As a discipline, digital marketing in 2016 has now matured and most savvy marketers now know how best to use it to their advantage. Like any activity though, it’s safe to say that if you’re not constantly pushing the boundaries and ensuring that you’re on the ball with new trends, techniques and innovations, then someone else will be.
And they will invariably be the competition.
So what can you take from this year and bring into 2016 to ensure that you have a head start and get the year off to a flying start for your own business and that of your clients?
Let’s consider what’s new and how it can be used to your advantage.
As we move into an increasingly digital world, the sheer amount of data that’s generated by everyday activities is incredible. From social media activity, to purchases on various sites such as Amazon (a site from which we can all learn about personalisation) and much more, data is everywhere and it’s incredibly valuable to every business, no matter how small.
Working with data can seem daunting of course. Many business owners and marketers will at least work with Google Analytics – they can use this to carry out the following basic tasks:
• Track landing page activity
• Track where visitors are arriving at the site from
• Gain insight into how visitors are interacting with content
• Understand where visitors are leaving the site and abandoning shopping carts
• Set goals to further understand how site visitors are travelling down the sales funnel
• Carry out remarketing in order to target those visitors who have dropped off without making a purchase
Amazon, as mentioned, is incredibly good at this. If you’ve ever browsed the site and then found yourself noting a product you were viewing on Amazon appear on your Facebook sidebar, then that’s remarketing at work. Likewise, you’ll often find that you’ll receive an email with product suggestions that are similar to those you’ve been viewing.
Across the board, those businesses that work with data are those that perform better in every way, including – importantly to all businesses – financially.
Account Based Marketing
2016 will see a focus take place in Account Based Marketing (ABM), which looks to identify high-value accounts in existing or new clients and place an emphasis on ensuring that the best value can be extracted from these accounts.
ABM is more suited to a B2B environment and relies to some extent on sales and marketing working more closely together in order to work with high-value clients in order to maximise sales and marketing opportunities.
In a recent post for Xen Systems, I defined ABM as such:
“ABM is not as broad a discipline as inbound marketing and focuses on key accounts which are identified and selected by sales and marketing teams. ACM then focuses on employing a personalised experience for each customer account. The marketing message is based on the needs of the targeted account, which tend to be high-value accounts that will generate more revenue.
ABM looks at targeting a specific buyer or set of buyers in one industry. It works by identifying which customers are the most valuable to the business. Once the market and customer has been identified, it’s then a case of optimising a marketing campaign in order to create personalised sales messages that really resonate with the customer.”
So it’s important going into 2016 that you look into how you can work with data, what benefits it may afford your business and specifically, how you can apply the data you collect to your marketing and sales activity.
Data is the lifeblood of every modern business – so don’t let yours get left behind. Use insights from Google Analytics, ensure that you understand how social is working for you and act on the information that data affords you.
Don’t be deterred by buzzwords such as ABM and Big Data, there are a huge amount of software solutions that can help you to make sense of data and act on it, so do some research, ask for a walk-through of each product and get working with – and acting on – the data that your company generates.
You won’t regret it.
User experience (UX) has been a growing field since mobile has forced us to stop and take stock of how our website experiences translate onto smaller screens. This has been a very good thing as it’s forced many a horrible website to invest in an overhaul.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that you should always view your website as an ongoing project which is an investment into your business and as such, it requires ongoing work. Too many site owners have a static site built an then sit back and forget about it. This usually results in poor sales and the site owner scratching their head as to why things aren’t working.
I read something the other day that struck me as very true – that old adage that ‘if you build it they will come’ just doesn’t hold true anymore. If you build it well then sure, they will come and they might even buy. But if you build it badly, they will disappear very quickly and it’s unlikely that they will part with any cash if your site is so poor that it inspires no trust.
Your site should:
• Look good on desktop and mobile alike
• Perform well in that it loads quickly
• Clearly indicate to the user what action they should take to reach their goal
• Have impeccable spelling and grammar
• Use images that are not the standard stock and ensure products are well presented
• Have a search function that works
• Use SSL (Secure Socket Layer) ideally – definitely if you’re selling products
• Where possible, personalise the shopping experience for the user
• Contain content such as a blog, downloadable content (Ebooks, cheat sheets, product guides)
As we access the net on smaller and smaller devices, it can’t be emphasised enough just how much attention you should pay to load times. You can use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to serve images more effectively and you should choose a web host that is suitable for your site.
