Last November I attended Inbound, a popular marketing and sales event hosted by Hubspot in their home city of Boston. Throughout the week I found there was common trends in the majority of talks and workshops. More recently, I followed Ireland's latest Tech Conference, the Dublin Tech Summit. Again, similar trends stood out from the event, although the Tech Summit itself offered a broader perspective when compared to the inbound and content focus of the Inbound 2016 event.
In this post, we look at trends that already exist and are still essential, to the trends that are growing and are set to increase exponentially in 2017. A common topic that came up repeatedly at both events is the impact of optimizing the overall digital strategy that addresses the different stages of the customer journey.
Throughout the Inbound event in 2016 and more recently the Dublin Tech Summit in February 2017, a considerable number of talks and workshops presented the Customer Journey as a case in point for the foundation of all inbound marketing and sales campaigns.
Common Trends quoted at Inbound, by Hubspot and DTS - Dublin Web Summit.
What we can’t ignore in 2017
1. Conversion Optimization via Customer Journey Analytics
Make your decisions based on data, looking back at one of the keynote examples from Inbound, and from the agency, IMPACT Brand and Design.
- Their top recommendation is to A/B test the hell out of a company's blog, key landing pages, social media, and when possible the overall website.
- Think about the full customer journey at all times, from awareness, to consideration to purchase, retention and advocacy.
- Make your decisions based on data from the Customer Journey, start to finish to post journey - at all times Optimizing for Conversion.
The rest of the points covered in this post relate to the overall customer journey. Outside of Conversion Optimisation, which is an important activity for all businesses, there is a recurring theme that arose time and time again throughout both events. From what we are experiencing here at Altocloud, and what we see with our clients, we fully agree with these trends.
While the overall arching strategy behind everything is the most important element in the plan, CMOs and higher level marketing professionals should be conscious of the nitty gritty details that will help make sure your strategy is a success.
We all know about the importance of mobile, and have experienced its rapid rise to a critical element of digital strategies over the last few years. With that in mind, lets for forget the basics, there is a massive shift in Video, Paid Social, Messaging and Search; below we have outlined the movement and why it should not be ignored.
2. Video is a requirement
- Video used to be a ‘nice to have’, now it’s required to get and keep attention. YouTube is still (arguably) the second biggest search engine in the world, don’t eliminate yourself from this traffic.
- In 2016, Live Streaming on social media became a huge success. From Snapchat to Facebook, this tool is being utilized by many. In 2017, due to the reach currently available on Live Stream, we will start seeing a lot more businesses and brands using Live Streaming tools. This year, we will also see an increasing number of social media platforms add this feature to their social media apps.
3. Paid Social/Discovery/Distribution
- Unless a social media post is boosted, it is unlikely that a high percentage of your followers will see it. This is particularly true for Facebook but is a common theme on all social media channels. This isn’t just about ‘paying to play’, even when a post is boosted, make sure it is relevant and interesting. The target group will not engage with the post 1) if it isn’t relevant to them or 2) it does not provide value to them in some way.
- On mobile, if there are paid-for search ads, users will see them before they see organic results. This is an imperative part of the search results’ real estate when visiting from a mobile. Leaving search out of your strategy significantly limits your potential on mobile. The growth and usage of mobile devices has been a big trend in the last five years, this is not an area that any company can afford to miss out on.
4. Messaging Apps
In 2016 there was an explosion of messaging tools. More time is now spent on Slack, Messenger and WhatsApp than social. Below I have listed some points to explain why this should be an essential part of your company's strategy.
- Analytic tools are becoming smarter than ever before. With cloud based apps, like Altocloud, businesses can identify the profile and persona of an ideal target prospect. The more context an organization collects on their prospects, the more likely they are to reach that prospect with relevant, timely, and personalized communications. At this point of the customer journey, businesses are more likely to accelerate conversions from a prospect to a client/customer.
- Smart Messaging Applications, like Altocloud, can help internal departments that deal with eCommerce, inside sales, or customer care roles. This could be the individual or team within a company that is responsible for lead generation, customer success, customer happiness and advocacy. Using digital messaging tools, like web chat, content offers, scheduled callbacks, Twitter DM, and other popular communication channels, the business can now reach out to prospects on a website at the right time, using the appropriate messaging tool. But more importantly, using the information collected, the company can reach out with a personalized message. The key to this communication, is the personalized approach taken due to the data collected in the analytics tool.
