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Marketing in the Digital Age: Trends to Watch in 2016

- January 7, 2016 - 0 Comments

Remember 1995? That was the year we put ‘e’ in front of everything to signify that it was being done ‘electronically.’ eBusiness, eCRM, and eProcurement were all the rage.

Fast forward to 2016 and we’ve dropped the ‘e’ because doing things electronically has become the norm.  The same will happen with the term ‘Digital’ Marketing. Cisco’s CMO Karen Walker has said, “Marketing was the last function to be industrialised and the first function to be digitised.” Marching into the future, that means we’re no longer doing ‘Digital’ Marketing, we’re simply Marketing in a digital world.

As the term Digital Marketing dies and Marketing regains its place, what other trends will accelerate in 2016? Here are my thoughts

1. AIDA will become AIDAA

Our marketing text books teach us to drive customer engagement according to the AIDA model: attention, interest, desire, action.  In 2016 I’m adding an ‘a’ – for Advocacy!

Once a customer has purchased a product or a service from a company, the ultimate goal is to have that customer share the positive experience with peers. Why?  According to Edelman’s 2014 Trust Barometer, customers trust their peers more than any sales and marketing collateral – and even more than industry analysts.

Cisco has taken this message to heart and has officially made it part of our marketing team’s role and purpose – ”To inspire people to prefer, choose, and advocate Cisco.”  I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more about customer advocacy in 2016.

2. Customer data will improve the customer experience

Market leaders have always had rich customer data on their installed base and could predict future behaviour based on past bookings and external insight. We’ve now gained the ability to layer additional data based on what customers are doing online.  This is good news for marketers, obviously, because we can use customer intelligence to inform the customer journey.  But what’s more important is that it’s good news for the customer – because companies are able to use the information they collect to fine tune the customer experience.

This critical link between customer data and customer experience is echoed by Jeremy Bevan, Vice President of EMEAR Marketing at Cisco. In his blog post, “Is Customer Experience Your North Star?” Bevan implores marketers: “consumers have more purchasing muscle today than yesterday – they are firmly in the driving seat – so why are you not working harder to create the optimal customer experience?” Look for marketers to take Bevan’s challenge to heart in 2016.

3. The use of predictive analytics will explode

Not only do today’s customers want companies to react to the “digital footprint” they leave behind – they are put off when we don’t. As a recent Harvard Business Review report explains, “When marketers send customers a promotion for a product they already own or would never be interested in, they send a clear signal: We don’t know much about you, and we don’t much care.”

Predictive analytics provide the critical information marketers need to know their customers well and demonstrate that they care. A study conducted by Forrester Consulting revealed that most B2B marketing organisations (89 percent) see value in using predictive analytics to identify new opportunities and to better qualify leads. The more advanced users also realise upstream and downstream benefits: 97 percent analyse their best customers and understand how/why they buy; 92 percent optimise the marketing mix to reach the right types of buyers. The takeaway? In 2016, marketers who aren’t yet using predictive analytics will get on board – fast.

4.  The face of content marketing will change

Buyers are still using content to inform their digitally driven purchasing decisions, but it’s not the content of yesterday. To help buyers through the journey – and to spark conversations along the way – marketers are developing new forms of content marketing that are dynamic and personalised.  They’re highly visual.  They’re fun and humorous. What’s more, many of them are not even created solely by the marketing organisation. In 2016, we’ll see less content created by corporate marketing teams and agencies and more created by the folks that are closer to customers:  local marketing teams, company employees, and even users themselves. For more on this trend, see my blog post, “Content Marketing: It’s Getting Personal.”

5. Marketers will act more like publishers

Marketers are good at creating content, but we have traditionally worked in linear sprints that deliver programs like a website refresh or a marketing campaign. In 2016, as content marketing continues its reign, we’ll have to work as if we’re publishing a never-ending daily newspaper.  The hallmarks of this new approach?  Telling great stories to engage readers, using analytics to ensure that content is audience driven, and balancing breaking news with feature-length pieces.

This will not be an easy transition for marketers. We’ll have to get comfortable with paradoxes:  maintaining corporate oversight while enabling local personalisation; operating according to strict schedules while allowing for responsiveness; and balancing the quality of content against an incessant need for quantity.

6. Marketers will move from listening to responding in real-time

We’ve known for a while that it’s not good marketing to simply broadcast your viewpoint to prospective customers. Recently, we’ve been focused on listening to what our customers are telling us.  In 2016, we’ll need to respond to customers’ needs in real-time.

What will real-time marketing look like? According to a recent report from Wayin, a social intelligence company, 49% of respondents say real-time marketing is the ability to respond within minutes to an event – and 26% say it is the ability to respond within seconds. But here’s the really important bit:  98% of those surveyed (200 manager and executive-level marketers at companies with more than $100 million in revenue) say they see a positive revenue impact from their real-time marketing efforts. Speed pays – and in 2016, marketers will pull out all the stops to respond at lightening speeds.

With so much change predicted for 2016, how can marketers master it all? We can’t.  We’ll have to experiment, run the analytics, tinker with the formula, fail sometimes, and try again.  As Richard Tyler says so nicely, “The greatest risk is NOT doing something different, the greatest risk is staying doing the same thing.” If we wait for perfection, we’ll get left behind. Let’s dare to begin before we’re ready! Happy New Year!

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