We’re closing in on the end of the year, and that means it’s time to take a look forward at some of the digital marketing topics and trends that are going to have a big impact in 2018. We picked 7 top trends to explore in this post.
But first, let’s acknowledge the biggest trend, one that will be no surprise to anyone practicing marketing in 2017: digital marketing will continue to become increasingly more complex in 2018. Technology and applications are exploding, with new and expanding social media platforms, increasingly sophisticated marketing automation systems, new ways to integrate inbound data, the incorporation of artificial intelligence, the need for chatbots, and lots more.
Marketers today need to be experts in multiple areas. In addition to understanding the process of marketing, they need to be tech experts and identify the applications that will best support their products and goals while aligning with customer behavior. The stakes are high: placing a print ad in the wrong magazine is a simple error; but purchasing a marketing automation system or content management system that doesn’t effectively support your organization can be an expensive mistake. This leads to our first trend:
1. the talent gap
Senior marketers understand marketing fundamentals, and how to align tactics with goals. But they’re not always the experts in social, for example. More junior marketers are familiar with all the platforms, but sometimes lack the expertise to build an overarching plan. The marketers who understand both sides are rare. If you find one, hang on to them, they’re worth their weight in gold. But you can develop these multi-faceted experts. Invest in training for your team, and help them build the skills that may be lacking.
2. Facebook Messaging
According to HubSpot and others, Facebook Messaging is having a significant impact on inbound marketing. Facebook users are now exchanging over 2 billion messages each month with businesses. That’s especially remarkable when you consider there are only 1.3 billion active users on Facebook Messenger. Open and click through rates are also remarkably high with Messaging. Managing all of the messages from multiple channels will be a major challenge, however. Applications that enable a unified inbox will help marketers manage the influx effectively.
3. Artificial intelligence
AI is playing an increasingly important role in the marketing process. By analyzing customer search patterns and behavior, using data from social media sites, blogposts, interactions with your own website, and other inputs, AI can tell you exactly how customers and prospects are reacting to your product and brand. AI can even use this information to jump into a conversation, offering persuasive information or tips. Savvy marketers will ensure they understand AI and the implications and opportunities for B2B marketing.
Do you have one yet? The increasing sophistication of AI is powering a new generation of chatbots that can very smoothly interact with your customers and prospects. In B2B, chatbots can handle questions and provide detailed information on your products and product features, including pricing. They can even be used for lead generation, simply by asking for an email address to send more information. People like interacting with chatbots; it’s often much faster than a phone call, and with more sophisticated AI, chatbots can be extremely responsive and accurate.
5. Live video
This is a tool that B2B marketers should definitely consider adding to the mix. Researchers at Facebook found that people are 300% more likely to watch a live video than one that was pre-recorded. And according to live video company Livestream, more people would rather watch live video than read a blog (80%), and 82% of people prefer live video to social posts. For B2B marketing, consider using live video for interviews, product demos, ‘behind the scenes’ videos of how products are made or tested, and event coverage.
Today people do most of their online research on their mobiles. Think about how you use your phone – no matter where you are, or what you want to know, you turn to your phone and you expect an instant response. Google calls these interactions micro-moments. Depending on what you see on your phone, you’ll make an instantaneous decision about where to eat, where to go, or what to buy. Micro-moments primarily apply to consumer buying behavior. But the expectations for a frictionless and rewarding experience apply just as much to B2B. Good micro-moments have raised the bar for all online interactions. If the experience of prospects with your company is clunky and they are not able to achieve their immediate goal, they’ll simply move on.
7. Safeguarding customer data
Customers are willing to share their data, but they expect it to be safeguarded. In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect in May 2018. Make sure you’re fully conversant with privacy regulations, and be transparent with your customers about exactly how you’ll use and protect their data. Don’t be the next Equifax.
For B2B marketers, it can feel like an ever-changing world. Sometimes it can be beneficial to connect with the experts, to gain new ideas and fine-tune your approach. At Living Stone, we’re experts in B2B digital marketing, with experience in all aspects of marketing technology. We’d be glad to set up a no-obligation discussion, to talk about your needs and how we could support you.