The world around us (and our customers) is changing rapidly. For example: my mom started texting me four years ago, she got an iPhone two years ago and just this past Christmas, she got a Google Home Mini. Things you heard about last year aren't things to "keep an eye on" anymore, they're things you need to be paying attention to.
It doesn't matter if you're an association, non-profit or for-profit company, here's what I think you need to take action on this year:
There's lots of hype around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and if you can get past it, you'll see that AI is more than robots and super complicated algorithms that require PHD-level expertise to run. There are many day-to-day applications of AI that you can use this year to move the needle for your brand.
Today, marketers could use AI to easily and quickly create dynamic and smart content across customer touch points that create more relevant user experiences. Really, this is just a complicated way of saying that your website changes itself when people land on it based on a buyer profile they've been slotted into. One of the most common forms of AI that most people saw in 2018 was chatbots, which have developed into much more than a way to handle customer service inquiries without dedicating a resource to it. In 2019, you'll probably see a wide variety of chatbots processing orders, handling inquiries and even running your marketing campaigns. Why not start there?
When Smart Insights asked marketers what single marketing activity would make the biggest impact in 2019, the answer was content marketing. We get bombarded with ads, so studies show that we block them, ignore them or just tune them out altogether. There is really no better way to build trust with your target customers than using relevant content.
When you combine content with some of the other trends and techniques in this blog post, it's easy to see why 2019 should be a big year for content marketers. Take content marketing, user experience and AI and combine them to create smart content blocks on your website that know who's browsing your website, what content they've seen and present them with relevant content that moves then down the funnel. At Cyan, we plan on building this into many of our content marketing campaigns in 2019.
I think 2019 will finally be the year that the majority marketers start thinking beyond keywords. At Cyan, we spent most of 2018 talking about user experience and how it applies to search rankings, and we think that this year will be the year that this thinking goes mainstream.
But user experience really impacts every stage of the funnel, and when you think about conversion rate optimization, you can see how marketers are starting to see user experience as the way they can drive better acquisition rates while driving down costs. Growth in many areas of the economy is slowing, smartphone adoption has started to flatline, so it's time that we start figuring out how to do more with less, and user experience is one of the answers.
As I said in my introduction, my 70-year old mother got a Google Home Mini for Christmas this year! She only got an an iPhone two years ago, maybe even last year, and now she's got a voice-powered assistant in her home. So if you think voice search is only for kids, you're wrong.
You may think they are creepy but nearly 20% of US households have them. Voice search works differently than text search because you search for things using natural language. Think about it. You aren't going to say "Ottawa Hairdressers" to your voice search device when you to get a haircut. Voice search is poised for more explosive growth in 2019, so get after it!
The influencer marketing game is changing. The so-called "big" influencers started started getting big money in 2018 and are probably not going to be in your budget for 2019. I also suspect marketers are starting to see diminishing returns in this space. I would argue that you can get better bang for your buck by working with micro-influencers. These are influencers with smaller audiences (if you look at followers) who punch above their weight in influence. So instead of looking at that food blogger with the biggest follower count, look at the food blogger who tends to focus on your niche.
You're more likely to find an audience of real people that are passionate about the topic/product/category than with the more popular influencers. The ugly truth is that many influencers participate in engagement pods and spend more time hacking the algorithms, buying likes and other similar techniques to appear influential. Make 2019 the year that you dig in, figure out who's really driving the conversation around your brand category and engage with them.
If the only video you created in 2018 was a corporate explainer or overview, then you need to get with the program in 2019. With video, people can better understand your message and it helps boost conversions as we've already covered that a few times on this blog. This year, think about how you convert what you're doing in text/graphics into video. That ebook that's been performing well for you? Turn it into a video and start there. That blog post series you're going to write? Create a video series to go along with it.
This should also be the year you embrace live video. Live video can be a challenge for people who haven't been developing their chops with recorded videos, but live video is a great way to showcase what you're doing in real time. Next time you have an event, see if there is part of it you can live stream. Launching a new campaign or product? Use live video to showcase the launch event.
I think 2019 is going to be a challenging year for marketers but one that presents plenty of opportunity if you look at it right. We might see economies shrink in 2019 as the world is negatively impacted by growing uncertainty (think Brexit and the US/Everybody trade wars) but that only presents more opportunity for smart marketers.
If you can leverage some of what we've discussed in this blog post to build your brand and deepen connections to existing customers while acquiring new ones at a lower cost, you might be able to build a competitive advantage in 2019 that can carry you into 2020 with the lead.