As we kick off 2011 marketing with our clients, I’ve noticed a number of trends which can impact our marketing thinking and execution of strategies. Below are discussed a handful of those trends.
- Personal branding of human assets—For businesses that primarily rely on the sale of intellectual property, we’ll continue to see growth of the personal brands of the people on whom we rely. People employ personal websites, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media to let the world know them—and their own brands. Our goal should not be to fight the process of staff members growing their brands (it’s a losing battle to try to control it), but rather to recognize, value, guide and leverage those people as the assets they are. In my own case, for example, I use weekends and nights to write books, articles and stories outside my duties in marketing and advertising for clients. As I build my personal brand as a writer, Godwin can take advantage of that reputation for good writing to help strengthen Godwin’s brand for knowing and delivering quality writing. We have an outdoor enthusiast on staff named Tal McNeill, a senior writer and group creative director, who has won archery contests and attends events where many participants are camping. Why would we not want to recognize his brand when working for such clients as Kamp Rite, which sells outdoor sleeping systems? Recommendation: Learn about your staff and their personal brands, and use them to help build your company brand through your own form of co-branding.
- Direct interaction with customers—Rather than allow only the mass media to deliver their communications to customers, more companies are turning to special events—opportunities to be face to face with customers. These range from sponsoring golf events with a tent for customers to product sampling in public spaces. Recommendation: Put your people and products in situations where customers can get to know you. And don’t be shy about using social media and online advertising to generate online discussion of your product in social media, driving traffic to the actual events where people interact with your product and employees. Let your customers and online fans share the luck you put out; meet them where they already are.
- Websites make a comeback—Because of the success of so many mobile platforms, it will be difficult to keep pace with the app requirements for each platform in a timely manner. Websites that are easily accessed from Android, Windows, Blackberry and other platforms will bend the “app-curve” downward for marketers in a hurry. Recommendation: Use apps appropriately, but don’t forget to focus on a user-friendly, appealing website. Apps have a clear and present benefit—and we are developing them every day—but don’t become blind to the more obvious opportunities.
- Ouch, continued media fragmentation!—Satellite television and radio, digital outdoor, online magazines, websites for news and entertainment, cable channel growth and other media expansion (even products such as the Barnes & Noble Nook, the iPad and other devices) continue to fragment the media and make it more difficult for agencies and our clients to plan effective media buys. The days of buying the top two television stations and biggest newspaper in a market as a way to reach everyone are gone. (Check out The Daily, published exclusively for the iPad, to see where journalism may be headed.) Recommendation: Don’t fret about this fragmentation. Rather, use it to your advantage by moving from a shotgun (broad) to a rifle (highly specific) approach in both message delivery and in reaching segmented audiences. Take the extra time in the planning phase of media to focus on highly targeted audience segments grouped by lifestyle or personal interests as much as demographics.
- Social media comes of age—2011 is the year in which social media as a part of marketing really comes of age. I’m not talking about everyone having a Facebook page and Twitter account—though those are becoming somewhat standard—but I am talking about learning to interact with customers where they choose to be. It may be in a comments section after a news article in a newspaper’s online issue, or it could be reading customer comments about a restaurant in Yelp or UrbanSpoon. Recommendation: Make this the year you really learn about the online habits of your various customer segments and profiles, and participate with them in the world of social media. They will believe you really do try to understand their needs, if you hear and respond to their desires.
- Metrics and tracking become standard requirements—Customers demonstrate interest in your products through their internet searches, by direct lead generation through response marketing, and by commentary about you in social media. These customer actions provide opportunities to make marketing budgets work harder than ever by allowing us to know how people find you and what they say about you. Recommendation: Make sure you invest wisely in tracking so that your money works harder than ever this year. With the right system in place, you can adjust tactics, messaging and creative in real time so that your budget is focused on what works.
- Customer opinion will stay on the throne—Yes, the opinions of fellow consumers are king and considered among the most trusted sources that buyers turn to today. Reviews and comments on websites and via mobile apps, such as Yelp and Foursquare, are becoming a go-to source for people who are buying products, traveling or even checking out a new law firm. Recommendation: Put together a plan this year to listen to customer opinion online, and engage with those customers. The risk in not engaging is greater than the risk of being dinged a time or two by customers during your online conversations. Remember, they will talk about you whether you are there to listen and engage with them or not.
- Good employees will leave—With the economy turning just slightly (we all hope!), it is likely that the employees who have held fast to stability may begin to look around a bit. And as job growth returns, good companies will come looking for your best people. Recommendation: Talk to your staff and make sure they understand your vision for growth and stability. Let them know there is a plan. Make the workplace fun. Challenge them. Find ways to become the place you always wanted to work, and offer the same opportunity to your employees by listening to them.
Consider these eight suggestions, and find ways to make sure your company is creating its own luck.