While many of us in mid-November are thinking about the upcoming holidays, travel plans, and quality time with loved ones, business and marketing leaders are crunching the numbers and having tough discussions about their budgets for the new year before 2018 comes to a close.
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As you’re looking back at the year’s successes and (let’s face it) shortcomings, it’s important to look ahead to what the marketing industry as a whole has in store in the near future and to seek out new opportunities to engage your audience. To help, here are seven marketing trends that leaders should consider as they’re preparing to budget for 2019:
1. Content has become core to marketing (and sales, too).
One of the biggest trends in content marketing is that it’s all but taken over marketing departments. Content has become core to everything your marketing team does, so you absolutely have to budget for it. If you haven’t already, create a content marketing plan. And if you have created a strategy, take some time to revisit it, make sure it aligns with the direction you’re wanting to go in 2019, and determine that you have the resources you need.
While you’re thinking through how content will work for you, don’t forget about the goals you share with your sales team — and how content plays a role in achieving them. Pay attention to sales trends and think through ways content can smooth your individual sales process. Content has become the fuel for so many of your marketing and sales departments’ biggest goals, and your budget should reflect that.
2. Chatbots will offer benefits beyond customer service.
Audiences are looking for more authentic, helpful interactions with brands, and they want those touchpoints to happen on their terms. Chatbots can help you meet your audience members where they are and inform your marketing strategy with insights directly from them at the same time.
According to recent research, 73 percent of marketers say they use their website analytics to research their audience, but only 42 percent say they use actual audience conversations. That’s a missed opportunity for better relationships and better messaging, and if marketers want to close that gap, they might want to look into chatbots.
Not only do chatbots give you insight into exactly what your audience members are looking for and when, but they also make it easy to deliver that information to them — all while collecting those insights to refine your messaging in the future. It’s a win-win,and that’s why it should be on your radar in 2019.
3. Alternative search formats are on the rise.
Just as there are different ways to communicate your message, there are different ways for audience members to search for your content. Voice search is on the rise, and with Google announcing plans to make visual content more useful in search, marketers need to be prepared for the rise of alternative search.
According to the recent research I mentioned earlier, more than half of marketers increased their use of image-based content, and more than one-third increased audio-only content. This indicates marketers are moving in the right direction by producing more and different types of content for audiences. But if you’re creating different kinds of content without also thinking through how your audience will find it, it’s not going to do a lot of good. As we go into 2019, prioritizing multimedia content and alternative search will be important.
4. Marketing and PR will continue to overlap.
As content keeps growing, marketing and PR teams are going to see more overlap. I’m not saying that these two teams are now orwill ever become one and the same. But brands are starting to realize that marketing and PR share some common goals and work well together, and they’re making it a point to bring these two teams into closer proximity.
PR has evolved a lot in recent years. It’s less about the templated, mass-distributed messaging of the past and much more about engaging content that’s valuable to brands, reporters, and their audiences. Now if helpful, engaging content sounds familiar, that’s because it’s central to what marketing is all about. Marketing and PR can and should work together to enhance each other and deliver more value to your audience — and your bottom line.
5. Security and data privacy will be major concerns.
To say it’s not been a great year for privacy would be an understatement. If you value online security and the privacy of your information, then the seemingly endless stream of news stories about data breaches and hacks might be making you uneasy. And your audience probably feels the same way.
Online security and the protection of personal information are growing demands for all consumers, and marketing leaders must accommodate this development. The 2018 rollout of the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU was a big step in that direction. As audience trust in media declines and concern over privacy grows, marketers will need to put the processes in place to responsibly collect, store, and protect their audience members’ information to maintain the trust they’ve worked so hard to earn.
6. Personalization and authenticity will separate successful marketers from those who just contribute to noise.
To be honest, there’s no good reason in this day and age for anyone to receive generic messages and completely irrelevant offers in his or her inbox (or anywhere, for that matter). With the endless amount of data you have available, the technology that can analyze it and help you put it to use, and the tools available to scale that information across interactions, your audience members should feel special all the time.
They’re already bombarded with more content than they can handle, and you don’t want to just add to the noise. Technology doesn’t have to make you more impersonal. It can make marketers better communicators. Use it to (securely) collect relevant data, and turn those data points into insights that can guide your messaging. The more advanced these tools get, the higher your audience’s expectations for genuine, helpful, personalized content will be.
7. Less will be more.
In an article about trends to consider for 2019, I know it probably sounds weird to say that maybe we should be trying fewer things, but hear me out. Things evolve rapidly, especially in marketing and communication. There’s constantly something new that’s demanding your attention as a marketer and your audience members’ attention as content consumers.
In the race to take advantage of the next big thing, some marketers may be trying to do too much at once — which only leaves them with lots of partially realized investment payoffs, a potentially jumbled message, and audiences that suffer from their lack of consistency.
So rather than dive headfirst into each trend as it emerges, remember the members of your audience and what is truly best for them. That should be your guiding light. Assess everything carefully, make sure you’ve got a plan to actually measure whatever you try, and always prioritize your audience experience.
As marketing continues to evolve, pay attention to different speakers, trusted content sources, and other marketing leaders you respect so that you are prepared for your budget talks. Hopefully these seven marketing trends that are shaping the industry will help you as you sit down to allocate dollars and set goals for 2019.