Serious marketers use every tool in the kit, from native ads and influencer channels to visual storytelling and now-or-never expiring content.
At its core, marketing is a form of communicating with consumers in the hopes of selling them a product or service. However, it’s often a complicated dance of finding new and exciting ways to entice customers.
In this social-media-dominated world, the choreography is increasingly detail-oriented and high-tech. Yet it's for this very reason that the most powerful messages remain human-centric.
The biggest trends of 2017 will help marketers engage consumers more directly by circumventing distractions and increasing their marketing reach. These tactics appeal to fundamental aspects of human nature. As such, they can help marketers create carefully coordinated campaigns and conversations where brands and consumers coalesce into a shared experience.
1. Go native or go home.
Joe Pulizzi, a self-proclaimed content-marketing evangelist, calls native advertising the “gateway drug” to content marketing. If you’re smart, you’ll jump on the native-marketing train: Spending on these ads will reach $7.9 billion this year and $21 billion by 2018. Native advertising is expected to expand across numerous online platforms.
Marketers love this form of paid media because it fits organically. Native advertising doesn’t disrupt the user experience, so users can’t differentiate between what is paid advertising and what is part of the site.
The content usually is useful, interesting and targeted to a specific audience -- all of which makes it one of the best platforms to launch any marketing campaign.
2. Embrace content marketing.
Content marketing sometimes is confused with native marketing. Though the two often go hand in hand, content marketing is its own beast.
Native marketing is simply another way for marketers to distribute content. Content marketing is a strategic-marketing technique to create and distribute relevant information to attract a target audience. It's not a paid-and-done transaction, like placing a native ad. Rather, it's an ongoing process that's best integrated into an overall marketing strategy.
It can serve as the cornerstone to nearly any marketing plan and works for all types of brands because everyone uses it differently. The key is to be consistent, staying in character for your brand. If that brand voice is clever, interesting or funny, your target audience can't help but be engaged.
3. Find your target influencer.
We're now in the midst of an influencer-marketing gold rush. While “influencers” always have been a leading element in marketing, they're quickly becoming one of the most effective ways to reach customers and clients. That's especially true on social media.
Influencer marketing gives brands the opportunity to create word-of-mouth buzz through personalities whom consumers already follow and admire. These personalities present a world of possibilities for any marketer savvy enough to channel their power. When influencers are used effectively, they create natural ways to seduce a target audience.
4. Experiment with livestreaming video and visual storytelling.
Video connects immediately to the viewer, conveying emotion and a message that often is far more memorable than static words in a newsfeed.
Livestreaming video allows you to do this all on the fly. Consider the popularity of video-sharing sites such as YouTube. More than 1 billion people use YouTube on a regular basis, a number that has increased about 40 percent since March 2014.
Facebook got into the act in a big way in April when it launched Facebook Live. The tool puts broadcast capabilities at the fingertips of everyone who uses the world's biggest social-media network. In October, Facebook followed up with an international ad campaign to help raise awareness of how the new feature works. All of the campaign's content was shot using Facebook Live and a phone. The demonstration was a highly effective way to showcase how the new feature allows anyone to create content, from virtually anywhere.
5. Learn how chatbots are changing our conversations.
Chatbots are a major game-changer that improves real-time, 24-hour engagement with consumers. Advances in artificial intelligence and programming enable chatbots to answer customers' queries. The responses make sense because they're all based in data on how the human brain works. A chatbot essentially is the sales associate who never sleeps and always is ready with a prompt reply.
If you own an iPhone, you have a chatbot in your pocket: Siri. Apple's mainstream chatbot uses voice recognition, a preset script and deep-learning neural networks to accurately respond to users’ questions and statements.
6. Give your social content an expiration date.
Snapchat fans know there's something alluring and even addicting about sending content that will self-destruct within a certain timeframe. Generation Z’s decreasing attention span will make expiring social content even more crucial. The element of urgency cuts through online noise and clutter, instantly capturing the user's attention.
The premise is simple: Look now, or lose your chance forever. While this makes the content compelling and authentic, it also can prove difficult for marketers to use. Those brands savvy enough to harness its potential are finding it has an amazing upside. Influencers who are deft at this form of communication can help marketers organically integrate expiring social content into an overall strategy.
7. Make personalization a priority.
A daily dose of information overload has made people more resistant to advertising. Today's consumers can spot obvious sales pitches or marketing come-ons, and they'll be turned off by anything they perceive as more clamor. Targeting consumers on an individual level allows marketers to cut through the torrent of stimuli.
To capture a distracted customer’s attention, marketers must reach him or her with personalized, relevant content. It’s all about creating marketing tactics that home in on exactly what consumers are looking for or thinking about.
Tracking consumers’ habits, interests and browsing histories is key to creating strategies that get them to close the sale or purchase the service.
8. Automate your efforts.
Marketing automation is growing at an impressive rate, with 71 percent of companies currently using this tech. Marketing automation does exactly what the name suggests, using software platforms designed to put repetitive tasks on autopilot. This tool kit includes solutions for email marketing, social-media marketing, SMS and digital ads.
Apps such as Marketo and Hubspot are becoming smarter, more intuitive and more affordable. That makes them essential for any competitive marketer. In fact, 91 percent of the most successful marketers agree that marketing automation is “very important” to the overall success of their marketing across channels.
Though some might see purpose-driven content marketing as the "kumbaya" of the marketing world, there's no denying its power to engage the audience at a higher level and drive them to participate. Brands that want to rise above the rest are finding this type of content allows them to bond with their consumers. It imbues brands with a bigger mission and creates public interest around the idea of supporting a worthy cause. It also could attract younger consumers who desire to be part of something bigger and help change the world for the better.
Author of A Paperboy's Fable: The 11 Principles of Success