It's hard to believe it, but in just a few days, 2014 will be over and a new year will be upon us. Changing the calendar doesn't mean a business needs to completely change their marketing strategy, but it is a good time to review and think about what may happen this year. By looking at data from last year and thinking about what we know will happen this year, marketers can create better strategies for the future. To help marketers create better marketing plans for next year, here are four marketing trends that business owners should take advantage of in 2015.

Use LinkedIn and Other Social Networks More to Distribute Content

Creating engaging content is only half the battle for content marketers. One trend from this year that will continue into 2015 is the use of LinkedIn to distribute content. Social media networks are good places for content distribution, but LinkedIn has several features that make the platform more versatile than Facebook, Twitter, and others for this purpose. For example, business owners can use LinkedIn Pulse to distribute full articles or links to other articles. According to the Content Marketing Institute's 2015 B2B benchmark report, "94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content, making it the social media platform used most often (they also say it's the most effective social media platform)".

The report also noted that many of the other social networks are useful, though some aren't used very much. The authors of the study noted Fewer than 20% of B2B marketers said they

use Flickr (14%), StumbleUpon (12%), Foursquare (11%), Tumblr (10%), Vine (9%), and SnapChat (5%). Marketers can choose to look at this in one of two ways. First, they can assume that it's not worth the effort to market on these platforms. Alternatively, the low number of marketers using these channels mean that the marketers who do can make a bigger impact.

Increase Personalization on Marketing Channels When Possible

For much of the history of the internet, the focus of marketing has been on reaching ever larger and more diverse audiences. Reaching larger audiences will still be important in 2015, but marketers will need to focus on bringing a more personal touch to the messages they send to consumers. There are several ways marketers can do this. Adding personalization fields to email marketing messages has been shown to improve results by several studies. A report from Aberdeen found that personalized emails improved click through rates by 14 percent and conversion rates by 10 percent.

The same can applied to websites. Using personalization to give specific users more relevant options is a good way to increase the chances people will respond to the content. According to Janrain and Harris Interactive, just under three-fourths (74%) of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content (e.g. offers, ads, promotions) appears that has nothing to do with their interests. Similarly, a joint study from eConsultancy and Montale found that in-house marketers who are personalizing their web experiences see, on average, a 19 percent uplift in sales.

Improve Social Media Integration

Social media isn't anything new, but marketers will need to work at finding new ways to integrate social media into all of their campaigns. Adding social sharing options to websites, blogs and email messages can greatly increase than range and effectiveness of the campaign. According to research cited by the CMO council, adding social sharing buttons to email messages an increase click-through rates by more than 150 percent.

This is an area where marketers need to be continually vigilant. Every year, the major social media networks add a lot of new features to their platform that make them more usable for marketers. For example, in 2014, Twitter added new Amazon.com integrations, and Facebook added Local Awareness Ads. Marketers should keep an eye on advances in social media marketing throughout the year, and try to integrate them into their strategy.

Preparing for New Technologies

By the end of 2015, a lot of people should be using wearable technology devices. Though it's hard to say how difficult it will be to market on wearables, this is something that marketers should keep an eye on. The buzz over the Apple iWatch and the quieter buzz surrounding Android Wear suggests that a lot of people will buy and use these devices. The marketers who first start using the devices to reach consumers will have a great advantage as other businesses try to catch up. For those who think that it's too soon to be thinking about marketing on wearables, consider this: According to a recent report from Forrester Research, 68 percent of global technology and business decision-makers say wearable devices are a priority for their firms. Additionally, 45 percent of US consumers are intrigued by the prospect of purchasing a wearable device. Learning the best ways to market to consumers via their wearable devices will be one of the main challenges facing marketers in the coming years.

If 2014 was any indication, marketers have much to look forward to in the coming year. A continually recovering economy will give consumers more chances to buy the things they want and need, and the advent of wearable technology will give marketers new ways to reach consumers. For more ideas of how to use 2014 data to improve 2015 sales, read this recent article on Inc.com.

Published on: Dec 29, 2014