It’s a truism in marketing that in the digital age, we are always dealing with an ever-changing landscape. Forecasting what’s in store for us marketers as well as our partner companies is an inexact science, but a number of experts in the field are predicting some major new trends, along with the continuation of certain influences which will have implications for everyone. Here are some of the trends we see for marketing in 2014 and beyond.
The primary trend marketers seem to be talking about is the growing use of mobile devices. Activity on mobile has increased exponentially year over year, and it affects all areas of business, not just general search or ecommerce. This means all client platforms should be reviewed for being mobile-friendly, and some will even need to have separate mobile-only microsites. For certain business models mobile is a given, and at Marketing Plus we often test mobile-only campaigns against a client’s other marketing efforts. So we’ll be certainly paying special attention next year to mobile capabilities as part of the ongoing technical support and optimization we do for clients.
Local Marketing and Personalization
Local targeting and personalization are also hot topics for many market forecasters. These are going to be especially important for our clients who market nationally. These considerations follow as a result of the massive takeover by mobile devices, and the fast, personalized results users expect now as they depend more on their devices. Some marketers even go so far as to suggest businesses need to get away from promotional messaging and focus on helpful, customer-centric information. We’d say a lot of that depends on the type and size of business we’re dealing with, as well as their specific target markets. Widespread abandonment of promotional messages altogether isn’t something you’re going to see anytime soon, however. It’s all about the right message at the right time to the right person — with the right mix of media.
Social Media and SEO
Social media and search engine optimization continue to be hugely important. By now every company is aware they need to market for social and also have a workable SEO plan. What makes it complicated is the rules for SEO have completely changed, so the techniques everyone has been using to gain visibility for websites don’t work at all anymore. This is where having a very strong social media plan comes in – to succeed with SEO it needs to be merged with strategic implementation of social media so a client can compete, and their sites gain web authority. These are long-term efforts, and clients are learning the value and techniques of social and SEO as they get more accustomed to working with them.
SEO has proven to be especially critical with local B2C companies. While this has probably been more widely discussed in larger markets, we are finding our Fresno-area clients are now asking about how to improve SEO and finding they need to invest in this area, as most of their potential customers go to Google first to fill a need. But SEO isn’t just important for B2C — our B2B clients who have national or even international sales distribution are finding out using social media and SEO can be very cost-effective in reaching multiple markets. They know they need to keep their web presence and stay on the radar of their client base.
By now, most clients are well-established with their social presence, but just attaining satisfactory numbers of fans isn’t the stopping point. The challenge next year and moving forward will be to leverage this fan base in a meaningful, strategic way. For some marketers, this means targeting niche communities and fostering more interaction – marketing with them more than at them, however you can imagine that relationship changing. Now throw into the mix the fact social channels like Facebook are no longer a means of free advertising; so the spend on social and mobile will continue to grow and out-pace other forms of advertising.
We think in 2014 some companies may also focus less on social media as we think of it, and funnel more effort towards PR and earned media. Some companies may not be as thrilled by the results of social efforts over the last few years as they were expecting. So we expect to see other channels being utilized.
The situation with newspapers, radio and television is interesting. We all know the availability of content and competition on the Internet has been hugely disruptive to these industries, and we’ve seen them respond with varying degrees of success. For good or bad, we see diversification of platforms will continue, with media offering more products and venues for content. We’ll see more mergers of content-providers like Huffington Post and partnerships with media. And we’ll be seeing more of that earned media we talked about, and even more advertorials. These areas will experience even more fluctuation than before, because budgets will continue to flow towards new technologies, and brands will be using their own apps to reach customers instead of buying ads.
At Marketing Plus, we still see tremendous value in the more “traditional” platforms, and we’re certainly interested in newer media. Many of the publications we work with are currently testing the mix of print/ digital/email campaigns and apps as a way to distribute the news. Those outlets which have stayed ahead of the curve offer great data and reporting on email and digital buys. This really helps with our media buying, if we can pinpoint with certainty whether a message was engaged with. We have found in the local Fresno area here that the adoption of digital news, and how it is positioned and priced, is just now being discussed versus some of the major or national buys we make. As a media buyer, we figure those outlets that can produce the best data and provide in-depth reporting will be more able to sell programs for sustainable dollars.
Locally in Fresno, we have seen digital options given as value-adds or at very minimal cost, all while the newspaper distribution has decreased; radio now competes with satellite, and television is recorded for later viewing. Those outlets that can provide a more complete program offering to a media buyer will do well. For those who want to market, keeping a mix across platforms helps in this very noisy marketing world. The prevailing wisdom says you need to have 7-9 touch points these days, so it can make sense to still spread buys across various channels.
For the reader, we are seeing the testing of ‘pay to view’ articles and look forward to seeing how this new way to subscribe to a media outlet works. (Some of these seem to be overpriced from our view, and may have to scale back; others manage to find that sweet spot we can work with.) But it is all about if the content is compelling to the reader, as there is so many ways to find free news out there.
At Marketing Plus, our core tasks for 2014 and beyond will be the same: Choosing a specific mix of media that works for our clients in the short and long term, managing them well, and staying nimble in regards to their markets and ours.
If 2014 is going to be as challenging as forecasters think it may be, we are certainly game for helping clients understand and implement these changes – and thrive in the new marketing landscape.