Happy new year! In this month of resolutions, what will you do differently this year? Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is credited with saying that he never skates to where the puck is, but to where the puck will be. How many of us have been challenged to do just that by executives who demand we map our marketing plans to where the puck will be? (My hand is raised - sports analogies are big in this company!)
There are no shortage of 2012 trend reviews and predictions. Some of my favorites:
The "Internet as distraction and diversion" report from the Pew Internet Life study
No matter which trends impact your business and marketplace, there are some practical things all marketers can do to improve customer engagement and marketing revenues in the coming year. Consider how you would change your content and marketing calendar to incorporate these ideas:
Provide respite. Consumers and business professionals are frenzied. Being socially connected means multi-channel, multi-dimensional, and multi-tasking. In addition, the catch word in the world economy is "austerity," with some economists taking a pretty dismal view of 2012's prospects. That continual barrage of fear, uncertainty, and doubt in our economic and political lives has to have an impact on how consumers shop, play, and engage with brands. As a result, our customers seek brand relationships that go beyond problem resolution. They want something new: stillness. How can our content and messaging strategies provide comfort to customers and prospects that we've got their back, that we won't waste their time, that we can match their excitement and energy on the right schedule? Simple examples are triggered email messages post-activity that erase barriers to re-engage. Community content that is promoted in other channels and as a resource for researchers. Comic relief inserted into serious and dense engagement outreach.
For example, the Pew Internet Life study found that some 58 percent of all adults (or 74 percent of all online adults) say they go online for no other particular reason than to have fun. And a third of all adults (34 percent) say they used the Internet that way "yesterday" - or the day before Pew Internet reached them for the survey. Both figures are higher than in 2009 when Pew last asked this question and vastly higher than in the middle of the last decade. Marketers can tap this desire for consumers to use content as a way to entertain, as well as engage with brands.
Integrate social. If you have a separate group of people in your marketing department who are "doing the social stuff," then bring them into the fold and eliminate "social" from everyone's title. All marketing is social because all the Internet is social. I was talking with a long-time marketer the other day who was lamenting the days when the Nielsen ratings were the measure for media buying. He fondly remembers those measures as being highly accurate, when in fact, they were (and are) a pretty gross proxy for consumer behavior. What Nielsen did offer was a common currency, something we don't have today. In fact, while CRM and database marketers lament the sometimes "mushy" ROI from social marketing, findings from IBM showed that in the next three to five years, 81 percent of marketers plan to focus on customer analytics and customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. While we can add unstructured data (think: social) and multi-structured data (think: clickstream) to our CRM databases, we do need to agree as a marketing industry on a common currency for what digital/social marketing results look like - just as Nielsen provided in the past. I'm sure we'll have lively debates this year around what social CRM and sentiment metric is worthy of becoming that currency. Meanwhile, integrate all your digital marketing around one common set of customer engagement objectives, in order to capitalize on the momentum and cross-channel synergy. Social no longer stands alone in customer value or experience.
Enable sharing. Information provokes strong feelings - everything from solidarity to sympathy to outrage. Our degree of response is affected by the source of the content - that provided by friends and even strangers ranks higher than that provided by brands. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook talks about how the act of sharing itself has begun to influence how consumers engage with information. For marketers this year, embracing the fact that content cannot be controlled by the marketing department, but must be enabled from all dominions: employees, pundits and citizen journalists, customers themselves, the marketplace, and even competitors. A goal for all of us in 2012 is to identify ways that we can nurture the need to share - and thus accelerate the proliferation of shared messaging throughout our ecosystems.
Tablets trump tradition. Many claim the tablet is the first true crossover device between our private homes (and workplaces) and our outside, public worlds. People carry their mobile devices to the store, to the car dealer, to dinner with friends, to stroll down the street, and on their commute. Soon we will drive them…I keep hearing that our cars are more computer than mechanical. Start to migrate content to tablets and other devices - particularly video - in order to intersect with existing brand touchpoints. Brand experiences now involve physical events with mobile application, social, and email components. The opening of the Uniqlo Fifth Avenue (New York City) flagship store last fall is a great example - it was multi-dimensional, mobile-enabled, edgy, and fun. Creativity takes on a whole new meaning when it's across channels.
I hope that we all embrace the dynamic nature of digital marketing and the incredible advances in marketing technology and data analytics to enhance our marketing efforts and become change agents in our own organizations. How are you adopting innovation in 2012? Please share your ideas and challenges.
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Stephanie Miller is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences. A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue. She speaks and writes regularly and leads many industry initiatives as VP, Member Relations and Chief Listening Officer at the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org). Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT the-dma DOT org or @stephanieSAM.