Ah, the greatest time of year: The leaves have been changing colors, Starbucks is rolling out all its highly anticipated fall and winter drinks, your neighbors are hanging up their holiday lights, and, of course, marketing leaders are crafting their annual budgets.
It’s always important to look back on the past year’s performance, but you’ve also got to look ahead to major trends affecting your industry and seek out new opportunities. To help, here are six marketing trends that leaders should take into consideration as they plan their budgets for 2018:
1. The need for content marketing distribution has never been greater.
As brands and marketers increasingly rely on content marketing as a major part of their marketing strategies and produce more content of their own (as they should), it’s become harder to cut through the noise and grab your audience’s attention before your competitors do.
The solution to that problem isn’t to create content at an even faster pace. Instead, you’ve got to think about how you can distribute your content better than anyone else in your space. This goes beyond social shares, especially as Facebook’s organic reach is dropping significantly. Particularly in 2018, it’s crucial to put together a comprehensive content distribution strategy to get your message to the right people when they need it most.
2. Public relations and content marketing are aligning.
In the past, PR and content marketing would have been separate departments with separate budgets based on different goals. If you read some of the recent content marketing books, you’ll see that brands are starting to realize that they share goals between the two, and they’re making PR and marketing alignment a major objective.
Trends in PR have forced it to evolve a lot in recent years. PR has started moving away from the brand-focused, self-serving methods of the past to embrace new tactics that build mutually beneficial relationships with media partners and shared audiences. Modern PR allows you to reach and quickly build trust with new audiences through a greater focus on actual value to those readers — not just to your own brand.
When those messages are paired with engaging content coming from your company, you can achieve both PR and marketing goals even more effectively. The two can and should work together, so a focus on aligning them is important in 2018.
3. There’s a rising demand for authenticity in marketing.
The need for human connection has never been more important, which means it’s crucial for marketers to enhance their personalization. This is one of the most effective ways to scale your connection to your audience.
And think outside the box here, too. Sure, personalized content is a good way to connect at scale, but if you can meet members of your audience in person at industry events and conferences, that’s another powerful way to connect.
“As a consequence of eroding trust in media and institutions, people are engaging in a personal quest for the truth based on direct observation and face-to-face interaction,” Rohit Bhargava, founder and chief trend curator of The Non-Obvious Company (and one of our clients), said.
So, whether you’re on stage as a conference speaker or in the crowd networking, focusing on face-to-face interactions and events can help you build stronger personal relationships, which you can then maintain with personalized content.
4. Chatbots are emerging to help brands in all industries.
The great news about chatbots is they’re not directing users away from the social platforms they’re already on, such as Facebook Messenger. This enables marketers to meet their audience where they are already consuming content. In fact, brands in different spaces, from National Geographic to Whole Foods, are already implementing this.
Plus, the barrier to entry here is low, so consider testing a chatbot on your own team. There are some free tools out there to help you get started, and you can obviously put some spend behind other tools for different experiences. This simple investment can help you quickly engage your audience and nurture a more personalized relationship that keeps them coming back.
5. Voice search is on the rise.
Hey, Siri: Is it true that typing a search query is becoming a thing of the past? As a matter of fact, more consumers are going off-screen and relying on voice-activated personal assistants to search for information, with some analysts estimating that as much as 50 percent of all searches will be conducted through voice by 2020. Your marketing messages need to be crafted with voice search in mind, which means targeting long-tail keywords and featured snippets.
6. Video content is here to stay.
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times: Video isn’t going anywhere. Fifty-five percent of people consume video content thoroughly, and by 2020, online videos will account for more than 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic. Bringing video content into your marketing strategy might seem like a big undertaking, but you can (and probably should) start small. It doesn’t have to be the sole focus of your budget or even the biggest portion of it to be valuable.
As the menu of marketing tactics becomes longer and more diverse, marketers are challenged to consider their budget and strategy from every angle. With these trends in mind, there’s no doubt 2018 will be one of the most interesting years for marketing yet. What new developments have affected your budget for 2018? Let me know your thoughts on the trends that are on your radar in the comments.
John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a keynote speaker, and the author of “Top of Mind.” You can book John to speak here.