entrepreneur Brent Hale echos Harrison’s advice to invest in in-depth content this year:


The biggest online marketing lesson I’ve learned over the past year is that content marketing is still the most effective and economical way to expand your audience (for businesses where content marketing makes sense). Not only that, but the longer and more thorough your content, the more effective it is. Ultimately, if you can produce high-quality content that educates and inspires your audience on a consistent basis, you will see a significant increase in your business.


Guest Podcasting is Effective, Inexpensive and Scalable

Building your small business brand?  Shawn Chhabra, Host & Creator of the podcast, “Winning the Game of Life,” explains how small businesses can build an audience in a very effective, inexpensive and scalable manner:


Podcasts are effective because you are being featured as a show guest on the shows where your prospects and ideal customers are listening to the Podcast; whole hearted, fully involved while listening. You are really speaking directly to your dream customers as a Podcast guest. They want to hear what you have to say, so you can see how your listeners can turn into your loyal customers. It is inexpensive and almost free, because the host of the Podcast show is the one who is doing almost everything. All you have to do is just show up for the interview. Scalable because you can continue to look for other related Podcasts where you can be featured as a guest.

Social Media Isn’t Just About Engagement – It Should Convert

Small business owners know that they should be using social media, but are often perplexed at how social media can actually impact their business.  Casey Cornett, Director of Social Media at VI Marketing and Branding, advises to think about your entire marketing funnel when putting together your social media strategy:


If I had to give one marketing lesson from 2015 for small business owners, it would be to stop looking at social media as just one section of your marketing funnel (Engage), and begin using it at all areas: Attract, Educate, Engage and Convert. Social Media has grown tremendously over the past few years, but one thing 2015 brought to the industry is incredible targeting (offering very cost-effective Attract), auto-play videos (use to Educate) and finally reliable Conversion tracking through website pixels. Stop posting your latest 10% off sale, and begin growing your customer database.

Your Marketing Strategy is Bigger than Each Individual Channel

Social media, SEO, email marketing, content marketing – each digital channel you touch will give lift to your other campaigns.  So, if you have a well thought-out content strategy, it will naturally boost your SEO, impact what you share on social media, and influence what you send in your email newsletter.  Likewise, building an enormous social media following can impact SEO as your content is shared, and drive more traffic to your website.  When you orchestrate a marketing strategy in which each channel works together to augment the others, you’ve got a recipe for blockbuster success.  Mandy McEwen, Inbound Marketing Specialist and Leader at Mod Girl Marketing, explains:

Mandy-McEwenIf we learned anything in 2015, it is the importance of cohesive digital strategies. Online marketing has a lot of moving parts that businesses cannot ignore. The days of one-channel digital marketing are gone. It’s not enough to just have a great SEO strategy. It’s not enough to just have great content. It’s not enough to just have an email newsletter. Effective online marketing must be holistic and must be user-centric. In order for businesses to really succeed online, they must have a holistic and mobile-friendly marketing strategy that includes several digital channels and segmented campaigns. Having a strong brand voice and active social media presence is no longer an option – it’s a necessity. Let’s not forget about analytics and user experience, which are both extremely important when devising marketing strategies that actually produce a healthy ROI.

Investing in the right software solution, turning existing customers into repeat buyers, expanding on existing content, leveraging guest podcasting, converting social media connections into customers, and leveraging each digital channel to boost the others – successful small business marketing is all about making the most of every resource you have at your disposal. What marketing lessons did you learn in 2015, and what marketing strategies are you ready to try in 2016?