We may have barely crossed into the second half of 2014, but if you want to have a big year in 2015, you should jump on your game plan now. As you lay the foundation of your 2015 marketing strategy, here are five marketing trends to give you a jumpstart on your big projects for the rest of this year and next:
1. Micro-targeting: It’s time to get to know your customers. Put away your one-to-many playbook and dig deeper into customization and personalization strategies to find the small, yet potentially profitable, subsets of your market and niche offerings. Touching these customers will require data parsing to create the kind of one-to-one conversations for successful micro targeting.
Where to start: If you don’t know who you’re talking to, you won’t know what to say. Committing to buyer persona development lets you deep dive into needs, lifestyle and motivations of your buyers. The work is well worth the ability to construct more relevant content strategies throughout the buying cycle, post-purchase efforts, and account-based marketing activities.
2. Paid placements are here to stay: Spend your money on the right content and platform. As social networks and large publishers move away from earned media into paid media, B2B marketing teams will have to spend more time -- and money -- investing in paid or sponsored placements to engage hard-to-reach business consumers. Changes to the Facebook algorithm in late 2013 have already produced a 44 percent decline in non-sponsored brand content in users’ newsfeeds. LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Pinterest now offer sponsored content placements and ads that promise specific reach. The days of free reach are over. If you don’t pay, your followers very likely won’t see anything you’re doing in the social realm.
Where to start: Understand which digital properties are performing best for you. Build budgets and relationships around content placement, sponsorship opportunities, syndication services and content-recommendation platforms. As you grow investments, optimize the types of content you’re publishing. On social media, you may have to lose the cute pictures of the office dog or softball game trophy and cater to more educational content: short explainer videos, images from whitepapers and infographics that speak directly to your desired audience.
As always, pair posts with strong calls to action and supporting elements. For example, instead of publishing the whitepaper download link in the post, send interested users to a content-landing page to extend the conversation. Crunch the data to determine which of your users will watch a video on Facebook but ignore it on LinkedIn, so you can get the right piece, in the right place, at the right time -- without wasting ad dollars.
Your challenge is to create these digital experiences to fit the preferences and needs of your audience. For example, American Express and IBM have successfully walked the path of B2B omnichannel success with highly targeted digital properties that speak to very specific business users. And these efforts aren’t just flashy websites. They fold in mobile-optimized elements, offline activities and dynamic content offers and designs to round out the personalized digital experience.
In exploring omnichannel marketing, B2B marketers will discover what B2C marketers realized a few years ago -- mobile is a hotbed of engagement. Forrester predicts that by 2020, 1 in 5 sales will result from data collected from wearable devices.
Where to start: Fine tune your mobile strategy to encompass the totality of content execution: persona profiling, content theme, design and distribution. Don’t assume the same 8000 pixel long infographic that did well with your target audience on their desktop and laptops, will have the same impact when viewed on smaller screens that require excessive scrolling and pinching to view (or published on third-party properties that arbitrarily squeeze your images into their specs.) Employ dynamic-display technology to adjust content offers and image sizes based on users’ screen resolution. Power up your social-media channels with micro-content: create thumbnails (Facebook, LinkedIn), crop out images (Pinterest, Instagram) or build a slide deck (Slideshare, Scribd) to draw viewers with bite-sized chunks instead of long, overwhelming images.
4. Marketing automation tools will change the way you play. In the past, marketing direction was set by historical data. When market disruptions appeared, businesses retroactively worked to catch up. Existing marketing automation suites look to make real-time marketing real. These systems combine traditional marketing activities like CRM, email marketing, content management, search engine optimization, lead scoring and analytics into holistic tools to help boost response by delivering relevant and timely messages to prospects.
B2B businesses, particularly in the technology industry, have lead the way in the use of marketing automation tools. However, many businesses have struggled to integrate their existing tools into a single system to take advantage of all of the bells and whistles automation systems offer. For those who have made the leap, according to research from The Aberdeen Group, using marketing automation can increase conversion rates by over 50 percent.
Where to start: Look at your existing marketing tools first. They may even include options-extend capabilities like the app marketplace offered with Saleforce’s CRM suite. Find opportunities to more tightly integrate them, rethink redundancy in tool feature sets (Do you really need that landing page builder when your email marketing tool includes a landing page option?) or opt to decommission them all in lieu of a comprehensive marketing-automation system.
Technology is only part of the secret sauce. As marketing automation grows, so will the demand for marketing technologists. The ideal marketing technologist possesses both an in-depth knowledge of the plethora of marketing-related technology options available and how to manipulate those technologies to drive results.
5. The need for quality content will spotlight the importance of professional writers. As brands turn into publishers, their content needs will span beyond grammatical accuracy and into the finer points of writing compelling copy adaptable across platforms and written to the tastes of narrowly targeted personas.
The need for well-crafted copy and visuals goes hand-in-hand with one of content marketers’ consistent pain points of not being able to produce enough to fill their content pipelines.
In a 2013 copywriting survey by UK-based content marketing firm Sticky Content, two-thirds of respondents reported that product managers and marketing do the majority of the digital writing in the business. They are already juggling so many balls, the time and effort they devote to crafting copy is decreasing. This will lead forward-thinking marketers to seek out either experienced content writers or outsource writing to agencies or marketplaces that specialize in writing or creating content.
Where to start: Where resources are available, stand up an editorial team -- backed by style guides, templates and tools to support consistency -- to oversee content quality. Where skills lack in house, reach out to freelancers and firms to do the writing, allowing the content team to focus on strategy, placement and analytics. Be prepared to provide in-depth creative briefs and make internal documentation available to give you writer a complete view of what you’re trying to accomplish and your target audience.