As 2017 kicks into full swing, many marketers are likely re-evaluating their priorities, and deciding where to invest their next chunk of budget.
With digital advertising, social media, content marketing, and mobile ads all contributing to a customer’s buying behavior, re-balancing the digital approach for their companies is the best way to drastically improve results.
Based on the answers of 505 US-based marketing decision makers, this article will explore the top marketing priorities, as well as the tactics, strategies, and channels that are going to get results throughout the year ahead.
Top marketing priorities in 2017
Image Source: Autopilot
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1. Increasing Brand Recognition
Social media and mobile devices are strengthening a customer’s ability to connect with their favorite brands.
Consider this: there are around 3.5 billion internet users – and over 2.5 billion of them have social media accounts. By investing in customer experience initiatives and exploring the best social media channels for business marketing, you can grow your brand awareness in no time.
Building brand awareness is part of the collective effort necessary for driving sales. From local marketing to the use of social media platforms, there are dozens of ways to promote your company, build your brand and your audience this year.
Here are the main reasons why 23% of high-performing marketers made building brand awareness their top goal in 2017:
- The more your customers are aware of your brand’s presence, mission, and values, the more they trust you;
- Customer loyalty doesn’t exist without trust in the first place;
- To secure market position;
- Brand recognition significantly drives market performance;
- It’s necessary for differentiation;
- Increased number of leads and sales;
Here’s how to improve your brand awareness this year:
- Social media contests;
- Online advertising;
- Sponsor, host, or contribute to public events;
- Create impressive guest content for your clients such as e-books, online courses, podcasts, infographics, or videos;
- Referral programs;
- PPC advertising;
- Paid social advertising;
2. Optimizing leads and maximizing profit
Converting leads to sales is ranked to be a top priority by 21 percent of the respondents to this survey.
However, the high performers still focus more on their brand and only then think about generating new leads. This is the main difference between high achievers and everyone else: they always put their brand first.
Nevertheless, optimizing your leads is crucial for your success. Wondering how to convert leads into clients? For the best results, you need to know your customers, spot the most relevant market for your product, and have good sales data you can use for converting leads into sales.
3. Exploring new lead generation strategies
Generating new leads is one of the top 3 marketing priorities in 2017.
Ranked as the most important goal this year by 18% of marketers, generating quality sales leads is an important step that leads to finding new customers as well as exploring new perspectives for your business.
These is a lot of buzz surrounding social media platforms, but when it comes to lead generation, one method does not fit all.
Social media is a new, highly utilized, and exciting way to find new prospective customers, but don’t focus all of your efforts on just one way to generate new leads. Instead, try and combine different methods until you find the one that works for you.
Here are the most effective new lead generation strategies worth exploring in 2017:
- Creating useful e-content, online courses, webinars;
- Using LinkedIn or Twitter;
- Customer referrals;
- Pay Per Click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO);
- Speaking at trade shows, conferences and special events;
- Adding a live chat box to your website;
4. Generating valuable referrals
Referrals are one of the most successful and underutilized marketing tools. Now, it might be the best time to explore this extremely effective way to improve marketing performance as well as drive revenue.
Below you can find some of the best marketing strategies you can use to encourage referral traffic:
- Invest in online content. Besides e-books, there are also useful guides, checklists, podcasts, infographics, and, of course, videos. People are watching and sharing online video content at an increasing rate today. Providing your followers with either funny or educational video content will allow them to organically share your branded messages with their friends.
- Create a referral rewards program. According to 2016 Nielsen reports, people are four times more likely to buy when referred by a friend, and more than 80% of Americans seek recommendations when making a purchase of any kind. People will gladly spread the word of your product or service when they know they’ll get an additional bonus for it.
- Partnerships with other businesses. From co-hosting an event to co-branding your exciting online content, partnerships can not only increase your reach and brand awareness, but also inspire new potential customers to check out your company or products.
5. Content monetization
If your content isn’t good enough, it will be hard to monetize it. It’s as simple as that. So your first priority this year should be creating unique, high-quality content that your target audience will find useful, engaging, and important. If there is no value, nobody will be interested in buying it.
