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What’s helpful, and what’s just hype, can often be hard to discern, especially for marketing trends. After all, as marketers, you’re constantly looking for the next big thing so you can then, potentially, influence what becomes the next, next big thing. It’s all part of your job. I understand this, and I both sympathize and empathize with anyone in your position, so even though what I’m about to say may seem harsh, I’m only saying it because I care… NOT EVERY MARKETING TACTIC IS A NEW, INNOVATIVE, GAME-CHANGING REVELATION!

Of course, with all due respect, I only mean that some marketing tactics are already well-established, some are just common sense, and some should probably be pure muscle-memory by now. Surgeons suggesting that 2015 will be all about sterilized instruments, for example, would seem silly as it’s such a standard part of their job, and yet in marketing, similarly commonplace practices still seem to get an uncommon amount of hype. I’m sorry, I’m not sorry, but if any of the tactics below seem new to you, you may need to sit down, enjoy your “Hollaback Girl” ring tone for a second, and then answer your flip phone, because 2005 is calling, and it wants its marketing trends back…

Personalization Gone WrongPersonalization:

Personalizing communications has always been a best practice for as long as people have been able to communicate. There was never a time, for example, when referring to your spouse by the wrong name ever panned out well. But until technology started enabling scalable data capture and accurate contact management, running personalized marketing campaigns and maintaining personalized customer interactions weren’t realistic capabilities for organizations. As soon technology did allow for personalized marketing communications, however, it became a best practice – not by its novelty, but by necessity. When organizations can personalize their communications, they must. To this point, findings from Aberdeen’s September 2014 Customer Analytics: Making Big Data Work for the Marketer study shows that marketers that deliver tailored messages to their target audiences enjoy 28% greater annual increases in return on marketing investments (ROMI), compared to those that don’t personalize.

Omni-Channel:

Omni-channel customer experience management (CEM) initiatives have been a best practice for a while now. The term itself has been rather popular since 2009. With a 91% higher average year-over-year increase in customer retention rates alone, research shows that omni-channel CEM users distinctly outperform their non-omni-channel peers. Sure, the number of channels available to organizations has increased over the years, but the basic principle of omni-channel – being where your customers want you to be, and staying consistent in your messaging across those channels – is simply a part of a well-run business. From brick-and-mortar stores adapting to accept phone orders, to customer service reps addressing complaints on Twitter, the effort to deliver omni-channel interactions is not new for many firms. Therefore it’d be rather inappropriate to consider omni-channel as a marketing trend of 2015; it’s something that should be known and perfected as companies rapidly expand the number of touch-points they use to interact with buyers.

Digital:

Earth to MarketersWe all know the world is round – even well before space travel gave us photographic evidence; thanks Galileo and Ibn Hazm. We also know that people actively engage across digital channels – it’s become just another fact of modern life. Yet why is “digital marketing,” such a commonly discussed topic, while “round earth living,” is just kind of nonsensical? Sure, digital has become a kind of macro-marketing channel, with plenty of other marketing channels within it, but by now, it’s really just a standard component of any effective marketing strategy. What’s more, for customers, especially those who prefer not having to meet face to face or talk on the phone, digital is a standard means of communication and interaction. Sure, just as you could benefit from improved round earth living, learning about and improving digital marketing can be useful, but I’m not sure it deserves all the hype…

Rather, I recommend focusing on integrating your digital and offline interactions to deliver consistent and personalized interactions. This doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore your customers’ evolving digital behavior; you should certainly keep an eye out and reflect their changing preferences within your marketing activities. However, you will maximize your results when you successfully integrate your offline (in-store or in-branch) conversations with digital interactions. Indeed, Aberdeen’s March 2014 State of the CEM Market 2014: It’s All About Better Use of Customer Data study, shows that companies with this capability enjoy an 88% greater year-over-year increase in annual revenue, compared to those without it. While the benefits of this activity are significant, it’s important to note that establishing such integration is no easy endeavor. There will likely be multiple stakeholders involved (hello IT!), and you’ll need to work with all of them collaboratively to ensure that you achieve the desired results.

Instead of just calling out outdated marketing trends, though, I think it’s best to also propose a few new marketing trends which are relevant and important. These include:

Contextual content:

Content is king; it long has been. The role and importance of content marketing have been discussed widely the past few years. As a result, marketers are increasingly expected to curate, acquire and use more and more content to fuel their multi-channel and multi-touch marketing programs. As the volume of content has increased the past few years the quality didn’t keep up with it. Every week I come across several marketing communications that either use untargeted or badly written content. This means that despite marketers’ best intentions to deliver the right content to the right audiences, there is still a missing piece. This piece is context; the general circumstances (e.g. previous buyer interactions, customer touch-points, etc.) that apply to each marketing message. Top performing marketers in Aberdeen’s  Customer Analytics study utilize contextual content by identifying the needs and wants of each target audience (with the help of analytics) and curating content that speaks to their unique needs and is aimed to elicit a specific behavior. In doing so, they enjoy a 12.6% annual increase in customer satisfaction. They also successfully monetize interactions with these happy buyers — validated by 46% greater year-over-year increase in customer lifetime value, compared to marketers not delivering contextual content.

Aligning Marketing and Customer ServiceAligning Marketing and Customer Service:

Let’s face it, the days where marketing used to be the primary stakeholder managing the company brand are long over. As customers grow their adoption and use of social media portals and mobile devices, each service interaction is now easily shared with the masses via social media – anyone remember the Domino’s, Comcast examples that are not yet in our distant memory? For savvy businesses (both B2B and B2C), customer service activities represent an opportunity to gain and keep loyal clients who will help raise brand awareness and loyalty for the firm. For marketers that are not closely working with customer service, customer empowerment spells disaster in the making. You might be delivering successful marketing campaigns, driving new revenue and raising brand awareness for your company, but what if your customer service team delivers a poor interaction and you don’t handle the subsequent social media conversations about this experience in a timely and effective fashion? Your brand will ultimately suffer, and the positive results of your marketing efforts will likely be wiped away within several hours. To succeed in today’s customer-driven world, you must ensure that your marketing and customer service activities are tightly aligned – please read our related research Bringing Customer Service into Marketing: Empowered Customers Make Service Excellence an Imperative to learn how.

Customer effort management:

Earlier, we noted that many buyers today use multiple channels to interact with your business. This is because they first want to educate themselves on the products / services that best meet their needs through using the information available through the web, social media portals and online communities. Only after they determine their interest in your business are buyers likely to interact with you directly. This work done by the customers, however, shouldn’t be considered as an indicator that buyers today want to have a more cumbersome and complex process before they make a purchase decision. Rather, this means that they only want to be provided with the necessary knowledge they need to help them understand how your company would help them meet their needs. The ultimate benefit of this is reducing the buyer effort to understand the benefits of your products / services. While personalizing the marketing messages to deliver this information is a key activity to meet this need, it’s important that marketers take a broader look at the customer journey. In other words, determine the channels customers use to interact with your business, and utilize data captured through these touch-points to offer related content reflective of buyer preferences identified via previous interactions. This will help your business improve customer satisfaction, increase conversion rates, and as a result, boost the financial impact of your marketing activities.

Do you have any over-hyped marketing trends you’d like to call out, or any under-the-radar or up-and-coming opportunities to share? Please add your insights to the conversation in the comments below…

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