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6 Digital Marketing Trends for 2016

It's time to take a breather and look forward to some of the trends that are happening in marketing, and specifically how you can take advantage of them in 2016.

Below we cover the following 6 key areas for marketers in 2016:

  • Increasing integration with marketing systems
  • Actually using your buyer personas
  • Increasing virtual workforces
  • The move to Facebook Advertising
  • Focussing on ROI
  • Remarkable content and what that entails

Increased Integration

Increased Integration with 1st and 3rd party data

One of the key items highlighted by this round up of digital marketing industry experts by Marketing Land was the general theme of data integration.

Justin Cutroni, an Analytics Evangelist at Google summed up it well when he noted:

"I think the one thing that really excites me is the continued convergence of data. Businesses are merging more first- and third-party data sets to draw deeper insights about existing customers, attract new customers and, ultimately, increase revenue."

If your company is using a marketing automation system or half-decent CRM then you are probably already seeing this in action. HubSpot CRM for example pulls in social data about contacts, and uses it to enrich known details, providing sales and marketing teams with the deeper insights Justin mentions in his quote.

Other examples include Lookalike Audiences - a feature of Facebook Advertising and Google AdWords - where platforms augment your own data with demographics and machine learning analysis of their own to widen the net of available prospects you can reach.

These are just the tip of the iceberg, and you should expect to see this trend increase significanlty in 2016.

As you prepare for 2016, consider the areas where your marketing data is limited and hindering your campaigns. Feel free to discuss with me about how we can work to get your marketing data working harder for you.

Buyer Personas

Buyer personas actually being used

Although the concept of buyer personas (or avatars, or audiences) is hardly a new one, their usage is a growing trend. Marketing managers are no longer just paying lip service to the need to understand their buyer personas, they are now investing time to review, update and strategise their buyer personas.

Action item: Now's the time to review your own company's buyer personas and amend as required.

If you need help crafting your buyer personas, feel free to get in touch - in 2016 we will be offering half-day workshops to help marketing teams get clear on who their audiences are.

As a starting point, use this excellent buyer persona overview and creator tool from HubSpot

Virtual workers

Increasing Virtual Workforces

An interesting insight from Lili Cheng in this Microsoft Research trends analysis is her recent prediction that in 2016:

"More kids’ first jobs will be virtual rather than in a physical place. Over time, this will cause us to rethink the way we work, and the way we design our physical cities, neighborhoods and local communities."

Although her outlook is largely a societal one, the impact this will have on companies - and in particular marketing departments - is not to be underestimated. Marketing departments have a history of outsourcing to agencies and freelancers, so this will come as no shock to them. However, it will become more mainstream, perhaps even to the point that interns and marketing assistants don't even work in the company offices.

Marketing managers who can understand and embrace this trend stand to benefit well.

Facebook Advertising

The move to Facebook Advertising

This year we've been moving most of our clients over to using Facebook Advertising, often at the expense of Google AdWords. Although AdWords is still a good source of traffic, leads and clients, the current power of the Facebook Advertising platform is amazing.

I first started testing with Facebook Ads back in 2009, but didn't invest heavily into it until 2012. Over the past few years for example it has been a cornerstone for driving traffic to one of my wife's sites. Great for her of course, but is Facebook an option for B2B sites?

Initially I was of the opinion that Facebook was good for consumer sites but not necessarily a fit for B2B sites, however that is no longer the case. Facebook is now a bigger driver of leads to B2B sites than AdWords for many of our clients.

The action item for you as a marketing manager is to make sure you are testing all the different channels available to you. Don't let gut instinct blind you to opportunities, make sure you test them and use data as your guide.

If you need help setting up some initial test Facebook campaigns, please feel free to contact us.


Marketing Leaders Focus on ROI

The recent HubSpot State of Inbound 2016 report has highlighted a key characteristic of marketing leaders: they focus on ROI.

Sounds obvious of course, but in reality is easy to neglect given the daily onslaught of new campaigns and initiatives that have to be implemented.

However, focusing on ROI is important not only for ensuring marketing budgets are spent most efficiently, but also for securing your budgets next year (or quarter, or month). That's not to say it is easy - the report highlighted that demonstrating ROI is the #1 challenge marketers face - from page 13 of the report:

"Proving a demonstrable return on marketing dollars was the most oft-cited challenge across companies of di erent size and focus, and securing more budget to allocate toward ROI-generating activities was next in line."

But the effort is worth it - from page 26 of the report:

"Best-in-class companies get increased marketing budgets, and they do it by proving their teams are worth the uptick in cash. How? By tracking the returns year-over-year, and subsequently demonstrating a positive ROI.

Respondents were 20% more likely to receive a higher budget in 2015 if ROI was tracked in the first place, and twice as likely to see an increased budget if that tracked ROI was shown to be higher than in 2014. What’s more, respondents were nine times more likely to receive a lower budget if they failed to demonstrate a positive ROI."

Action item: there is a strong case to be made for dedicating time and resources to establishing links between marketing activity and results.

If you need help working on your systems and tools to ensure you can adequately track ROI, feel free to contact us for more details.

Remarkable Content

Remarkable Content and Enjoyable Consumption

You've probably heard this term 'remarkable content', or perhaps the other popular buzzwords: '10X content' (ie content that is 10 times better than other content) or 'epic skyscraper' content.

As much as it is a buzzword, there is definitely value in aiming to improve the quality of your content production. Content is increasingly competitive, and in the battle for people's attention your content needs to be incredibly useful in order to get any traction.

You also need to be ensuring that your content is easily consumable eg starting with ensuring you have a mobile friendly site (if your site isn't responsive or mobile-friendly then this should be high on your priority list for next year). We discussed the topic of mobile sites in depth back in April this year - well worth reviewing again, since having a mobile friendly site is now part of the Google algorithm.

Speaking of content format, also be aware of the increasing number of options people are interacting with you with. In this enlightening piece on Forbes, Jim Lecinski, a VP of Customer Solutions at Google, curated a list of the five top trends he's seeing that CMOs need to be acting on now:

  • IoT
  • Mobile first
  • VR
  • Disruptive Competition
  • Rise of AdTech

Personally I'm a little dubious of the hype around 'internet of things' (IoT) simply because I've yet to see many generally applicable examples of marketing initiatives using it to drive results. But perhaps that's just me. The others in the list are important though, and the Forbes articles goes into them in detail. Well worth reading and considering as part of your 2016 planning.

In episode 10 of HubShots - the new marketing podcast I co-host with Ian Jacob - we discussed many of the above trends in detail. Feel free to listen to it here.

Adding Value

General Trend: Provide Value

If there's one key takeaway you need to be implementing in 2016 it is this: focus on providing value.

Your buyers are looking for solutions to their problems, and will research extensively to find the best solution providers. By ensuring your content, messaging and brand awareness revolves around providing value you position your company as a preferred option for prospective customers.

I hope you've had a productive and rewarding year.

Here's to a results oriented 2016.

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