As we reflect back on 2015, it’s also important to plan for the year ahead. What are the biggest trends we’re expecting to see impact marketing in 2016? Let’s explore.
Internet of Things
The biggest and most impactful technology trend for 2016 might just be the Internet of Things (IoT). In short, IoT opens the front for new consumer touch-points. For marketers specifically, IoT brings with it the opportunity to collect even more data. And, your data will have to become more behavior-driven. While more devices and more data collection might be unsettling, successful marketing orgs. will embrace IoT in order to be ready to meet the consumer in the moment.
Mobile-first will continue to dominate for the foreseeable future. According to the latest reports, time spent on mobile (51%) is now significantly higher than time spent on desktop devices (42%). At minimum this means you need to have a mobile optimized website. But, for the more sophisticated marketer, fully embracing mobile-first means building strategies that are specific to mobile users — don’t force your desktop marketing strategy to do double duty. Actually spend time planning, designing and building experiences that will capture and engage your audience from their mobile devices. In 2016, brand engagement must start, not end, with the mobile platform.
Marketing automation is ubiquitous, but in 2016 it will become an even bigger piece of your marketing strategy. With marketing automation (the likes of email and programmatic ads for example), marketers can answer the key business questions about the Awareness and Consideration buying stages of a user. Which programs are most effective? Which channels yield leads that convert to revenue? The reporting system of most marketing automation tools provides complete transparency into the business impact of marketing investments. 2016 will see a big push for marketing automation with even more focus on marketing driving hard results.
I hate to break it to you, but email isn’t going anywhere. A study by MarketingSherpa found that customers actually prefer email communication. Yet email often doesn’t make the cut. Why? Because of budgets. All too often, budgets are determined by legacy allocations and internal politics vs actual results, which means if you haven’t tried email, email doesn’t make the cut. Try not to think of it as email vs. other channels, when it comes to budgets and allocate budget to where it will have the most impact. In many cases, that’s still email.
Flipping the Funnel
Paid and email are relatively easy channels to track. Marketing automation tools show direct impact and precisely where marketers are able to influence leads. But, proving ROI for other marketing channels is still lagging — branding, influencer marketing, social media, to name a few, all need to catch up. Too many marketers focus on tactical planning first. “Let’s build a campaign,” they say. In 2016, you should think about how you can flip your planning around. Focus on driving results by building your strategy around who you are targeting and define how many of those users or accounts you need.
When it comes to planning for 2016, start by setting high-level goals. Use those goals — typically sales accepted leads — to drive your marketing strategy. When you then examine your data (how many leads you received and where they came from and so forth), your overall focus should be on discovering behavior patterns in order to help you propel users along their buying journey (i.e. where do they get stuck?). Data paralysis occurs when you don’t know what to track and then look at everything, which is overwhelming. Know what channels drive leads, focus on building a strategy around those, set corresponding goals, track progress and adjust (pivot or double down) based on what you learn. You don’t need to track or examine every data set just because it’s available to you.
2016 is bound to be an exciting year for marketers. Don’t get overwhelmed by ever-increasing data points and channels. Build a strategic plan, focus on optimizing channels that are performing well and stick to the data points that actually provide meaningful, clear and actionable insights.