Mobile, video, and other marketing tactics that have been on the rise for years aren't really "trends" anymore. So, how many more trend articles do marketers have to read through that really just tell us what we already know?
Now, just because they're not current trends doesn't make them unimportant. Optimizing for mobile and including high-quality visual content and video in your strategy are still good practices. But to keep yourself and your company ahead of the competition, you need to analyze what's happening now, review your strategy from different perspectives, and prepare for what's to come.
To help, here are seven marketing trends to budget for in 2016 and to set up your team for success.
1. Writing skills and experience will be critical.
When the industry started shifting from print to digital, there was fear among English and journalism students that their craft was dying and no one with a degree in those fields would have jobs. And now with the rise in content, these research, writing, and editing skills are becoming increasingly important, especially when high-quality content is becoming the new SEO.
However, in its 2016 B2B Content Marketing report, the Content Marketing Institute found that only 19 percent of marketers would prioritize becoming stronger writers in the coming year. To keep up with other top content creators and publishers in your industry, encourage your HR team to recruit employees with these game-changing skill sets to build a successful content team, or start investing in education to help your existing team strengthen its writing.
2. Content marketing will enhance other areas of business.
Many people view marketing as the department that works solely to promote your company to your external audience, and while this is one of its key functions, it's not the only one. Content the marketing team produces will become an increasingly necessary asset to many other departments at modern companies, because those resources the team creates for external audiences are just as helpful for internal audiences.
For example, when my company's marketing team publishes a piece of content, our entire team is alerted. Because the content is created for our audience, including clients and prospective customers, our client-facing and production team members can use it to fuel their efforts, our sales team can send it to address common objections or questions, and our HR team can use it to train new team members about our processes. For a list of ways we leverage content (and for inspiration to distribute your team's content), download our interactive content maximization checklist.
As content marketing grows in practice, with 88 percent of B2B marketers using it, we'll start seeing increased convergence of these content efforts with other company strategies.
3. Personalization will prevail.
One of my favorite keynote speakers at this year's BOLO digital marketing conference was my friend and marketing trend expert Rohit Bhargava. During his speech, he talked about the growing importance of personalization and providing opportunities for clients and customers to feel like VIPs, and he used Disney's MagicBands as an example.
Instead of every visitor receiving the same band, each Disney MagicBand is personalized to that visitor's vacation experience. These simple gestures of personalization show that your brand cares about individual customers, and they're effective. In fact, my daughter didn't want to take off her band when we left Disney because it made her feel so special. Avoid generic templates and find ways-from simply targeting your messaging to sending personalized emails and gifts-to make each individual customer feel that special.
4. Industry authority positioning will become a must.
My company, Influence & Co., is biased because this is exactly what we do as a service, but we also drink our own Kool-Aid. This is a huge part of our strategy as we grow the company. Companies without thought leaders who provide voices and contribute to industry conversations are taking harder hits to their credibility than ever before. Executive branding and leadership positioning are no longer just nice to execute-they're becoming increasingly necessary. People want a connection to your brand, and they want to trust your leadership. The best way to establish this connection and trust is to create content that showcases your authority.
To effectively position your company, start taking advantage of your team's unique insights and expertise, and craft your messages into thought leadership content that establishes your company as the industry leader.
5. Add value for your audience and stop selling to them all the time.
Stop focusing only on making the sale, and start focusing also on delivering true value to your customers and potential clients. Whether this value is found in the quality of your content or in the experiences you provide, it's becoming more and more important for marketers to ensure that value is delivered to those who interact with their brands.
For example, on a recent call with Mura Experience Platform, a member of its team mentioned to me that a custom Cards Against Humanity deck designed for attendees of the Content Marketing World event with the Mura Experience Platform brand was one of their most successful marketing campaigns. This campaign was successful because it was original and delivered direct value to Mura Experience Platform's target audience. To keep up with competition, it will be important for marketers to take advantage of the rise in content to create and deliver value to customers.
6. Thought leadership is a new SEO driver.
Traditional SEO-using link building and keyword optimization to increase your pages' search results-is no longer your ticket to high rankings on Google. After Google's continued algorithm updates throughout the year, the search giant has begun rewarding higher-quality content with higher search rankings. Despite efforts by some companies and content creators to cheat their ways to the top of results pages, high-quality content prevails over the old keyword-stuffing tactics of the past.
For example, in my own writing during the past year or so, I've seen a dramatic difference in traffic to my own articles because my team and I have continued to perfect our content-creation processes to align with exactly what our target audience is searching for. Now when you search terms like "thought leadership speakers," you can easily find the article I published to my Forbes column. Because Google's updated algorithm recognizes that this piece of content was created to provide specific value to my individual readership, it rewards the article with a higher ranking to make it easier for readers to find.
As a marketer moving into 2016, your priority should be to provide the best possible content to your audience, not to publish junk content in hopes that it'll land you on page one. Trust me, when you create truly engaging, valuable, and relevant content crafted to serve members of your audience and what they're looking for, you'll earn that sweet spot at the top of the results page.
7. Full-service won't solve all your problems.
The best thing you can say to make someone lose faith in your company's credibility is "My company is great at everything." No single company is great at everything, and that's why full-service firms are becoming a thing of the past.
As the industry becomes more specialized, we'll see fewer full-service, best-at-everything marketing companies in 2016. Instead, focus your efforts on the one thing your company is truly great at and what your customers need and want most from you, and become the absolute best at whatever that is. You'll need to live and breathe that area, develop technology to support your efforts, and consistently innovate your products and services, but you'll ultimately serve your team and your customers better if you focus your efforts on the one thing that separates you from your competitors.
As this year draws to a close and your marketing team starts determining what initiatives will be valuable investments in 2016, a variety of content resources, marketing speakers, and other thought leadership resources will help point you in the right direction. Take the time over the holiday season to do the research and plan where your focus should be in 2016.