As 2015 winds down, we marketers are already thinking at least six months into the new year. As we wait for the calendar to catch up with our plans, let's review a few of the current marketing trends that are going strong and are likely to strengthen in the coming year.
Here are my nine top picks:
1. Video Content
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that video is the future of content marketing. Cisco predicts that by 2019, video will comprise 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic—up from 64 percent in 2014.
Download our guide, "Hassle Free Video Production," to learn how to make video an easy and effective marketing solution.
Video is more engaging than written content, it's easy to consume anywhere, and it's popular to share socially, from YouTube to Facebook to Twitter. As platforms like Blab, Vine, Periscope and others continue to gain traction, there's no end in sight to video's meteoric rise.
The good news for marketers is that there's almost an inverse correlation between production quality and perceived authenticity. Your brand's video productions don't have to break the bank to be effective.
2. A Bigger Role in the Customer Experience
More and more, marketers are being called upon to consider the whole customer experience, which goes far beyond just creating demand.
A marketer's job starts at the first touch (especially in a SaaS world), and it continues forever. Companies need customers to renew the service, expand the products they're using, and add new users to their accounts, which means actively marketing to them all along the way.
The goal now is to inspire consumer advocacy, where customers are out there helping you tell your story in a positive way.
To accomplish this, marketers must get involved in how the company talks to current customers and about its services, how feedback is gathered and more—ensuring a consistently great customer experience.
The caution: there are likely people in your company already doing these things, so don't think you're riding in on your white horse to save the day. Your role is to understand, influence, and contribute.
3. The Well-Rounded Marketing Executive
If you go back a few decades, the chief marketing officer title didn't exist; the marketer's role was almost solely focused around demand gen.
As technology has continued to transform the way we all work, marketing executives and teams have become more integrated with the rest of the organization.
I predict that in 2016 you'll see marketing leaders having an even greater level of impact on the business, which will require a deeper cross-functional understanding of finance, sales, and the overall customer journey.
4. Increasing Velocity
Another trend I see for 2016 is an increase in work velocity. Content marketers will be literally twice as successful if they create eight pieces of content next quarter instead of four pieces.
Leaders have to ask themselves what tools they can harness to produce more webinars, more events, more videos, more white papers and ebooks—often without bringing on additional resources.
I see velocity becoming a key metric for marketing teams.
Just like you track revenue and conversion rates, start tracking how much work you're able to produce with your current team—and then strategize how to increase that volume. Streamlining processes with a marketing work management tool is a great place to start.
5. Holistic Marketing
After a recent meeting with Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute, I walked away with the insight that companies providing very niche slices of marketing work—like SEO, PR, and branding—are starting to fade away.
Rather than hiring a separate firm to handle or advise each of these functions, the trend is to start with the end goal and then harness all available tools to reach it in a holistic way.
If you're trying to build awareness, for example, you'd pull in some PR, blogging, a video campaign, and more. If the objective is demand generation and website traffic, then you'd integrate SEO and creative components into your plan vs. managing them each separately.
6. Social Scrutiny
When Facebook and Twitter were relatively new, companies often followed a carte blanche approach to capturing their share of the billions of active users. You simply did what it took build a base and attract followers.
As these channels have evolved and matured—and analytic tools along with them—we're seeing greater scrutiny on social spending. In 2016 and beyond, marketers will need to justify their spend strategy and provide proof of ROI.
7. The Martech Explosion
The number of marketing technology solutions exploded in the last year, nearly doubling from January 2014 to January 2015 alone, and I think the trend will continue through 2016.
Not too long ago, the big tech boom was in healthcare apps. Now it's the marketing industry's turn. What does this mean for marketers?
You should be looking at new technology constantly and regularly evaluating if there's something better out there for ad tech, analytics, data management, marketing automation, email marketing, and the list goes on.
With an average of 2.5 new software options hitting the market every day, there most likely is.
8. Stronger Division Between B2B and B2C
The tactics and strategies used to market to businesses vs. consumers are becoming increasingly distinct. The trend is that every individual marketer will have to specialize in one or the other, because marketing skills aren't one size fits all anymore (if they ever were).
If Coke had a great recent campaign, you really can't apply that principle to selling software to hospitals. There's definitely some overlap, but at a certain point in every marketer's career, she'll wake up to find herself solidly on one side or the other.
9. Consumer Discovery
In the past, marketing was about pushing ideas and information to customers, on a schedule determined by the marketer.
These days, it's all about making your information as available as possible—in the channels the customer is already using—so it's ready and waiting when the customer comes searching.
Consumers are now saying, "I want to know about it when I want to know about it, not when you want to tell me about it." The upside is that consumers today are truly thirsty for discovery and interested in trends, and I don't see that waning any time soon.
How Trendy is Your Team?
If you're not riding the wave of these nine top marketing trends, don't worry.
You've got 18 more days to catch up before we ring in the new year, at which time there will be approximately 45.8 new martech apps released, if we stay on pace with last year's growth. As it stands, there's no indication that we won't.
See our video, "'Agile Marketing Trends 2016' - Marketing Project Management w/Joe Staples" for more trends to watch for.
About the Author
Joe is a senior B2B tech marketing executive (former CMO at Workfront) with primary emphasis in SaaS, mar-tech, and customer experience sectors. He loves brand-building, demand generation, PR/AR, and creative campaign development and prides himself in providing a good blend of strategy and execution.Follow on Twitter More Content by Joe Staples