Marketing is always evolving. The sun will always rise in the morning, Disney will always put out new Star Wars movies, and the techniques you used last year won’t work forever. You’ll have to learn new channels, new strategies, and new approaches to keep your customers happy. Here’s what we expect to see a lot more of in the marketing world this year.
A Greater Focus on User Data
We have more ways to collect data on our customers, visitors, and social media followers than ever before, from basic data like demographics to much more detailed information about interests and preferences.
Theoretically, this is a good thing! The better you know the people who buy your products, the better you can create products, services, and content that they’ll genuinely appreciate and find useful. Being able to tailor your messaging to the exact people you want to target makes marketing less annoying and more helpful.
On the other hand, customers’ concerns about the security of their data are only growing. Regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and future regulations in development in several other states have cracked down on the type and amount of info you’re allowed to collect on your website visitors and app users.
Between these regulations, some high-profile data breaches, and the recent trials that Google and Facebook have had to go through, customers are more hesitant than ever to share their personal information online.
How are marketers supposed to navigate this landscape? Very, very carefully. Obviously, you should maintain compliance with all relevant regulations — it’s not a bad idea to make sure you’re GDPR-compliant even if you don’t have any dealings in Europe.
If you can’t collect the kind of detailed data you used to, search engine optimization is one of the best ways to find the people who will be most receptive to your messaging. By optimizing your content for the particular niche phrases that come up in your research, you can hone in on a much narrower slice of the market.
Taking Voice Search Seriously
In less than a decade, voice search has gone from an amusing novelty to a dominant and ubiquitous force. According to one estimate, 41 percent of adults use voice search at least once a day, and voice search is projected to hit 50 percent of all online searches sometime in 2020.
Optimizing for voice search isn’t going to be a priority for every business — voice search is generally used to answer simple questions, find local businesses and information about them, and look up things like weather and sports scores. It’s not used to conduct serious B2B research.
If you have a storefront, it will be imperative for you to make sure your metadata is up to date. If someone asks their Google Assistant, “What time does [your business] close?” and your store hours aren’t up to date on Google My Business, their search will fail, and you’ll lose the SEO boost that comes with it.
Focusing on Relationships
In the last few years, marketers and c-suite executives alike have started to realize that their most valuable customers are the ones they already have. New customers will almost always seek out advice from their friends, family, colleagues, or people who already use a product through reviews and testimonials. To make sure they’re steered in the right direction, you can’t afford to drop the ball on your customer relationships after they’ve made a purchase.
What does this look like?
- Be helpful from day one, including making the research and purchase process as frictionless as possible. Don’t be deceptive or misleading when you talk about your product — you’ll only disappoint people.
- Put the time and effort into onboarding and education. There’s always a gap between the day your customers purchase a product and the day they’ve fully integrated it into their day to day operations. The longer that process takes, the more frustrated they’ll become.
- Be proactive with customer service. Reach out to customers who aren’t using the product to see if they need help. Monitor mentions on social media to find people who are frustrated or confused by your product.
- Ask people what they think. Solicit reviews, feedback, and surveys from your customers to see what you’re doing well and where you could improve. They’ll appreciate being listened to, and you’ll gain some useful insights into your business.
Increased use of Automation and AI
Keeping track of your customers is getting more complicated. Every person comes with their own unique social media channels, brand touchpoints, and usage statistics, and it takes a significant amount of your time and effort to track all of that information.
That’s why lots of marketing tools, from social media managers to CRMs, are starting to integrate AI and automation features. Now, you can set rules that are as specific as you want. If you want to send an email automatically when a Premium subscriber on the west coast hasn’t logged in for three weeks, directing them to a specific educational resource, you can do that.
Automation and AI systems take a lot of the heavy lifting of data analysis and unique marketing off your plate, leaving you to focus on what you’re trying to accomplish, rather than how.
The Bottom Line: Staying Grounded
It’s a given that the marketing landscape will shift — sooner or later, the advice we just spelled out will be antiquated and obsolete. What won’t change, though, is the need for a solid foundation of useful, informative, timely content.
Your customers, both current and future, will always need to know what you do, how you can help them, and how to get the most for their money. No matter what new technologies come and go, you’ll need a solid foundation of content to build the rest of your strategy around.