The best entrepreneurs know they have to devote time, money and human resources to marketing if they want to boost their company’s brand recognition, increase sales and become a leader in their industry.
But where to target your efforts? Marketing is constantly evolving, and to stay on top, you have to adapt to change and be ready to seize new opportunities. To help you as the new year approaches, here are the top marketing trends we anticipate for 2018.
1. Mobile first
The number of people using mobile devices to access the Internet continues to grow every year. Often, mobile is the only method people are using to surf the web. That’s why Google has announced its search results will give preference to websites with mobile responsive design over desktop-only sites.
What does this mean for your company? In a mobile-first world, your online user experience needs to be top-notch. To get an idea of how you’re doing, take a look at your bounce rate—the percentage of visitors leaving your web page without taking any action. If you have poor user experience, your bounce rate will likely be high (maybe 80% of visits or more).
The bottom line is you need more than just a smart, clean web design. Your site must be mobile responsive. A desktop-only site not only makes life difficult for customers who prefer using their mobile device, but it also gives your brand a dated feel. That perception alone can send customers running to your competitors. Remember, customers—especially those in the millennial and Gen-Y/Z generations—will not waste their time on a non-optimized web experience. Period.
Tip: If you are uncertain about your website readiness for mobile marketing you can test it here.
2. Augmented reality
This will be the year when more companies launch mobile apps to allow customers to test their products virtually. Consumers are ready for the concept of webrooming—searching for an item online, testing it via an app, and then completing the purchase, either online or in-store. We’re already seeing this in the furniture, home appliance and fashion industries, and now it’s spreading to other segments.
If this isn’t on your radar, it should be. It will be a key differentiator, starting in 2018. If your online user experience is better than traditional showrooming (visiting a store to view an item and then purchasing it online, often from a competitor), you will have a much better chance of closing the sale. To get a better idea of the concept, check out Noibu Solutions, a Canadian start-up that offers retailers the opportunity to give customers an augmented reality shopping experience.
Tip: See if an augmented reality experience could make the purchasing process easier for your prospects, even if you’re a B2B company.
3. Social media influencers
While you still need a solid SEO strategy to drive traffic to your site, more businesses are allocating a portion of their marketing budget to targeting social media influencers. These individuals are followed by potential customers you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach. Amazon was able to afford Oprah’s services as an influencer for the holiday season, but you will probably have to start small by focusing on local market influencers.
It’s also important to select the social media channel that best represents your brand message since not all are equal. For instance, a hotel chain chose an Instagram influencer to boost traffic to their Canadian winter get-away campaign.
Tip: Make sure you follow influencers in your market and customer segment before adding this strategy to your current social media marketing plan. Handing your brand to the wrong people can backfire and require damage control far exceeding the cost of the influencer!
4. CRM integration
By now, most entrepreneurs are using software to help them manage their business. From tracking online performance with Google Analytics to managing finances and inventory with an accounting package, you already know that using technology improves your efficiency and decision-making ability. One area where we believe many smaller businesses can gain an edge over the competition is by using Client Relationship Management (CRM) software to track and integrate data from sales, marketing and finance activities.
Unless you’re a large business that needs an expensive ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, it's time you start using a CRM system to track sales data, both online and offline. These tools can help you validate buying cycles, segment your marketing campaigns by customer demographics and preferences, and align your offerings to customer demand among many other things. This is essential data to have in 2018 and beyond.
Tip: Sometimes it can be hard to identify the right CRM to integrate seamlessly with your current technology. So, don't hesitate to ask for help from a consultant.
5. Emotional branding
Emotional branding refers to creating a bond between your brand and your customer’s needs, desires, aspirations and moods. The concept has existed since soap ads were appealing to homemakers’ desire for a brighter future. What’s new is that social media influencers and mobile-only content consumption now can have a much greater impact than TV ads.
To emphasize how important an emotional brand connection can be in your upcoming marketing strategy here is a personal story. My daughter’s school basketball team has for many years sold oranges to raise money for tournaments. The sales process has always been cumbersome for most players and parents. Being an entrepreneurial family, we decided to try selling another product—an organic granola gift box from Montreal-based Oatbox.
Since we’ve been eating and loving their tasty breakfast granola for years, my daughter had no problem selling the company’s unique value proposition to parents, colleagues and neighbours. It took her less than five hours to sell-out of boxes. She was emotionally connected with the brand and now the school may replace oranges with Oatbox gift boxes next year. She uncovered a new customer segment for the company.
Tip: Collect customer feedback about their emotional connection to your brand and share them on social media, blog posts and employee interactions. Emotion should be an integral part of your branding strategy!
We want to hear your marketing priorities for 2018. What’s worked well in the past? What will you try that’s new? Please share your comments below.