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Todd Anthony | Creative Director, Pinwheel Content, GreenFig Instructor
Marketing has undergone an absolutely dizzying transformation over the past 15 years. The proliferation of platforms, technologies, formats, and channels kept everyone on their toes and constantly learning new things. This year was no different. As we inch towards the end of 2018, we’re taking stock of the top three trends that, based on our survey and research, have really mattered to marketers this year. In other words, if you have limited budget and resources, these three areas are where you should consider leaning in. Buckle up!
Content marketing is the creation and distribution of valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract, engage and retain an audience. It powers all digital communications from search to social to email marketing to creating website experiences which convert.
In 1895 John Deere launched its own magazine and ever since then brands have been publishing their own content. So why is this a hot trend in 2018? When technology gave consumers the ability to block or ignore unwanted and annoying ad messages from them, brands were challenged to find a way to interact with their consumers in a way that would actually be welcome. Change is hard. But over the past 5 years companies have finally starting to embrace content marketing fully and are investing in the various disciplines that make content marketing effective: strategy, writing, design, social, analytics, SEO/SEM, etc.
Content tells captivating stories, helps customers be successful, entertains and persuades. It can be articles, case studies, videos, interactive experiences… the possibilities are many. But it should be content your audience will truly care about. Red Bull, for example, doesn’t talk much about their fizzy drink. To capture the attention of their particular audience, they talk about extreme sports and the lifestyle that goes with those sports. During the holidays last year, the popular real estate site Zillow didn’t talk about home buying or selling, they created a fun, multi-media experience around the homes in Santa’s village at the North Pole.
Books have been written (thankfully) about how to do content marketing right, but there are a few things we recommend you keep in mind. 1) More content is not better than quality content. 2) Think about the story that your content is telling when taken as a whole and ask yourself if that story intriguing to your audience. 3) Content needs to be distributed and amplified if you’re going to get your money’s worth, 4) Consider how one content piece can be broken into pieces or re-shaped into something new. 5) Think about the SEO implications of your content.
It’s when brands get their happy customers talking about the company and products and use their voices in case studies, videos, ads, social media, product review sites, websites, etc. It’s a form of grassroots marketing.
The old spray and pray ad techniques have become less and less effective with every tick of the clock. Consumers, especially younger ones, prefer content that feels more authentic. This bears itself out in the research. In a 2015 report by Nielsen, they discovered that 83% of consumers placed the most trust in the recommendations of friends and family and 66% trusted the opinions of consumers they found online. There’s also evidence that referral prospects tend to convert at a much higher rate than others.
The rise of social media, online communities, and product review sites have contributed to this change. They visit Yelp before dining out and check Amazon customer reviews before buying a product. They watch success story videos and read case studies. They visit Glassdoor before accepting a job offer. Your prospects are used to listening to independent voices before making decisions.
Once you have your goals defined, think about the best way and time to approach your customers. Would you do it in the regular course of your customer service interactions? Would you offer incentives to your sales team for surfacing happy customers? Do you comb through your online community or in your social channels? Once you have advocates, you need to make sure the experience is rewarding for them. Engage them frequently, get them psyched up, and offer perks. If you want to become an expert in advocate marketing, grab a seat for our Advocacy Marketing Bootcamp on December 5-7.
Be really clear about what you want from them and be as straightforward and authentic as humanly possible. Make it fun. Also, technology can help. There are SaaS platforms out there that let you organize, communicate with and mobilize your advocates in a more scalable way than, say, a spreadsheet and an email account. Another hot tip: consider digital media partners who themselves offer paying advertisers a way to tap into their own network of passionate users to cultivate relationships, generate content, and get them talking about your brand in their social channels. For example: A diaper brand tapping into the big community of moms over at BabyCenter.com to launch a new diaper wipe product.
The act of elevating the work that your organization is doing to protect customer data (identity, personal info, behaviors, preferences, etc.) and making it a key communication point in their marketing campaigns.
While companies continue to improve their ability to collect our every click, scroll, and shred of our personal data they can get their hands on, they don’t seem to do a terribly good at protecting that information. It feels like there’s hardly a major company that hasn’t leaked customer data in one way or another. From the recent Google+ hack to the massive Equifax and Yahoo breaches, it’s no wonder that, according to a 2017 survey by Experian, 73% of Americans are very or somewhat concerned about the safety of their identities.
So yes, protecting the privacy of customers has become a major selling point this year. And with every new data breach, that selling point gets stronger. Moving forward, consumers will begin to favor brands that market their privacy and cybersecurity prowess. Because of a confluence of factors, including GDPR, marketers will begin using privacy protection and data security as a value proposition across industries. As your company moves to protect itself from breaches (and steep GDPR fines), why not market the changes that you’re making?
There’s really no magic here. It’s just a question of making the security measures part of the marketing messages. But it could also extend to new products or product extensions. Experian and LifeLock, for example, white label their ID protection products to large corporations. For companies in the financial industry, insurance, telecommunications, etc. these products are smart additions that send a strong message to their customers.
For obvious reasons, it’s important not to overpromise. Don’t call your security measures iron-clad, bank-level, industry-leading, military-grade, or gold standard if it’s a standard 128-bit with an inferior encryption mode. Also, try not to get the information second or third hand. As an important part of your marketing, you should talk directly to your CISO (Chief Information Security Officer), or your organization’s equivalent, to get the raw information about your security measures and work with your creative team to bring it to life.
Other popular trends include chatbots, brand storytelling, personalized engagement, and building trust through authenticity. The overriding theme seems to be a more transparent, yet engaging style of marketing. In short, be honest and interesting - and that’s advice that you can bank on for the rest of your career.
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Why would a business analyst at a leading firm that specializes in digital marketing for property management companies enroll in GreenFig’s Digital Marketing Science course? Answer: To see the bigger (business) picture. Ryan Kelley performs data and cost analysis for clients at G5. But when the company offered to upskill some of its employees by enrolling them in a course that covers digital marketing fundamentals, strategy, tactics and technology, Ryan eagerly raised his hand.