At this time of year it is traditional for bloggers to look back over the previous year or make predictions about the coming year.
Well, predictions may or may not come true, and many seem to originate from one specialist’s particular point of view – so their usefulness is often questionable.
So instead of making predictions or reviewing the year, in this post I’m going to look at five big marketing ideas for 2015 – five things to think about, five ideas to inspire and to influence your thinking. Five big, useful, ideas.
B2B and B2C should be H2H
We talk about B2B – Business to Business and B2C – Business to Consumer, but in this age of social media, email and contact management, we really should be thinking of H2H – Human to Human. Business to Business is no longer about connecting with companies (if it ever was) but with key individuals.
In 2014 Small firms accounted for 99.3 per cent of all private sector businesses in the UK, 47.8 per cent of private sector employment and 33.2 per cent of private sector turnover. Small and medium sized businesses employed 15.2 million people and had a combined turnover of £1.6 trillion. Of all businesses, 62 per cent (3.3 million) were sole proprietorships. (Federation of Small Businesses). The UK was the 14th most entrepreneurial nation in the world on the Global Entrepreneurship Index for 2013, but in 2015 it has now climbed to number four. (GEDI).
Small and medium businesses of whatever size, are often driven by a single, dynamic, entrepreneur at the top of the business who probably (rightly or wrongly) makes most of the important decisions. So more and more B2B marketing is actually about reaching one, influential individual.
Social Media – whether it be Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter – is about connecting with individuals, with all their quirks, interests and foibles. Gone are the days of creating generic messages for mass consumption. We now have to connect and engage on a personal, even intimate level.
Business networks like LinkedIn are proving a crucial element in digital B2B marketing – a platform that is all about connecting with individuals in businesses, rather than with the businesses themselves.
Email too, has become more and more about personalized messages, and marketers currently seem obsessed with personalization and segmentation. Take that to its logical conclusion and the ultimate segment is the individual.
Even blogging and content publishing is more aware than ever of the impact of individual comments, individual bloggers, individual followers.
Marketing messages will need to become more personal, more informal, more human as organisations recognise the importance of H2H.
So take a look at your marketing messages and think about your target audience – are they human messages for real human beings?
Make it Mobile first
This year you definitely need to start thinking Mobile first and then web friendly second. Mobile now accounts for over 70% of traffic to social media sites and 60% of all online traffic. Mobile activity on social media has grown by 55% over the past year. (ComScore).
So sites, blogs, social activity and email marketing should all be designed to play nicely with mobile devices. Competitions and promotions will need to work, and work easily, on mobile. It's even worth investing time in mobile marketing and creating content specifically for mobile devices.
Grab your mobile phone or your tablet right now and look at your web site, your blog, your social media posts and your promotions. Happy?
Honesty is the best policy
Transparency, honesty and humanity have become central brand values. Modern marketing is caught in the spotlight of social media, bloggers and peer-to-peer networks. Organisations can no longer hide what they do. So not only will they have to be more moral and ethical about their everyday business, but they will need to feature it in stories and marketing messages.
Organisations often feel compelled to embellish the truth, to sanitise it, smooth over it and extend it, when it's not necessary. Many PR and marketing departments believe they need to leave out the details, add sales messages or change the facts. I don't know why, because in most cases the truth is often the more powerful story - the more believable story.
So rather than use PR spin and an approach that glosses over the facts, organisations will come to realise that honesty really is the best policy in modern marketing. Support for communities, ethical trading and helpful content will all become part of the marketing strategy.
Companies that live their cultural and ethical brand messages will win out over those that just pay lip service to them as they will be the ones with genuine stories to share.
Who knows, at some point in the future we may even see a cultural change in organisations – a revolution at boardroom level that sweeps away directors and managers that can’t accept or don’t value an ethical, honest approach.
How many times in the past year have you celebrated the truth of your business in a marketing message? How many mistakes have you written about? How many positive actions has your organisation publicised?
Avoid digital disappointment
This is an age of spoilt, tech-savvy, media and device users; they expect a lot from web sites and apps. They are used to tapping, swiping, sliding. They are used to intuitive functionality.
Think about your web pages and apps – is there some extra functionality it makes sense to provide? Does it promise much but then fail to deliver? Does it look like you ought to be able to do something – but then you can’t? Run through all the likely uses of the page or the app – are you missing something obvious that would be useful, some information that would be helpful in that situation? Could the interface and interactions be simplified?
Digital disappointment will be a big factor in whether your audience stays with you or clicks onto the next thing.
Get smarter with your content publishing
Think about the value and quality of your content marketing. This is the age of content marketing, and that means there is a lot of it out there, not only clamouring for attention but disappointing readers when it doesn’t add value.
Organisations will have to go beyond gearing up to publish – and examine the quality and usefulness of what they publish, and, more significantly; look at the return on investment of the content published. They will come to realise that publishing great swathes of low quality, low interest content will actually do them more harm than good when it comes to search engines, customers and engagement.
Readers have learned how to block, ban, un-follow and un-like spam or uninteresting content, having become increasingly more discerning.
Content publishing will need to be smart, targeted and offer real value. Measurement, analysis and strategy will become more and more important - as it has in digital advertising and all forms of social media.
So think about how you would measure effectiveness, usefulness and engagement. How can you improve the quality of your content? How can you give the reader what they want and need?
So there you have it, no predictions to be proved wrong, no mulling over the past - just five big ideas for you to think about in 2015.