Just like that, we’re currently nearing the end of 2018’s first quarter. Unbelievable.
I was having a conversation with a few friends of mine, and they’ve all mentioned that business hasn’t been doing so well as of late. Whether it’s the new tax regime or something else entirely, people just aren’t as keen to spend money these days.
The concept of marketing has been defined in all sorts of fancy little ways, but I like to think of it as the process of finding people who have a need for your product or service, letting them know that you exist, and converting that awareness/awe/curiosity into an actual sale. Digital marketing, by extension, is doing all that online.
Whether you’re starting a new business or are keen to boost your sales, tuning into this year’s forecast for prevailing marketing trends is sure to give you some helpful pointers:
1. Personalized Content.
Gone are the days of the “one size fits all” approach to creating and/or retaining your customer base. With so many brands at their fingertips, today’s clients are simply spoiled for choice. More often than not, the brands that appear to cater to their specific needs are the ones that end up on top of the heap.
For instance, you can design your website to greet new visitors with a standard welcome message and perhaps a chunk of engaging content, or even a parcel of special offers. Existing customers, of course, would get an entirely different set of content that matches their website activity, such as a promo code for their favorite product this week or an article addressing the concerns that the latter was designed for.
2. Conversational User Interfaces.
Siri, Alexa, Cortana… Much like pop stars, these disembodied, velvety-voiced assistants have become household names for their ability to both entertain and amuse customers not with doofy pop songs, but with the capacity for processing transactions, producing information, or simply giving sassy remarks…all upon an express command. It makes for a very natural and engaging way for brands to connect with their consumers.
User interfaces don’t have to be verbal either. Chatbots are an underutilized variation on this technology. If you program them well, you can automate processes like engagement, resolving customer service issues, and even closing a sale online. Some bots have even been set up in such a way that most people can’t tell that they haven’t been communicating with a real person.
3. The Collapse of the Influencer.
As someone who still can’t understand what the Kardashians and their ilk actually contribute to society, this development gives me tremendous joy indeed.
For far too long, brands have poured millions of dollars into these so-called “influencers” (USD20,000 for a single Instagram post??? F***!!!!!). Yet, while they’ve certainly driven up brand awareness, we have yet to prove that such exposure actually translates into sales, and more importantly, ROI. Some businesses have thus veered away from plying “influencers” with money, and are looking into organic grassroots promotion instead.
So, you can probably forget about trying to get Kimourtney Kardashian (whatever her name is) to post a photo of your, I dunno, charcoal-bristled toothbrush, and instead look towards enticing loyal customers to post their reviews.
Not only do they represent your actual market and are thus more likely to spread the word to people who would want to buy your stuff, but they also don’t require five-digit paychecks for simply mentioning your product or brand.
4. Going Mobile.
You’re probably reading this on your phone, aren’t you? No? Well, look up and see what the people around you are doing. Chances are, a good number of them are glued to their smartphone screen.
From paying the bills to booking a ride, we practically live on our phones these days, and it would be complete folly not to capitalize on that. We’re not just talking about creating a mobile-friendly website or app (but that should already be a given, mind you), but also carefully crafting and scheduling SMS reminders or announcements to your customers whenever appropriate.
I’ll give you an example. The salon that I go to often requires its customers to fill up a form with their contact details. Every now and then, they text me a holiday or birthday greeting and then remind me about when my last appointment was. Granted, it doesn’t exactly make me ring them for a haircut or pampering session, but I’m quite sure they get better results from their better-groomed clients (i.e., not me).
5. Investing in Good Content Developers.
I’m absolutely flummoxed by what passes for quality content these days. It’s not just about how so many “writers” seem to have skipped 3rd grade English grammar altogether, to the point that I can barely understand what they’re trying to say, but also the sort of topics they write about. Some of them just aren’t particularly relevant or helpful.
Engagement involves developing and promoting content that customers will find informative and interesting, and to cultivate that, you need good writers who can pick out the right words and string them along in a way that strikes just the right note.
Yes, the competent ones don’t come cheap, but neither does years and years of figuring out how to craft everything from a concise announcement to a full-fledged article on different kinds of subjects.
Like it or not, the traditional marketing methods just won’t cut it anymore. With the line between the real and the virtual world blurring further and further everyday, we’ll all have to get even more creative in standing out amidst a sea of glaring brands all angling for a fraction of each customer’s attention and budget.