- Another benefit of Smart Messaging Applications is that with such a tool, the information collected via customer journey analytics allows website owners to automate the use of digital messaging tools. With automation, they can offer relevant content or automated chats based on the data collected. The data will show behaviours on a website, geo location, context from previous visits (including past conversations via digital messaging tools), referrals, form entries and so much more thus allowing the website owner to really get to know the customer.
5. Search is changing
Google SEO rank is still important, but not nearly as much of a guarantee as it was a few years ago. Since Google Panda and Penguin came in, the rules for listing organically changed dramatically. These changes were for the greater good, as over the last 5 years it has become increasingly more difficult to ‘spam’ Google and other search engines with keywords, irrelevent back links and other ‘old hat SEO tricks’.
The industry’s recent focus has been about providing relevant, fresh and quality content that pleases the visitor when they search. It does involve a lot of discipline for the companies with the website, however, overall we should look at it as a win-win for all.
- How we search has now changed i.e. mobile Vs voice Vs desktop and so on. Where we search is changing e.g. Google for generic, Facebook for people, Amazon for products, etc. When we search can change the meaning of the search i.e. demanding instant gratification all day, every day. In all areas of search, context matters. Device, location, time of day etc. all have an impact on the answer we are expecting to receive. As businesses and marketers, we need to anticipate and prepare for each scenario.
- Create content for mass consumption - Text, audio, video, snippets fit for various platforms/formats. Similar to how search varies based on context, the information website visitors choose to consume also varies depending on context. If they are using a smartphone, keep it short and concise, try out other content types including audio and video for this type of user. Infographics and short informative blog posts can be useful for those who are just starting to become familiar with your brand.
- As you bring your followers through the customer journey, closer to the nurturing stage, give them more. Including whitepapers or templates useful for their day to day role. At this stage, you should be building trust and the foundations of a relationship. Include stronger call to actions to purchase your product.
Takeaways: What should your business consider based on the above findings?
- Creating a company podcast or vlog - It could start off as simple as employees recording themselves reading their blog posts, interviews and Q&A sessions; longer ‘specials’ based around the company’s lead generation, objectives and goals.
- Expanding the company's YouTube/Vimeo channel - using content from some of the ideas listed above, in addition to company explainer videos. Video based customer success stories and content that adds value to your visitors. The benefits of YouTube include the search function and the ability to be found quickly via keywords. Video results from YouTube are also more likely to show up in Google Search results.
- If the resources are there, consider starting a more informal but informative style videos on Facebook Live/Snapchat or other popular video platforms. Always keep your target market in mind when choosing these platforms.
- Videos that have been added to YouTube can also be uploaded to Facebook directly. Why do this? Because Facebook reward videos uploaded onto Facebook directly more than they do when a third party video platform is used to share the video e.g. YouTube or Vimeo.
- Learn more about and experiment with paid ads, and other creative content distribution options. Organic and traffic on social media in particular will only come with a certain reach. Don’t forget, many of these platforms have paid-for advertising tools built in. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were not built to be free tools for all. There comes a stage where every company like this needs to show ROI to its shareholders, in most cases to get any reach that is worthwhile, a business will have to invest in paid-for advertising. A business should never rely on a third party platform as their ‘Free’ or ‘Low Cost’ models can change at anytime.
- The key to paid-for advertising is to experiment and optimize for what works best for your company. Set out clear objectives and goals before you start, work out achievable KPIs, make sure you increase the KPIs week on week, month on month. Keep in mind, that high quality and high volume traffic from social media will only come with a high post reach, therefore consider adding a budget to really enhance your company’s profile across your social media channels.
- Review the integration of messaging apps and customer journey analytics into your own marketing plan. This will assist with even more highly targeted campaigns for 2017.
There are of course a number of other trends that came up at these events, in particular with the Dublin Tech Summit as it is a broader event, covering every angle of tech, from Fashion, to Robots and to Healthcare Tech. Artificial Intelligence is a huge trend going forward, and while this has been evident at the Dublin Tech Summit and including how robots will impact our future, in this post we have stuck to the core marketing tasks that are making a bigger impact in 2017.
The goods news for Altocloud, is we are on the right track. Customer Journey Analytics is the backbone of our product and Digital Messaging Tools in our product is what brings the analytics alive. The detailed insights we get from our analytics in real time, allow our customers to engage and reach out to social media or website users using the right message at the right time.
To find out more about Altocloud and book a one to one demo, click here.