This article by Gordon Plutsky orginally appeared on imediaconnection.com
Marketing, by its very nature, is in a constant state of change. As much as we try to control the unknown and plan ahead, the fact is that marketing is inherently a reactive practice. Being in front of the right audiences on the right channels with the right message is completely dependent on the current trends in consumer behavior, technology and even cultural movements. These variables keep the job interesting to say the least, and while nothing is certain in this world, I want to discuss five major trends that marketers should keep their eyes on over the next year.
Content, content, content
Content marketing certainly isn't a new concept. By now most companies know they need to create content to engage customers and prospects. Now that everyone is executing on this tactic, the question for 2014 is how to do it effectively. Just writing up some keyword rich blog posts and articles don't cut it anymore. You have to say something meaningful and insightful to your customer while hopefully entertaining them at the same time.
Brands must have a unique and relevant message that is different than what everyone else is saying. Simply curating or repackaging from other competitors and media outlets is not enough. On top of being compelling your content needs to do two things. One, create an emotional connection with your brand, and two, drive customers to an action. This could manifest into something as small as a tweet or Facebook post and eventually lead directly to revenue. Content on your site or social channels that does not move people to action or create a bond is, at best, an inefficient use of valuable brand real estate. By understanding the motivations of your customers and utilizing storytelling techniques while getting away from the transactional relationship will help create that emotional bond.
We don't need the research to tell us that just about everyone from eight to eighty will soon have a smartphone and/or a tablet in their hands. The era for consuming content primarily on a desktop is quickly coming to a close. Half of all social interaction, email opens, and YouTube views now happen on a mobile platform. What this means for brands and marketers is that all of your communication -- email, web assets, and social content -- must be created with a mobile-first perspective.
Of course, websites are still very important as the main brand hub or as an e-commerce/conversion tool. But mobile is quickly becoming the first line of engagement at the big end of the sales funnel. Responsive design is no longer a luxury, but rather a basic requirement, and it's important to tailor each piece of content to the device or channel where it will most likely be viewed by the consumer. Mobile technology has already, and most likely will replace radios/stereos, TVs/movie theaters, GPS hardware/software, credit and debit cards, game consoles, newspapers, magazines, cameras, photo editing software, music creation equipment, watches, landline phones, calculators, cash registers and surely more that I'm forgetting. If your company hasn't realized the importance of this technology it's time to catch up.
Streaming, cord cutting and real time marketing
As traditional media -- CDs, newspapers, TV networks, magazines, etc. -- further declines, it's becoming clear that these tangible, analog manifestations of content are no longer needed in a world where everything is streaming and on demand. It is rewiring the way consumers think and process information. We are getting used to having everything customized and delivered instantly, when and where we want it. It's now all about us, the ubiquitous consumer WiFi and 4G communications has revolutionized content delivery and consumption. This new world has to be top of mind when planning customer communications.
Brands can also take advantage of real-time engagement platforms like never before -- especially with Twitter. Ironically, live tweeting has turned the once solitary act of watching television into a community-based and shared activity. Smart marketers will take advantage of customer's desires to be heard during shows they love. ABC's Shark Tank, for example, has become a hit in part due to the participatory nature of Twitter. Several brands have begun promoting tweets during the show, engaging and influencing the captive audience.
Data is everything
The other overused term from 2013 is big data, however, with the entire world of marketing and media during digital, it is a critical piece of the future of marketing and understanding consumer behavior. Your analytics teams should have a seat at the table for every decision and planning session your business has in 2014. The key is not merely measuring what happened, but trying to predict future outcomes. Anyone can look at a stack of sales reports and tell you what happened. The real talent understands why and how it will play out in the future. Your analytics has to go from passive to active.
The rise of the digital CMO
In our new tech-heavy industry having a digitally savvy CMO becomes the most important person in the executive suite after the CEO/COO. Everything that touches customers is now digitally enabled, from supply chain logistics to customer service. The first waves of CMOs were drawn from the ranks of people who came from the world of branding, advertising, or creative teams. Those skills still apply, but brands can't sell or spin digital success that is now determined by the end user. The CMO of the future has to be an expert in digital channels, customer service, marketing automation platforms, content marketing/storytelling, and analytics -- no one trick ponies. And, they have to really understand technology, from web development platforms to the cloud and even data management systems. It all falls under the purview of today's CMO.
There you have it, 2014 promises to be another exciting year for marketers with many possibilities and unknowns. And the most important thing to remember is it's all about the customer, they are in charge.