When it comes to how marketers do their jobs, technology and the digitization of business processes are disrupting the status quo. Massive enterprises like Netflix have fundamentally changed how we think about personalization and customer-centricity altogether, by offering such highly-targeted, behavior-specific, and customer-specific content that audiences no longer have to think about what they’re looking for — and now, customers no longer want to.
Already, they expect that marketers will not just understand, but also predict their needs, and then offer them the right solution at the right time. In 2019, this expectation will become the new normal, and it will set the bar for marketing excellence higher than ever before. Marketers and Businesses should prepare to optimize existing approaches, and to take on new ones, in order to keep up.
But what will the next phase of disruption look like?
The trends we’re seeing in marketing are mirroring the societal shift we’re seeing toward digital. They have for some time now, and we should expect this to continue. To achieve true customer-centricity, businesses will need to be where their customers are, and they need to sell where, and how, their customers want to buy. We need to relinquish control, and hand it to our customers. This, for the most part, means selling online, and making the process both relevant and convenient for buyers. We can’t afford to assume we know best anymore. We must simply listen —both to customers and to data— and then act.
Here are some of the major 2019 marketing trends that will result from this shift:
- Marketers will strike a new balance between data and creativity.
This year, data will create new boundaries that marketers must work within, and will drastically change how we approach creativity.
Data will tell us what kind of content we need, who we should share it with, and when. It will then be the marketer’s job to create compelling, engaging, creative content that fits within those parameters. Creativity will still be necessary, but data is shifting its direction and creating a different environment within which creativity still needs to shine.
The reality is that businesses will not be able to survive digitization with the same old approach of pushing content, or serving an ad, or posting on social media, and hoping it sticks. Using data to inform new approaches will be vital.
Marketing needs a mindset change, and it’s going to get one whether marketers drag their feet to get there or not. With 80% of marketers still valuing their own opinion over what their data tells them their customers want, this will prove to be no small feat.
Looking ahead, that’s where artificial intelligence (AI) and similar technologies come in. AI will give us the answers — far beyond what standard analytics can tell us. AI will think for us, beyond what we can do ourselves, and give us a never-before-seen ability to guide our strategies based on data. We’ll not only foster relationships based on existing interactions; we’ll also be able to predict more interactions and be two steps ahead: offering customers the content and information they want before they even realize they do. Conversational marketing will go a step further, and every marketer will be able to reach a Netflix-level mastery of customer-centricity.
But ultimately, marketing won’t just be about having data and using it ad-hoc. It’s about having the right data, and finding a better, more targeted way to interpret and act on it.
- Content marketing will become conversational and interactive.
We, as marketers, have already progressed past personalization as we know it. Personalized content marketing is no longer about having a successful first touch with a prospect based on what you think they want to hear. We’ve reached a point where the second and third touchpoint are infinitely more critical. We’re prioritizing interactions well beyond just engaging a prospect in the awareness phase of a buyer journey. Much like our businesses and our technology, our customers are changing, and this reprioritization is simply our attempt to keep pace.
As digital becomes a more impactful part of people’s everyday lives, it’s making customers exponentially more empowered and independent than ever before. They don’t put up with unnecessary friction online. They want more control over their relationships with businesses, and they will ignore marketing efforts that are irrelevant or self-serving. In 2019, customers will demand an experience from marketers that feels natural, authentic, and as interactive as a conversation.
In response, content marketing will continue to evolve. It will be about interactions with (rather than actions toward) a customer, and about the quality of the conversations between a business and its customer. Every interaction will be significant.
Content marketing in 2019 will be centered on a feedback loop between customers and marketers. Each step in the relationship between marketers and customers will be crucial, and will ultimately tell a story of authenticity. Your content should do the same — but it should tell a story that is guided, and must be heavily backed up by data.
- Multidisciplinary and multi-channel approaches will break down existing silos.
Because a lot of data within an organization is available in silos, it’s perpetuating the idea that we don’t have a complete picture of our customer or of the steps we need to take throughout the course of the buyer’s journey. But this is an unfortunate misconception. A prospect doesn’t think in terms of departments. Our data and our marketing shouldn’t be limited by those boundaries either.
In Silicon Valley, and in a lot of forward-thinking companies, we are seeing a trend toward multidisciplinary initiatives: getting from Point A to Point B with a blend of teams, all working toward the goal of driving revenue in a way that creates value. But the key to successful marketing (and business) is to create value for both the customer and the business. That’s why we need all hands on deck when it comes to engaging a prospect at every stage of the buyer journey; we need to be equipped with as much data as possible to maximize that interaction.
The first touchpoint in the business-customer conversation begins with marketing, but it continues with sales teams, project teams and customer success teams. It’s about having one team, one cohesive conversation, and one goal that’s all driven by what your data tells you about your customer. That’s the key to revenue and the key to happy customers. Our new-and-improved mindset change in marketing needs to trickle down across the funnel, so that we can access the data and the resources we need to be better marketers.
This is because people aren’t just online more. They’re also busier and on-the-go more. That’s why in addition to a cross-team approach within businesses, there’s also an opportunity to leverage multiple channels like video and mobile to continue to grow in 2019. These channels allow customers to digest content more quickly and easily. It’s all available 24/7 in the palm of their hand. And that’s where we, as marketers, need to be too: everywhere.
In time, B2B will see the same shift that B2C is already seeing when it comes to melding disciplines and expanding marketing across more channels, even if that shift may be slow. Marketers must learn to actively seek out all the tools and data at their disposal to properly reach customers across all channels if they want to continue to be able to adapt to digitally-driven and customer-driven changes beyond 2019.
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