The year 2016 may signal the reign of mobile advertising, but experts say the real star of the new year is the simple nuts and bolts of any marketing strategy: Know your brand and know your audience.
And while digital is breaking records when it comes to ad dollars, marketing professionals suggest old standbys like broadcast and print will continue to find relevance in the media marketplace as part of a larger multi-channel campaign.
The right message
The reality is that marketing channels matter little if the message is wrong, according to industry experts.
Jim Auer of Trellist Marketing and Technology in Wilmington, said he tells clients to focus on the true customer experience, and the way their businesses engage with customers online and offline.
“It’s really about being interested in understanding the customer’s journey, and how to better utilize their communication and marketing to build that relationship,” said Auer. “Not only at the initial sale, but to build a position of authority so that they’re seen as a leader and get a better share of the market.”
Today’s customers are savvy and more informed thanks to the Internet, so content that positions businesses well is key. Auer said he recommends new clients personalize their marketing using data they have, but fortify it with third-party data.
That includes a review of the different touch points of a business-customer relationship, from when a potential client first starts thinking about the product they need, to the sales funnel and repeat business. It means observing their behavior and aligning their interests and behavior with a marketing approach.
“This goes beyond using the customer’s name or simply showing products similar to what they’ve purchased before, and includes contextualizing the message to the customer,” said Auer.
The result is relevant messages delivered to the customer at the right times during their buying journey.
According to Blair Hains, managing partner at The Marketing Department, a full-service agency in Wilmington, message authenticity is also critical in engaging customers for the long haul.
“The customer experience needs to be aligned and consistent,” said Hains, who worked in corporate communications before starting his own firm. “If they are driven to make that phone call or go online or come into the store because of some ad they see and the way it makes them feel, then they need to have that same experience when they talk to you.”
Todd Miller said he once heard someone ask if a company that makes a great wrench should have a social media page. The experts at the conference suggested it should, but Miller suggests it’s critical to put your brand where your audience is instead.
“You’ve got to know your brand and who wants to use your brand,” said Miller, chief experience officer at The Archer Group. “That’s where marketers go wrong — they get excited about the latest thing.”
The best bet is multiple channels with meaningful, specific content. Retailers are already using this approach effectively, incorporating digital platforms and coupons with mailers and television ads to create a cohesive marketing push.
For the client who is clinging to a broadcast marketing mentality, that might mean broadening the approach to meet potential clients where they are, according to Miller.
“You need to be creating really great content that caters to how people utilize that channel,” said Miller. “You’re fighting hard to deliver relevant messages.”
But with so many marketing channels to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed — particularly for the smaller companies that lack a big marketing budget. But Miller said a smaller company will be more nimble, and have the ability to switch gears when they find something’s not working.
“It’s scary, but honestly, it’s more liberating, too,” said Miller. “Because a larger company that’s been used to doing it the same way for a long time — it’s hard to get them to change on a dime.”
Social media in the toolbox
According to the 2015 State of Small Business Report, 61 percent of respondents said the No. 1 marketing tool they used was social media — a higher percentage than e-mail marketing, at 46 percent.
Lisa Flowers of Flowers Media Matters said social media platforms are an effective gadget in a marketer’s toolbox that can enhance a strategic, broader campaign.
According to Flowers, social media platforms that are used well — including Facebook and Twitter — are good for building and reinforcing a brand in front of a built-in audience.
“If you’re not using social media for business, you’re giving away your voice to every other competitor, conversations, and bells and whistles that are online,” said Flowers. “Show your voice online, and have focus with it.”
Scheduled posts with great content can drive an action, but many companies use social media with little strategy or understanding of its power to gauge consumer interests or buying habits, according to Flowers. Some social media experts suggests a higher percentage of curated content to complement business-specific pushes.
If you want to know what people are talking about, Flowers said head to Twitter.
“Twitter is the world’s watering hole,” said Flowers. “Everything on Twitter can be random or very focused. It’s where people go to talk about the news.”
Mobile and video on rise
Digital continues to evolve rapidly, surpassing television advertising last year. The proof is in the shift of advertising dollars. According to tech research group eMarketer, mobile ad spending will eclipse the desktop, increasing 50 percent this year and account for roughly half of all digital ad spends.
That number will rise to $65 billion, or 72 percent of total digital ad spending in the United States by 2019. The research group’s 2015 Trends Roundup report showed that brands and marketers see increasing value in mobile advertising, particularly since U.S. adults spend an average of nearly three hours on “nonvoice” activities on mobile devices.
“The beauty of digital is that it allows you to know more and to be more specific,” said Auer, who said that a good SEO continues to top the list, as half of all local media advertising is done through a simple search engine.
Digital advertising is also simply easier to track, thanks to robust analytics that show the viewing, buying and simple tech habits of a changing population.
The analytics have reshaped feedback, giving marketing teams an immediacy that allows for faster strategy tweaks.
“We’re not looking at them as a total group of individuals but we look at specific segments through targeting and data that we use,” said Auer.
“You’ve gotta collect and geek out over your analytics,” said Miller. “From a marketing standpoint, if you’re going to succeed you need to know your numbers.”
Within the digital framework, video is king and one of the top trends to define 2016. A whitepaper by Cisco Systems said that Internet video traffic will be 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2019, up from 64 percent in 2014.
“People are hungry for video because they’re seeing it everywhere,” said Miller. “You can’t go wrong with video and most ad formats support video.”
Inbound marketing strategies now regularly feature video, and Flowers said options like Meerkat or Periscope — which live-streams videos — could play strongly in offering enhanced branding opportunities this year.
Content rules here, but a lavish production doesn’t. Auer said that just a few minutes of straight-forward information can capture a potential buyer or client, and establish you as an authority figure in the industry.
“It’s not necessarily an ad, but it’s providing valuable information that people need and as a result they’ll start to perceive you as an authority,” said Auer. “It’s more informative than hard core selling.”
As buyers continue to consume video, advertising opportunities increase — even if it’s for just a few seconds.
“Think of your own behavior, particularly online,” said Hains, who said he urges his clients to think of how they consume information. “How do you consume communication and the marketing messages you see? What makes you keep watching?”
Experts agree that while print may no longer be the star of the show, its role in a broad campaign is still useful.
According to Auer, print can have a role in multi-channel campaign and be effective when used properly.
While general circulations decrease, the American Marketing Association suggests that what it leaves is a critical concentration of the most engaged readers. The agency also points to the benefits of a longer shelf life and the potential for additional readers beyond the initial subscriber or buyer.
And like any media channel, metrics are critical.
“It comes down to tracking results to be able to measure the effect, and having the flexibility to adjust strategies to optimize the return,” said Auer.