• Don’t go for the cheaper option, it’s often because a sub-standard service is offered
• Ask about support – ideally you need 24/7
• Think about whether you require a dedicated server, a VPS or a shared server. Needs vary depending on the kind of site it is – for example, an ecommerce site will need a dedicated server to ensure that it can keep up with demand at busy times. A static site, with little more than a regular blog, will be OK with a VPS (Virtual Private Server) whilst a hobby site will generally find a shared server will suffice.
You should test the performance of your site regularly using resources such as GT Metrix and take action to ensure that images are optimised before being uploaded (it’s easier this way) and that you use an optimiser once they are uploaded. You can do this using plugins if you have a WordPress site.
Talking of which, you should also ensure that all plugins, themes and WordPress itself are all kept updated on a regular basis and you use security plugins such as WordFence to ensure that your site remains secure.
For great UX, you should test constantly to ensure your users continue to enjoy the site, using A/B testing on various elements of the site. Only do this for one page at a time and make sure that you test a maximum of around 2-3 page elements – you should leave it running for a while too for best, more accurate, results.
Check out my guide to UX for designers here at SitePoint.
OK so we all know that social media works now. Sure, it may be something of a challenge to convince smaller business owners and clients as to the value and potential ROI of social, but for the most part it’s understood that it’s where our customers live and demand interaction.
Going into 2016, it’s important that businesses and marketers identify and work with the right channels for them. There are so many social media sites available now – including niche sites that you’ve probably never even heard of.
This means that it’s vital to come up with a social strategy, which should include:
• A documented plan which identifies the right social sites for your business
• Buyer personas so that you understand where and who your audience is as well as which sites they tend to frequent
• Your business goals for using social media and the sites you choose
• An editorial calendar which sets out what content will be created for social and when it will be posted based on when your users are online
• A plan to integrate imagery and video as well as distribute blog content
• Tools which will help maximise productivity
Social has matured and it’s important that you understand your business goals for using it and that you understand how to interact with users. It still amazes me how many businesses (and we’re talking large brands here) don’t understand quite how to use it.
Social requires a certain amount of personal interaction. There’s no getting away from this and if you’re to be successful on social then it’s vital that staff are given both the tools and the power to use it properly. Large brands in particular tend to insist that their social management staff stick to a ‘script’ where they are clearly only allowed by supervisors to respond in a certain manner when interacting on social media.
Staff should of course never be rude, but they should also be given enough trust that they can deal with complaints and other interactions in such a way that it’s effective.
For example, how many times have you asked a question about a delivery/missing part/etc only to be told:
“Thank you for getting in touch, please PM me with your order number … Blah, blah, blah”
Generally, this is followed up by a request to call the customer service department where the customer is placed in the usual queue and frustration ensues.
Consumers get in touch on social media for a reason.
They want a resolution, on their preferred channel, and they want it there and then, wherever possible.
If it’s not possible, then the customer service rep on social has a chance to interact and put it right in such a way that the customer can be appeased by talking to a real person. Consumers demand a more personalised experience and the company that gives it to them will be the one that essentially wins customer trust and loyalty.
There’s not a huge amount to say about mobile. This year has seen a huge emphasis placed on optimising sites for mobile devices with Google bringing out new algorithms known as Mobigeddon to ensure that the web is more mobile friendly.
Sites that display poorly on mobile devices and offer a bad UX are those that will find themselves slipping down the rankings and losing out to the competition. For the most part, this has led to many businesses opting to choose responsive or adaptive design as these tend to be the cheaper option than having a whole new mobile site built.
Add to this that Google recommends responsive web design, thanks largely to the fact that there is only one URL to crawl (rather than a .mobile site too) and there’s now a plethora of responsive sites out there. These can come with their own issues if done badly however, especially when it comes to how images are served, so if you’re considering a responsive site, then do ensure that your designer understands that performance is a key concern for you.
Digital Marketing in 2016 – What’s to Come?
There’s so much more to come in 2016 and it’s bound to be an exciting year when it comes to technology and digital marketing. Personalisation will continue to evolve and despite concerns surrounding privacy, consumers have come to expect a more personalised experience across the board.
It’s likely we’ll see exciting developments in other fields too, such as drones, the Internet of Things and wearable technology and this is likely to be something that we’re all talking about this time next year as tech continues to evolve and we see more IoT devices successfully hit the market.
In the meantime though, marketers and small business owners should focus on providing excellent customer service, that’s driven by data insights and backed up by providing staff with the tools to effectively carry out their job. We live in a much more people-centric digital world now and as such, this means that companies that value both customers and staff will be the ones that win out in the end.
What do you think will be the digital marketing revolution of 2016? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear your thoughts!