Top 10 Customer-Centric Marketing Trends for 2016

Start your new year with these trends to stay customer-focused and ahead of the competition.

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By John Arnold • Jan 6, 2016

Oak Labs

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2016 will be the year of the customer. Marketers will be talking about customer-centric marketing, customer experience, customer journeys, customer insights and other ways of analyzing, attracting, delighting and obsessing over customers. The following top marketing trends for 2016 can help you be more customer focused and stay ahead of the competition, if your marketing strategy includes them in the proper proportions.

1. An app for everything.

Apps aren't just for mobile devices anymore. In addition to mobile apps, there are now countless web apps, desktop apps and even apps that run on your TV. The purpose of an app is to perform one or more tasks really well. For marketers, that means apps give you the opportunity for increased leverage and productivity from your existing marketing resources.

In 2016, make sure you're taking advantage of the free and low-cost apps available for email marketing, social media marketing, promotions, advertising, contact management, customer experience, analytics and other marketing tasks you need to get done.

Related: 3 Marketing Lessons I Learned From My Digitally Native Kids

2. Insight-driven marketing.

Marketers like to talk about data-driven marketing, but data isn't very useful unless there is technology and analysis in place to help make sense of it. 2016 will be a year of ignoring big mounds of data and focusing instead on simple insights about customers that help marketers to be more relevant to individuals and audiences. Many of the insights marketers need to be more relevant such as gender, interests and job titles are available from social media and contact management companies that provide audience information.

Make sure your marketing team is using a customer data warehouse or centralized database in 2016 that can tie together your marketing campaigns and a few simple insights about the people your company does business with.

3. Interactive content.

Blog posts, white papers, info graphics, videos and reports can be great content for people and search engines. But in 2016, attention will start to shift away from static content toward more engaging forms of content. For example, your 2016 content plan should include interactive assessments, calculators, trainings and games to keep people clicking, pressing, swiping and sharing information with you that you can use in your sales processes.

4. Just enough personalization.

Personalized marketing messages such as emails and custom landing pages have stood the test of time and will continue to be great ways to drive action and purchase behavior in 2016. However, the rules of personalization are changing for each type of inbox and device, and marketers need to adapt their messages and the level of personalization in 2016 based on what consumers expect.

In 2016, consumers will expect emails to have more relevant content and will also expect brands to know more about them in the course of social interactions. Consumers will have less tolerance for online and mobile advertising that is too highly personalized -- which may be seen by them as creepy.

5. Advocate marketing.

If you give your customers an awesome experience with your business, you'll get referrals. If you take advantage of advocate marketing in 2016, you can give a big boost to your referrals. Marketing to and through advocates in 2016 will prove to be a more effective way to promote referrals than other forms of incentives and affiliate programs. That's because identifying influencers and advocates is much easier than ever before.

Think of your advocate-marketing program like your own celebrity endorsement program, but instead of celebrities endorsing your company, they are influencers you've built relationships with through positive experiences with your company.

Related: 5 Mobile Marketing Challenges to Expect in 2016

6. Social care.

Social-media marketing can involve a lot of sharing and posting, but these one-to-many interactions often result in individual people commenting, sharing, rating and replying. In 2016, make sure your social-media marketing messages are accompanied by the ability to have short in-the-moment conversations with the people you reach with your social marketing. That means using social-media monitoring tools to respond to social engagements and opening up further dialogue with customers who demonstrate a need to be serviced or sold.

7. Fraud protection.

Why is fraud protection a 2016 marketing trend? Because marketers send so many messages to customers and prospects, they need to be responsible for protecting their customers from phishing and spoofing scams that use the brand's identity to fool people into opening emails and entering information on websites. In 2016, make sure your email-marketing systems are using the new Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) standard, and create a plan for notifying your customers in case of a scam attacking your company's brand or a breach in your security.

8. Marketing middleware.

In 2016, marketing teams will be increasing their use of marketing technologies and that will fuel the need for marketing middleware. Marketing middleware allows different marketing technologies to work together and provides analysis of customer interactions across different types of marketing campaigns. Marketing middleware includes technologies such as data management platforms (DMPs), tag management, cloud connectors, user management and application program interface (API) services. These key system connectors will help you maintain the flexibility to use a variety of marketing technologies in 2016 while maintaining consistency in campaign management and reporting.

9. Growth engineering.

Apps can make things easier for people who don't know how to code, but there are also lots of apps and app features that make things easier for people who are familiar with coding. In 2016, make sure you leverage the services of software developers and engineers to help you create top notch digital experiences, automated marketing processes and interactive content.

10. Account-based marketing (ABM).

The marketing funnel will change in 2016 for business-to-business marketers for two reasons. First, multiple decision-makers, influencers and stakeholders inside companies make it more difficult for marketing messages to influence a single decision-maker. Second, reaching multiple decision-makers with marketing content is more important than ever, because most business decisions are started online and are quite advanced before a salesperson has a chance to talk to anyone involved in a decision at a company.

Account-based marketing or ABM has been around for a while but will gain significant momentum in 2016. This marketing method involves inviting and measuring engagement and mind share at different roles and levels of authority within an organization, as opposed to attracting leads who turn into customers on a linear progressive path.

Related: 7 Online Marketing Ingredients You Can't Ignore in 2016

John Arnold

Marketing consultant and author

John Arnold is a marketing strategist and author offering practical marketing tips and advice to B2B companies. Connect with him at 

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