Why you should ignore the marketing prediction posts and what you should be doing instead…

With January over and February out the way, we’re settling into 2019 and the marketing predictions are rolling in. I find the whole month of January intriguing and each year watch on with fascination, it's two areas that really interest me:

The first is the teeny one second transition between the 31st of December 23:59:59 and the 1st of January 00:00:00. It’s something quite magical. The effect it has on the general population is marvellous:

The intensely lethargic suddenly develop the urge to whip out the fitness clothes and exercise.

The over indulgers suddenly cut down on consumption.

The human chimneys become determined to save their lungs.

The chaos bugs fight for organisation…

And the list goes on. This bizarre tradition of New Year's resolutions doesn’t just stop at home though. It also takes place in every business.

Business that have not done what they wanted to the previous year suddenly experience a motivational spurt. Goals are set, targets are pegged and successes are dreamed up.

It’s a wonderful time of the year, full of expectation and marketing predictions...

However each year another gang of people gets larger: The misanthrope, crepehanger, wet blanket defeatists. All spouting “New year, nothing's changed, you’re still shit” messages.

Now I mostly have no problem with this as it’s actually kind of true. Success isn’t about the planning, it’s about the execution, and then the optimisation. The problem is the message that is attached to this. “You’re shit unless you work with me.” Ah. I see. We’re using the new year to bully people into working with us now. That’s not cool.

The gem of truth in the sourpuss scratch patch is that nothing really has changed. Setting goals means nothing. Turning up once for a run doesn’t make you an athlete. It’s doing the work continually that makes the difference. Brian Moran talks about greatness in the moment in his book the 12 Week Year. I love this concept. It’s the simple idea that greatness isn’t achieved by simply doing things sporadically, it’s choosing to do the thing that gets you closer to success in every moment.

Olympic athletes don’t become athletes in the second between one year and the next. They consciously choose to live the life of an athlete every moment. They turn up to practice religiously. They eat the right food, every meal. They push themselves, and they improve themselves. They are great in all the individual moments that lead up to the olympics, consciously and effortfully.

Greatness in the moment is what sets the dreamers aside from the doers.

But I do love the change that happens in that teeny second. I’ve dubbed this the resolution second. I love how the impossible becomes possible. The problem with the resolution second is not the optimism, it’s in the follow through. Most people aren’t great in the moment. The weight of their previous habits are too much to budge with a few good intentions. It takes work. And it’s much easier to do what you did before and settle back into the rest of year no different than last year.

So let's be clear: You’re not shit. You’re fine. You just need to follow through. Those goals can really happen. Time to crack on.

The second fabulous New Year thing is the marketing prediction posts. Every year I look forward to these blogs, videos and podcasts, and because I’m a total nerd I bookmark them for review at the end of the year to see how well they did. There is no point in doing that this year though…. And that’s because every post said very similar things. 2019 seems to be a simple continuation of 2018.

Of the 17 pieces of content relating to predictions I consumed, almost every single one overlapped, with the following pieces of advice coming up consistently:

  1. Tactics on social and marketing automation
  2. AI and Machine learning
  3. Personalisation and experience
  4. Content

Looking at the list above you could be forgiven for thinking that we were talking 2015… In fact the the only real change since 2014 is the addition of AI and machine learning. This is quite frankly more than a little unsettling.

Thinking back 5 years, so much has changed. 

The entire relationship between consumers and business has fundamentally shifted. Yet somehow through all of that, we’re still harping on about the same stuff, and using the same strategies.

Underlying both the resolution second and marketing predictions is the same kernel of truth: nothing is going to change for you - unless you make the change.

Yes, that’s very obvious I know. It seems a silly sentence to have to write down. Yet each year I see businesses get excited about what they can do - then not do it. The same businesses get excited about what the predictions mean for their year - but they don’t act on it. That’s where the misanthropes are right - you can’t do the same thing all the time and expect different results.

Now is the time for you to do something. Time to be great in the moment.

You’re going to need a plan though, a strategy and some direction. Not a problem! To save time, I’ve rounded up the gist of the best predictions from the last few years, the ones that are grounded in what is really shifting and changing in the marketing world. From these I’ve take out the foundations you must have in place now. I’ve based this on two things:

  1. Consumer demands and how to meet them
  2. What businesses STILL aren’t doing to help themselves grow

Before we get into this we need to be brutally honest with each other here: We’re all just very excited about new stuff. We’re magpies hopping around looking for the next shiny thing to make our own. The problem with that is that we ignore the very basic stuff that we should be doing to help our businesses grow and keep our consumers happy.

