The beginning of the year always marks an influx of predictions of trends that will affect the marketing industry. Some of the more interesting trends I'm keeping an eye on in 2019: artificial intelligence (A.I.) and data will play a major role in driving content; chatbots will dominate customer service, with some estimating 80 percent of companies will be using them by 2020; and customers will continue to look for personalized content, whether that be through digital marketing or in-store.

With the industry constantly evolving, it can seem difficult to pinpoint what really matters. It's important for marketing professionals to take a page from what they learned in Marketing 101 to stay on top and continue honing their skills. Much of what I learned in my first marketing class from professor Menzies at USC is still foundational to my career today:

  • Develop a plan. Much like doing a class assignment, developing a plan can help define your approach for your company. It can help you set goals, establish your audience, and define how your marketing efforts can support business objectives. It can also set up a framework to evaluate marketing trends to figure out which would work best for you. A well-researched marketing plan is the first step to making strong marketing decisions.
  • Go beyond what you know. It's easy to assume your audience is just like you, but that's not always the case. For example, instead of simply relying on my experiences, I was taught to lean on the facts and do my research. I also rely on other data points, insights, and past work experience, and also reach out to peers. I still put my personal opinions into perspective, but I understand they are not always shared by everyone.
  • Back everything up with data. The practice of citing your sources in the educational setting translates to backing everything up with data and research in the professional setting. Data-driven marketing will be more important than ever in 2019. Analytics and insights are tools that help marketers segment and reach their audiences effectively--providing information they actually want and need.
  • Focus on teamwork. Groupwork was something that everyone dreaded but couldn't avoid in marketing courses. Looking back now, I realize that group projects were crucial in learning the importance of delegating work. For example, I rarely do creative design. I rely on the expertise and knowledge of the agencies and experts I work with and allow them to do their job, providing my thoughts once completed. Maintaining strong relationships with others and trusting their collective vision is vital to fulfilling a client's needs.

Marketing is a discipline and, like anything else, it takes knowledge and practice to excel. Being in this field and exceling at it takes constant learning in order to adapt to changes in the marketplace. For the next generation of marketers as well as the marketers of today, the skills learned during marketing courses can help establish a foundation of skills that will help you for the entirety of your career.