Before you start, you need to determine the right model for paid content. Try to mix and match these popular strategies featured below to find out what works best for you and your company:
- Subscription or paywall (users have access to all content and benefits until their subscription runs out for a monthly or annual fee).
- Each individual piece of content is sold separately.
- VIP membership level – can be offered to repeat customers for a large, one-time fee.
- Meter (Content is free until a user reaches a certain limit).
6. Implementing new customer retention strategies
Customer retention refers to the number of customer relationships that, once established, a business is able to maintain for a long time.
Finding new customers is hard, but losing your existing customers is extremely easy and costly. That’s why customer retention is crucial for every business, whether big or small.
Here are a few rules to follow this year to keep all of your customers happy and loyal to your company:
- Use surveys to regularly track customer satisfaction.
- A lot of customers won’t tell you they have a problem, they simply leave and never come back. To prevent it, send your customers with declining usage a proactive customer support email.
- Exceed the expectations of your customers with customer service surprises such as small customer appreciation gifts, handwritten notes, or personal e-mails.
- Reduce customer effort: make the sign-up process easier; supply them with useful how-to guides; simplify your app, etc.
- Make it easy for customers to reach you.
- Become a trusted advisor for your customers and educate them on how to succeed in your field. This step includes publishing a blog, creating useful content related to your services/products, making reports, offering valuable tools, and more.
Why it’s important to retain existing customers
The difference between a successful business and one that flames out and dies usually comes down to three simple words – Customer Lifetime Value.
CLV is what helps companies to grow, expand, and thrive. It represents the total amount of a customer’s worth to your business taking into account all of their purchases. CLV is a powerful metric since even a tiny increase in it can lead to huge gains with time.
7. Boosting your social media engagement
Engaging your audience on social media is a powerful way to build a strong customer base. Since your online presence influences various aspects of your business from brand recognition to sales, it’s important to have at least a few social media accounts – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. depending on your business.
But creating one isn’t enough; once you start, you have to update it regularly and come up with new ideas to engage your audience. To make it easier for you, here is a few proven ways to boost your social media engagement this year:
Create and Share Video Content
Did you know that Facebook users alone watch 100 million hours of video every day while 82% of Twitter users prefer to use this platform to watch video content. It’s pretty obvious that videos are the most popular, sharable, and engaging type of online content you can create to promote your business.
37% of marketers say that visual marketing is the most important form of content for their business. From stunning photos to infographics, every image you share with your followers should be perfect.
Image Source: Buffer
Timing is Everything
For every social media platform, there are certain times of the day when the users are most active. By posting your content at the best times, you are more likely to reach your target audience and engage your followers.
Share Other’s Engaging Content
Social media content curation is an awesome way for you to share the most valuable content in your industry even if it was created by others. For the best results, try different ways to curate (also known as social media mix) and find the perfect ratio of your content, to content created by others that works for your business.
8. Exploring game-changing trends for mobile marketing
We all know that 2016 was a big year for mobile marketing but 2017 will be even bigger.
Mobile marketers have already spotted new, game-changing trends that will dominate this year and prioritize predictive analytics, chatbots, and intelligent marketing automation over everything else.
Learn more about these tech trends that are going to make an impact on the work of all mobile marketers:
- Predictive analytics improve the understanding of trends and patterns making apps even smarter and able to learn by collecting behavioral data from mobile app users.
- Smart chatbots advance mobile conversations and greatly improve customer service.
- Marketing automation is usually used to boost user retention by personalizing every message and interaction with the user.
Investment priorities by channel
According to research from Autopilot, 30% of marketers say they plan to invest in digital advertising in 2017, and 30% plan to invest in customer events.
E-mail marketing is also included in the top 3 investing priorities ranked as a top area for planned investment by 26% of marketers.
Here are the top 10 investment priorities in 2017:
Image Source: Autopilot Report
1. Digital advertising
Digital ad spend has seen consistent growth and is predicted to overtake print soon. Advantages of online advertising are obvious. First of all, you can control everything from targeting your perfect customers to knowing exactly which ads work best. Also, digital advertising provides the opportunity to be highly engaging and creative and, as a result, secure a higher number of qualifying leads.
