by Alex Membrillo, CEO, Cardinal Web Solutions
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Just two short years ago, Facebook users around the world were up in arms that CEO Mark Zuckerberg would have the audacity to force people to download an entirely separate app to message with their friends and family.
“What’s the point?” many asked.
In 2016, I think we’re all beginning to see the point. Brands have begun to use Messenger – coupled with chatbots – to connect with their audiences on a far more personal, and targeted, level than ever before.
Those marketers who had the foresight to see this trend coming are now leading the charge, reshaping how businesses converse with their audiences and stealing market share from their competitors.
Isn’t it your time to do the same in 2017?
Building a marketing strategy for the upcoming year requires you to be equal parts Nostradamus and Weathervane: You have to be able to make some predictions while gauging which way the wind’s blowing. But predicting the trends to hit the marketing world in 2017 isn’t as daunting a task as one would think. The signs are out there. You just need to know where to look.
Integration is the buzz word
A few years ago, the terms chief content officer and social media manager didn’t exist. Now résumés and LinkedIn profiles are littered with these titles.
In some ways, this is great; it shows that the world of marketing can adapt to consumer behavior, expectations, and the technological tools that have disrupted the human race.
But in other ways, these additional titles have stalled the progress of a marketer’s goal: to deliver the best possible customer experience.
Take, for example, the title digital strategist.
A digital strategist is the guru of your digital marketing campaigns. If it’s on Google, Facebook or a mobile device, your digital strategist is on top of it.
The problem is, by establishing a “digital” role on your marketing team, you’re creating walls that stifle collaboration and communication. Sure, digital is an important part of your marketing strategy. But it’s time to think past the digital era and move toward (and, essentially, revert back to) the blanket term of marketing. Be it a newspaper, TV commercial, social media or your website, each of these channels serves as an opportunity to connect with your audiences.
Start breaking down your silos before 2017 and you’ll be in a better position to adapt to consumer behavior because, I can promise you, the hottest trends of today (Pokémon Go, for example) won’t be here for long.
It’s time to accept the role of the podcast
So much talk these days is around video, and for good reason. A stat by Video Explainers in 2015 revealed that 63% of senior executives visited a vendor’s site after viewing a video.
Videos tap into the emotional side of your audience; but, they can be costly (and a pain) to make.
About a decade ago, podcasts were thought to be the next big thing. And while that never panned out, it’s not like podcasting’s gone away. In fact, you should be looking at this channel for your 2017 marketing plan because few people are talking about its impact.
From a content creator’s standpoint, podcasting is far simpler to produce than a video, particularly if you’re looking to create an ongoing series. Whereas videos are effective as one-off pieces that pack the potential to go viral, podcasting gives you the opportunity to establish yourself as an influencer while building a following or loyal listeners.
From a user’s standpoint, podcasting remains the only medium where folks can multitask while still consuming your content.
No one’s watching a video while jogging down the street. I can’t name a single person in the history of time who simultaneously read an article from their phone while gardening.
Your audience is overbooked with things to do. They can’t dedicate enough time to brush their teeth, let alone consume your content. Podcasting gives them the ability to check-off their to-do lists while listening to your pearls of wisdom.
Ah, but here’s the kicker (and a good rule of thumb for all your content in 2017 and beyond): you can’t just create a podcast made up of useless information and hope to build an audience.
Podcasts are about the story. The Serial podcast was a huge success because of the way the story was told, over a series of episodes.
NPRs podcasts, like Fresh Air, are popular because they engage the audience.
Your brand can do the same. Don’t think of your podcast as a good channel to overtly push your product or service. Rather, find ways to tell stories of people, places, and things that fall in line with your messaging.
Start building out your physical web plan
As soon as consumers started being able to watch TV on their own terms (through DVRs and Netflix), the balance of power shifted. No longer do brands dictate conversations. No longer can a business be in charge of how, when, or why information is released.
Consumers hold all the power, and they know this.
That’s why so many consumers respond negatively to traditional forms of marketing. They don’t want over-the-top sales pushes that they didn’t ask for.
They want engagement.
The physical web falls in line with the modern-day consumer mindset.
The physical web relies on the use of beacons, but unlike how beacons are currently used, the physical web doesn’t push notifications to a consumer’s mobile device.
Instead, it allows consumers to see a list of URLs being broadcast in their immediate environment (be it a parking meter, store, poster). That consumer can then choose to access the URLs the he or she deems most relevant or engaging at the moment. With the physical web, brands no longer have to disrupt their audiences with potentially unwarranted notifications. Rather, it gives consumers the control they demand.
Brush up on your landing page skills
It’s no secret that the folks at Facebook want to essentially kill the web. They want to make it possible for users to access everything they need online, without ever leaving their platform.
I don’t see that happening anytime soon; but I do see consumers performing less and less deep site browsing.
A lot of this has to do with the influx of mobile devices, and the onslaught of apps (although I predict serious app burnout over the next year or two, which is yet another reason to start planning for the physical web).
Consumers don’t want to be forced to navigate through pages of your site, no matter how nicely that site might be designed.
That’s why you have to make sure you’ve mastered your landing page game. So, what’s that mean?
• A/B testing on everything. There are so many services out there now that make it easy for you to A/B test your pages. Use them! From headlines to button colors, to font choice and more, there is no shortage of landing page elements you can test.
• Personalization. Personalization. Personalization. If you’ve broken your audiences up into segments based on location, job title, and income, then you’ve only scratched the surface. In 2017, harness the massive amounts of data you can mine through your social ad campaigns and more. Segment your audiences based on micro-moment behaviors, and then target them with relevant ads that lead them to personalized landing pages. The technology is out there. Your landing pages should make your readers gasp, as if to say, was this written specifically for me?
• Expanding your paid campaigns. Your landing pages won’t do much good if you’re not promoting them through campaigns. Take a good, long, hard look at where your audiences spend their time. I don’t want to break it to you, but it’s my job to: most people spend a ton of their time on their smartphones and, specifically, social media. Stop procrastinating and coming up with reasons why social isn’t worth the investment. It is. I promise.
Make 2017 the best year your business has ever seen – get back to marketing basics
Like you, I’ve heard it all before:
• Email is dead
• SEO is dead
• Social media isn’t worth investing in
It’s easy to get caught up in buzzwords and industry jargon; but if you want to hit a grand slam in 2017, it’s time to put aside those acronyms and focus on marketing as a whole.
Your goal is simple: target the right message, at the right time, to the right people. Whether that’s on social media, through email, or from the side of a bus all depends on your specific industry and goals.
More importantly is to understand that trends come and go, but the message of marketing remains the same: deliver the best possible customer experience.
About the Author
Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal Web Solutions, an award winning digital marketing agency based in Atlanta, GA. Named Technology Association of Georgia (TAG)’s 2015 Digital Marketer of the Year, his innovative approach to digital marketing has transformed the industry and delivered remarkable results to clients of all sizes and markets. Cardinal has been 3-time consecutively named on Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing privately-held US companies. Visit www.CardinalWebSolutions.com to find out more about Cardinal Web Solutions. Follow him on Twitter @Alex_Membrillo