SXSW Interactive 2015 Update #2: The Hot Trends and What They Mean for SMBs

Everyone loves tech

Ad Age’s big takeaway is that “SXSW is a mishmash, just like the media and marketing industry,” with one of the biggest trends being that “every brand is a tech brand now -- or at least wants to be one.” At SXSW, that means big brands like Visa, McDonalds and GE. But SMBs need to explore technology as well. Digital marketing is no longer the province solely of cutting edge companies and Fortune 500 brands. The big players have made the investment that makes it possible for SMBs with limited ad budgets to ​work with a trusted partner to​ ​launch targeted online advertising campaigns and even compete with some multinational advertisers. SMBs can’t count themselves out – they need to explore the partners that can ​help them take advantage of tech.

Don’t chase trends too closely

In a clear-eyed recap, Fortune tells readers what they missed at SXSW this year. Mostly it was a feeling of missing out, which leads to chasing the latest trends around Austin all weekend. Selfie sticks and the live-streaming start-up Meerkat were extremely popular this year, but does that knowledge help the SMB owner? Right now, it doesn’t.

​SMBs should experimentwith new channels – as we said above, there’s no reason to avoid digital marketing or social media. But they also have to maintain a balance, working with trusted partners to find a marketing strategy that’s appropriate for them, rather than chasing the latest trends and trying to shoehorn their messaging into something that’s gathering buzz. As Digiday notes, even the biggest brands will fail if they try to chase start-up buzz once a year, rather than invest smartly over the course of the full year.

Make things easy for your customers

Payal Kadakia, CEO for the fitness class subscription service ClassPass, was in Austin for a panel called Seemingly Seamless, focused on new payment services. Entrepreneur has a pre-event profile of Kadakia, looking at how ClassPass evolved in its early days, pivoting after it realized that its customers’ needs were different than the company originally expected. This is extremely valuable for the SMB owner. Many small business entrepreneurs want to set up shop to fulfill a lifelong dream, but they may soon discover that the market needs something slightly different, and they are primed to capitalize on it. It is critical to maintain some degree of flexibility and the foresight to listen to your customers and then pivot to meet demand. At the same time, SMBs need the kinds of infrastructure from their marketing partners that will allow them to pivot and respond to demand.

The real winner

One of the most buzzed about marketing initiatives in Austin – the one that “won SXSW,” according to Business Insider – was a collaboration between The National St. Bernard Foundation and the smartphone battery case company Mophie. It was a fun campaign that used St. Bernards to “save” attendees' smartphone batteries throughout the event. The stunt promoted a product but also raised awareness for a good cause, showing that sometimes, fun, simple marketing executions are the best.