To be a successful marketing professional in 2016, you’ve got to be able to search out -- and profit from -- fresh ideas, as challenging as that might be. The reality is that the competition is tough. Big-business marketing campaigns, relative to their lesser-funded, smaller competitiors, have seemingly bottomless funds, the best minds available and technology that continues to grow by leaps and bounds.
In short, the 2016 market is shaping up to be a saturated one. From the auto and insurance companies that inundate television advertising, to your aunt who peddles the newest multi-level marketing health craze on Facebook, everyone and anyone is sending us messages. It’s always been hard to cut through the advertising clutter, but I truly believe this year will be the hardest yet.
If you’re serious about maintaining your business’s competitive edge in 2016, here are five challenges you must overcome:
1. The consumer-marketer relationship is changing.
The evolution of media culture has hit a new point, and marketers can no longer rely on wordy blog posts and long product descriptions to make their point. The relationship between marketer and consumer has changed in the sense that marketers must work harder and harder to both make and maintain these connections.
This is perhaps the biggest challenge marketing professionals face. Simply writing an article won't ensure that anyone will read it. Instead, content marketing innovators must develop new strategies and approaches that enable their businesses to develop better relationships with consumers.
These days, for example, consumers would rather take a quiz that tells them what kind of shoe fits their personality than read up on the pros and cons of cross trainers vs. trail-running shoes. While interactive content such as quizzes and surveys can be more difficult to create than an article, going that extra mile in marketing is critical to maintaining a relevant connection with consumers.
Another solution -- and one likely to grow by leaps and bounds -- is to utilize the internet of things effectively.
This is already revolutionizing the way products are connected to consumers, with smartphones in particular supplying all kinds of information, such as consumer location and preferences. According to DigitalTonto, GPS can provide demographic information; apps can detect songs and videos and streamline consumer buying; and cameras can recognize information, all of which can lead to more interactive advertising and content creation.
To you, the marketing professional, this means that the field is ripe for harvest, with a vast supply of consumer data and marketing research ready to present itself to you -- if only you can tap into it.
2. Everyone Is producing content.
Getting your ideas out there is no longer a problem; anyone with Twitter and a smartphone can generate content that competes with yours. That's why, while streamlining your storytelling and connecting with your audience is vital, so is getting your content seen in the first place.
The solution is to diversify, intensify and collaborate. Hire more content strategists to spread your brand to more places. Be the professional you are. That high schooler on Facebook selling skateboard decals shouldn’t be reaching a bigger target audience than you, with your teams of marketers and vastly better resources.
Allocate more resources to your marketing team members so they can get more content out there, as well as expand the reach of the content they’ve already produced. No matter what your marketing budget, spend it wisely to improve both the breadth of content you’re producing and its reach online. Cover all of these bases better than your competition does.
Most important: Collaborate with your partners. This can come in the form of an inside-out approach, where IT communicates better with your product team, and your product team communicates better with marketing. But it can also occur in the form of partnerships with other companies. Influencer marketing can make a big difference in the amount of attention your brand receives.
3. Search-engine algorithms are changing (again).
Entire careers are being spent trying to understand the science of SEO. What we type into Google, Bing and Yahoo! turns the key to an enormous engine -- and getting onto the advertising bandwagon for that engine has been one of modern marketing lead areas of focus.
That said, remember not to place all your resources and strategy into SEO. Big engines like Google frequently change the algorithms that determine search results, while competitive advertising on search-results pages causes fewer consumers to see the content you put up in the first place.
For this reason, don't rely on search traffic to drive your business’ bottom line. Traffic to your site could potentially be decimated by such an algorithm change, making it critical that you have a diverse marketing plan in place that's built around other ways to reach your consumers.
4. Social media is saturated.
Search engines aren’t the only form of digital media where pitfalls occur. Your social media strategies deserve an update for 2016, because simply sending tweets out into the stratosphere won’t cause consumers to give your content a second glance.
These days, consumers primarily use social media for connection and entertainment; if your message doesn’t fulfill one of those two requirements, chances are you’re wasting your finger strength.
Further, many companies have found that social media platforms like Facebook provide a subpar advertising experience. According to a Forrester review, business leaders say Facebook “creates less business value than any other digital marketing opportunity.” And while your specific results may vary, it’s worth keeping in mind that a brand’s posts are seen by only 16 percent of Facebook users, on average.
Even organic social media marketing may not be worth much of your time. While ROI advocates will remind us that sites like Facebook are free -- and that, therefore, gains from it are pure profit -- remember the old adage that time is money. By all means, have a Facebook marketing campaign; just remember to have lots of other irons in the fire and to continually evaluate them in terms of the ROI they produce.
5. Diverse consumers need diverse marketing.
There’s no way around it: Marketers must go where consumers go. And one exciting new horizon for marketing professionals is the advent of VR (virtual reality).
Depending on VR's success and popularity, some of the marketing challenges I’ve previously mentioned may have a solution. Tapping into this revolution may very well be one of the most important things you do for your brand this year. Experts are saying, for instance, that VR will change television as we know it forever.
Certainly, there’s a major opportunity cost involved. Only you can decide whether or not investing in marketing via VR -- or any other new technology this year -- will be the right fit for your brand. But by remaining open to these new opportunities, you’ll avoid becoming one of the brands left in the dust behind more forward-thinking competitors in 2016.
What do you think your biggest marketing challenge will be in 2016? How are you planning to tackle it? Let me know in the comments below.