You’ve probably been inundated recently with macro forecasts on the growth of digital media, artificial intelligence, mobile communications, videos, drones and more. But, as a small or midsize B2B, B2C or nonprofit marketer, what forecasts should you actually pay attention to, and which might be used to improve your profitability and ROI?I believe 2018 will be a bumpy ride and hope that my forecasts will smooth out the journey for you. Here goes:Improving Marketing And Marketing Communications By Paying Attention to These1. Considerable thought and time will be spent creating new website language to meet the explosive use of voice activated Internet searches. Voice activated searches, using “personal assistants”, accounted for twenty percent of searches in 2016 (ComScore) and are projected to reach fifty percent in 2020. Your website pages need to understand and reflect how people actually speak.2. Greater attention to brand transparency, complete truth and face-to-face interaction with customers and prospects will take center stage. Cybersecurity breaches, as well as eroding trust in media and institutions, has led to a significant and wide spread quest for truth. Events and interactions at the point-of-purchase provide opportunities to build (or re-build) brand trust.3. Reducing merchandise returns by e-commerce consumers will receive increased focus and require new strategies. While online sales are growing at about three times the rate of those for brick and mortar stores (in part, because of free shipping), almost one-third of e-purchases are sent back (versus nine percent for stores). As shipping is twenty to sixty-five percent of an e-retailers cost of goods (UPS), it’s all hands on deck to reduce this cost.4. While digital marketing will continue to grow, there will have to be significant improvements made for its continued development. Consider the following:- P&G has challenged Google, Facebook, YouTube and others to adapt safeguards against the existing fraudulent traffic reporting and inappropriate content by the end of 2017 or they will stop advertising with them; P&G has already pulled $140 million from them in 2017.- Walmart is also no longer advertising on YouTube.- Facebook claims it can potentially reach 101 million 18 to 34-year olds, but the Census Bureau counts only 76 million of this demographic.- The ANA is attempting to start a six-month, $50 million pilot study with 35 marketers in a test of 30 premium online publishers to determine their actual value.- Added to these, there have been accusations of social media kickbacks, while over 600 million consumers worldwide have ad blockers installed.It is clear dramatic improvements must be made and made quickly.5. As another outgrowth of the mistrust in the marketplace, employees, reps and distributors will become the new marketing communications “influencers”. Of necessity, these people will become “the brand”, and management will recognize the importance of an engaged workforce. In their quest to develop brand champions at every level, savvy leaders will foster authentic and open internal communications.6. Although it might seem to be a throwback, direct mail will receive renewed emphasis. According to Compu-Mail, average response rates for direct mail (5.1%) is far higher than for email (0.6%), paid searches (0.6%), social media (0.4%), or online display ads (0.2%). In fact, direct mail is even stronger among millennials, with response rates of 12.4% among those aged 18 – 24. Data also suggests that direct mail is better than email for generating longer term customer engagement.7. Bloggers will continue to be a factor, but writing longer posts, spending more time crafting them, and publishing less frequently (Orbit Media). Specifically, posts went from 808 words in 2014 to 1,142 words in 2017, with the average post taking nearly 3 ½ hours to create. The current regimen shows 3 percent posing daily, 22 percent posting weekly and the majority posting only several times a month or less often.Changing Your Strategy, Planning And Tactics1. Marketers will recognize that – in the face of a changing marketplace – the most important aspect of profitable growth and improved ROI is developing a meaningful marketing and marketing communications strategy. Having experimented in recent years with a vast variety of tactical resources (in large part because they’re easy to grasp), marketers have learned that, without any realistic measurement of their worth, these efforts may have been counterproductive. Putting tactics before strategy never works… “ready, fire, aim” comes to mind.2. Marketers, in fact, will spend much more time determining whether their marketing communications tactics are working. Admitting that clicks don’t inherently lead to increased profitable revenue, they will establish strict measurement and ROI of digital marketing the same way they do with traditional marketing.3. Beyond a focus on the efficiency of an advertising medium, considerably more thought will be built into selecting a specific medium based on consumer trust of the medium. A recent study of 1,030 consumers by Clutch showed television/broadcast video as the advertising medium most trusted (61%) and social media and online mediums as the least trusted (38% and 41%, respectively). Trust of all mediums is strongest among millennials and weakest among baby boomers.4. There will be a focus on transitioning from a marketing specialist environment, to generalists who can integrate and lead these specialists into an ROI driven team (Korn Ferry). This will be challenging as there is a shortage of marketing talent with broad experience, leadership and capability that can gain the trust of specialists who work together for the brand and not their specialty.Using Consultants For Improving Marketing And Marketing Communications ROIMost probably you’ve already put a lot of hard work into developing your 2018 plan. But perhaps these forecasts have raised some questions and concerns that you may not have thought of, and perhaps you don’t have the experience, time or staff to address them. If you’re concerned about marketing, you’re not alone. In fact, Infusionsoft surveyed 1,000 small business owners and found that nearly two-thirds feel that they “don’t know if their marketing strategies work” or “know that their strategies aren’t working”. So, what can you do?Consider tapping into an established, media neutral consultancy or person, with broad experience across industries, companies and nonprofits, both large and small, who are also willing to “tell it like it is”. Don’t settle for someone selling you one particular marketing discipline or experience in just your niche or industry. What is needed in these complicated times is not a “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality, but rather a broad view of your business and opportunities.Like trained accountants and lawyers, a marketing professional will bring you fresh eyes, apolitical candor and a disciplined approach to today’s uncertain and untrusting marketing environment. Trust is the new black, and a knowledgeable consultant can help you build a meaningful and profitable business.But remember, “Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who put them into action are priceless.”
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