Let’s pick on two shiny things, AI and Marketing Automation. Before AI was even a thing businesses were looking to invest in, there were other buzzwords emerging. Marketing Automation first started it’s upwards trend in 2004, where it experience a brief blip of excitement.

It would take over 10 years, to October 2014 to reach that blip, and since then it’s been onwards and upwards ever since. By now we all ‘kind of’ know we need marketing automation, and people are good at building the hype on it… But do we ever really leverage it properly?

For most businesses it’s a sheepish no. And those that do utilise it also know that they could be doing better with it all. Bear this in mind as we go along. AI and machine learning are both awesome and exciting, but just like marketing automation, if you’re not sure why you’re using it and precisely what you’re going to do with it to make consumers happier and get you some decent ROI - it’s just a shiny thing. Hop on magpie.

The 4 things you should nail this year (once and for all)

Shiny trends are worth nothing if you don’t have the foundations to build success off of. The strongest foundation a business can have (aside from a decent product or service) is to ensure a quality customer experience that leads to higher customer lifetime value, better lead quality and improved ROI from your marketing. To enable you to leverage this, here are the 4 things you should nail this year:

1. Build a clearly defined, well thought out and strategic customer journey

Your customer journey underpins everything. It encompasses how your customers find you, how they convert, what they experience and how they become advocates. Your customer journey should also inform all strategic direction with your campaigns, whether they’re social, marketing automation, advert or even AI based.

It should give you a high level overview of what you are trying to achieve. We do our clients customer journeys in flow chart format, so that the whole business can see what is being achieved. Here is a financial planning example we completed last year:

The journey should be clear and make your marketing directional and efficient. It should also tie in with your goals for the year while dictating what tactics you utilise. It’s important that you always align those tactics with your overall journey so that the consumer encounters only a smooth, well executed experience. Tactics might get blips of conversion, but something they can make your customer journey jarring to experience, and this can chase consumers away.

The focus in a good customer journey is always to enhance the consumers life, not simply to make more money. If your focus is on improving the consumer, they will be happy to spend more money with you. If you simply focus on moving them up an ascension ladder (just because), they will feel like you’re simply trying to make money off of them.

The old school simple ascension model is to bring a consumer in for a fee or low price offer, then sell them something of higher price (and supposed value) and gradually increase this figure. While this works in the short term, it lacks the long term customer lifetime value advantages a value and interest based offering allows you to have. Instead focus your customer journey on the the long term strategy, and switch out the tactics like ascension ladders, as appropriate, to help you execute that.

Your customer journey can also do some cooler things, like inform you as to what softwares you actually need, what can be streamlined, and where the gaps are that mean you’re leaving money on the table. Without one an overarching journey, you’re looking at a pretty hodge podge mixmash of systems, strategies and tactics. That's not just bad for the consumer, it’s bad for business profits.

2. Focus on both automation AND personalisation

While efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to our modern consumer, that doesn’t mean you get to throw personalisation out the window. Quite the opposite is true. Consumers want a personalised relationship. And this isn’t new.

Ever since we first started trading, as soon as we could afford it, we’d pay for a better experience. This has not changed one bit. And now that we are living in an age when hyper personalisation is only ever a mobile device away, lack of personalisation stands out massively.

Marketing automation is often frowned upon as depersonalising the relationship with the consumer, however that couldn’t be further from the truth. When executed appropriately, good marketing automation allows you to build deeply personalised experiences. That in turn allows you to drive meaningful engagement.

Meaningful engagement isn’t likes, comments or shares. Those aren’t nearly as important as they used to be. Rather it’s finding what that specific consumers care about through their engagements and behaviour, and using this information to further personalise the experience for them - driving a meaningful conversion through the power of automation.

That sounds complicated, but really it’s tracking behaviour, giving them more of what they like, and offering the right product at the right time. Leverage tools to help you do this, and use the data provided to steer their journey and provide segments of interest that you can utilise further on down the line.

3. Content is not just King now - it’s also the Queen

Consumers STILL crave reputable content. Ever since content marketing began its upward trend in 2011, we’ve become more and more reliant on it. According to Forrester, consumers will consult an average of 11.4 pieces of content before they buy. Are you happy to leave that research and  relationship building up to other businesses content?

