2015 was a year of growth for digital marketers. We learned to roll with the punches (see “mobilegeddon“), appreciate the good and take the bad in stride.
The best part was that businesses worldwide decided to increase digital budgets with a focus on organic reach and content, both of which magnify conversions significantly. But even as businesses acknowledged the importance of digital in an overall marketing mix, many are still struggling to use data to properly measure ROI and make educated decisions. In fact, 50% of companies are using digital marketing without a plan.
If you’re going to competitively position your business in 2016, you need to strategically approach your digital marketing efforts. Here are three trends that are essential when planning for the new year:
- Content is (Still) King
2016 Strategy: Match key business goals and customer needs to outline how your inbound marketing efforts will address them.
Inbound marketing is pretty simple: promote your business through various activities that bring users to your business rather than purchasing ads that are meant to go out and get leads. Inbound efforts include anything from blogs, videos and social media to SEO, landing pages and other types of content marketing.
Before producing content to fill your blog or making videos to push out on social sites, you need to know your customers. When your content aligns with your customers’ needs, it becomes helpful and relevant rather than an interruption of their day-to-day online activities. The best way to ensure this happens is by creating and documenting a comprehensive content marketing strategy.
You may be asking yourself, “Do I really need one?” Yes, you do. According to Smart Insights, almost three-fourths of businesses said they are creating more content but less than 15% feel confident that they have an optimized marketing strategy. Set yourself apart by taking time to plan your strategy ahead of time.
While you won’t be able to find a cookie-cutter template online for content marketing strategies, they typically answer the following five questions:
- What are your reasons for content creation, the risks of creating it, and what does success look like? By communicating these key points, you are more likely to gain company-wide support and a trial-and-error mentality as you find what works for your business.
- What are you goals for content strategy, and what is the unique value of your content to your audience? The content you create should be, above all else, relevant and valuable.
- Who is your target audience, what are their needs, and how do they typically engage with content? Your target audience should include influencers in your industry, internal members of your organization and customers. Each will have their own needs and engagement process.
- What messages do you want to communicate and how do they stand out from the crowd? Your story will allow you to build relationships and create loyal customers over time.
- What platforms will you use and what are your standards, processes, and objectives for each? This step allows you to connect each channel and form a cohesive message with your brand.
If you’re still struggling to catch up with this important trend, the Content Marketing Institute is a great resource to get you on track.
- Mobile’s Pursuit of Top Spot
2015 Highlight: Google announced that more Google searches took place on mobile devices than desktop computers in 2015.
2016 Strategy: Enhance user experience and optimize presence on mobile devices to gain customer loyalty.
As consumers, we are constantly on our smartphones because they make us feel productive and connected. We can respond to emails while waiting for coffee, use banking apps to pay bills during the morning commute, even play games in the restroom (don’t worry, you’re not alone).
In today’s digital landscape, mobile responsiveness and optimization are not an option. You will not reach the ever-growing smartphone crowd if your business is not present with an appealing website that functions on mobile devices. In fact, ExactTarget’s Mobile Behavior Report states that 27% of consumers will actually abandon a website if it’s not mobile compatible.
If your website is not mobile optimized in 2016, what are you missing out on?
The largest group of smartphone owners are Millennials, the most tech-savvy and brand-loyal generation out there. Almost 90% of the so-called “digital generation” admits they are never without their smartphones. They can decide where, when and how they interact with businesses and if you meet their mobile requirements, you will have their business for life.
That means if your mobile presence provides a quality user-experience, you can increase conversions by 160% and gain the Millennial shoppers who turn to their phones to research products, find locations, and make purchase decisions.
Mobile devices will continue to take over in 2016 and if you don’t have an optimized presence on mobile devices, your overall marketing efforts will fall short.
- Storytelling through Digital Video
2016 Strategy: Create original, short videos that represent your brand and speak to your target audience.
It didn’t surprise anyone that online video consumption skyrocketed in 2015. While text articles provide a deeper insight about specific subject matter, videos are easier to absorb and resonate more with viewers who live with a constant influx of information.
As video viewership increased, so did video advertising. Google’s ownership enables YouTube to stretch its legs and social sites like Facebook are racing to keep up. Online publishers are innovating their platforms to make room for more video ads and Google is planning on including video ads in search results pages.
Businesses took notice and moved traditional television budgets to digital video, allowing an increase in spend by almost 50% from 2014 to 2015. They reaped the rewards and grew revenue 49% faster than those who didn’t invest in video, according to the Aberdeen Group.
So if you haven’t invested in video marketing for your business, 2016 is the year.
But how do you get started?
Though video campaigns vary based on industry, size, and target market, there are a few widely adopted methods for reaching the right consumers with the right videos.
- Tell stories. Product pushing doesn’t relate to audiences like emotional stories and inspiring narratives. Challenge your team to brainstorm ideas that humanize your brand. Stories tend to go viral and deliver more traffic and brand recognition.
- Create tutorials. Offer your audience valuable information and position your business as the expert on your products or services. Tutorials establish trust with your audience and bring users back for more.
- Collaborate with influencers. Invite or pay industry influencers to participate in your videos. Co-created content is trusted, shareable and reaches consumers who are more likely to convert.
- Think mobile and try vertical content. Mobile users favor a vertical experience so successful businesses and apps cater to their preferences (think Instagram and Snapchat). Try shooting your videos vertically rather than horizontally to separate yourself from the crowd.
- Don’t forget a call to action. Turn viewers into customers by asking a question, giving them the ability to view more videos, or go to your website. There are numerous resources online that teach video newbies how to create interactive “end cards” that link viewers to other content.
- Experiment between long- and short-form content. Produce videos that range from 10 seconds to 2 minutes and measure performance. There is still some disagreement in the marketing industry about which is better but testing them allows you to find the perfect fit for your business.
There are lots of good examples of video marketing but one of my personal favorites comes from Nike Women, whose #BetterForIt video provided an inside look at the thoughts of women as they exercise. By using humor and honesty, they gave viewers a chance to bond with them.
Digital video is expected to command more than 70% of Internet traffic by 2017. Beyond the volume of consumers that video marketing can deliver, it also gives businesses the opportunity to build connections and trust.
Content, mobile and video are not the only strategies that will thrive in 2016, but they will have a significant impact on performance and ROI of your digital marketing efforts. Start early, optimize, and enjoy the benefits. 2015 blew us away, but 2016 looks even more promising.