While consumer demands are enough to give pause for concern, the Google machine wants good content too. Google’s entire purpose is to match the very best answer to a consumers question. And it’s not just Google, that’s the sole purpose of any search engine. But with over 90% of traffic still coming through Google, listening to consumers is a good way to keep up in the game.

If consumers want content, and Google wants to match the right content to the right consumer, why aren’t you focusing on being the provider of said content? If you want traffic, make it happen. Strategically. It’s not about keyword stuffing, link building manipulation or simply churning out tonnes of relatively meaningless content that hits 600 or words any more. Those dodgy SEO tactics will land you in hot water with ye olde Googles.

Instead strategically research the question your consumers are asking, and build a content plan that encompasses questions, search volumes, ranking difficulty and plan for their next steps on from that content.

In all these content shenanigans, don’t forget that good content is not just for bringing people in, it’s also for keeping your existing audience engaged, and driving that meaningful engagement for their personalised experience.

4. Optimise, optimise, optimise

It’s easy to think that after spending so much time setting everything up that you can lie back and forget it exists while it does all the work. Unfortunately, set it and forget it doesn’t really exist. The only time that happens is with campaigns that perform a system function, and aren’t sending information out to consumers or helping you automate your workflow. Even those develop new needs and redundancies.

All other campaigns deserve to be tweaked and fine-tuned. Consistently.

Here’s two examples of why this is so important:

A client of ours has a new lead to new customer campaign that converts between 42% and 52%, an average of 47% (it varies on the time of the week and over holidays). When we started on this campaign it was converting at just over 10%. Most people would be happy with that. We wanted even better. So we tweaked and refined, relentlessly. Sometimes we made changes that would knock conversion. Sometimes the silliest things would increase conversion. But it was the continual conversion rate optimisation that got us to where we are now.

Another client of ours asked for support to set up a series of campaigns to automate and optimise his teams workflow. This is one of my favourite uses of marketing automation - within teams to make them more effective. Over 6 months we set up various campaigns that lifted the burden of some of the client work that the team were doing. The campaigns worked fabulously for over a year, until we had to switch most of them off. The problems that they had been designed to solve simply didn’t exist anymore. They had done their jobs so well they no longer had a purpose. And that is a fabulous thing.

Running through the core of optimisation is learning. At the end of every project or iteration you should be learning something. Perform a post mortem of what has just happened. Dissect what was good, what was bad and from there suggest your improvements. To optimise efficiently it’s important to learn from everything.  

With these 4 focus points you’ll be able to ride the year out with a strong customer journey focused on meaningful engagement and segmentation, quality content that brings you better consumers and more leads and an optimisation machine. With that foundation in place you’ll be able to take on trends knowing whether or not they are right for you and your consumers.

There are a multitude of benefits to this kind of strategy, but by far the biggest is: clarity.

When you have the clarity to what you need to do, what you’re currently doing, and what’s working and what’s not, you can focus on what’s important and ignore the rest. It gives you the insight to know what to invest your time in. Even ignoring any of the other benefits, that alone is golden.

Without the above 4 in place, here are some ninja predictions for your ahead:

  • Your marketing isn’t going to change - and it will continue to lag behind the industry leaders
  • You’re going to continue using tactics like strategies, and you’ll always be seeking for the next hit
  • You’re not going to get the results you want long term - because you’re not focusing long term
  • You’ll continue going through a cycle of reinvention with your marketing, when really you just need to set your goal and focus on being great in the moment to achieve it
  • You’ll lack the clarity to know what to focus your time on, and so you’ll feel continually overwhelmed with what you should be doing

It’s not a nice list. It’s a fair list though. I’ve not put this here to make you feel crap. I’ve put this here because it’s well within your power to achieve those 4 items. You don’t need to chase the trends to see success, you just need to focus.

Still feeling a little overwhelmed? Want some clarity? Want to get your own gorgeous flowchart? Need help?

Follow the strategy. You can do this.

If you do need some support or expert guidance, you can speak to a ninja. We offer strategic guidance for marketing automation, customer journeys, and behavioural plans for driving meaningful engagement. And because we’re so nerdy about this stuff, we offer free Marketing Therapy Sessions where you tell us your biggest problem, and we help you create a plan succeed - just click this button:

Now - focus on what you want to achieve. And be great in the moment. Set your goal and chip away at it every day. With these 4 areas in mind - what are you going to working towards this year? What are you going to change? And how are you going to make sure you are great in the moment?

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