2. Event marketing
When it comes to building awareness for your brand, engaging your existing customers and attracting new business, event marketing is proven to be more effective than email marketing campaigns or promotional mailing. The key here is to determine what your brand means, who your customers are, and why you are doing it in the first place before hosting an event.
3. Email marketing
When you don’t have time or resources for hosting an event, email marketing can be a great, low-cost alternative that also guarantees great results.
Get inspired by the best examples out there (Uber, BuzzFeed, Dropbox, Postmates… all successful companies are pretty serious about their email marketing campaigns) and create a unique email campaign strategy that resonates with your customers.
4. Social media marketing
Join 26% of marketers and invest in your social media presence this year.
We already discussed the importance of social media platforms and how to boost your social media engagement, but there is more: in order to keep pace with the latest social media trends, it’s important to use and update your social media marketing tools to supercharge your efforts.
From social media scheduling tools to social media analytics, all these tools help social media marketers engage with audiences in new, creative ways as well as keep track of their efforts.
Image Source: Technology Trust
5. Content marketing
24% of marketers plan to increase their investment in content marketing in 2017, making content development their number one priority.
However, as many companies soon find out, it takes more than an increased budget to be successful. A data-driven content marketing approach necessary to identify what is and isn’t working will help struggling marketers this year who are using content as a part of their marketing strategy.
6. Customer loyalty programs and referrals
Customer loyalty marketing focuses on encouraging your current customer base to make more purchases. Customer loyalty programs refer to any kind of interactions with your customers that build trust or a desire to maintain a long-term relationship with you.
The future of loyalty is refer-a-friend marketing that is proven to be more effective than creating bonus incentives for joining or in-store initiatives.
Referred customers are better for brands in many ways: they have a 25% higher lifetime value, are five times more likely to refer additional new customers, and 18% less likely to churn. In general, they spend more per purchase and purchase more over their lifetime. No wonder that 24% of marketers this year make referrals their top priority.
7. Analytics and Attribution
This year, 22% of marketers prioritize data, which is extremely powerful when it’s used not just to support decisions, but also to drive actions.
Analytics is a powerful sales tool that enables you to understand your customer’s experience. When you see how your customers interact with your brand, you can use this information to inform targeting, marketing, and important decisions.
These insights are crucial for your business but customer analytics alone are unable to tell the full story. Because almost every brand nowadays uses multiple channels to reach their target audience, it’s easy to miss some vital details. Data-driven attribution informs your marketing mix by tracking and valuing all touch points that lead to a desired outcome (regardless of whether a person ended up visiting a brand’s website).
So for the majority of brands, it’s not about choosing one capability over the other; it’s about mixing them together.
8. Mobile marketing
Mobile marketing, and especially mobile ads, were chosen this year to be a top area for planned investment by 20% of marketers. Mobile marketing’s awesome potential in 2017 is reinforced with facts like this one: Research firm BIA/Kelsey predicts that U.S. mobile-ad spend will exceed $40 billion this year. And while smartphones and tablet devices account for 51.3% of Internet use, by year’s end, 75% of online content consumption is predicted to be mobile.
9. Customer journey
A lot of businesses are good at gathering data on their users. But data often fails to communicate the problems and experiences of customers. A story can do that, and one of the best storytelling tools you can use in business is the customer journey map. A customer journey map tells the story of the customer’s experience from initial contact and is ranked to be a top goal by 19% of marketers this year.
10. Marketing automation tools
Marketing automation (MA) makes it easier for every business, whether big or small, to improve their customer service and tailor their marketing efforts so that they offer personalized experiences.
2017 is going to be a big year for customer retention, as companies fight for attention in an extremely crowded market and 18% of high-performing marketing teams who prioritize marketing automation this year are already a few steps ahead of their competitors.
Image Source: Autopilot Report
In 2017, just like before, companies are prioritizing the needs of their customers – a diverse group with high expectations and little patience for businesses that don’t evolve.
To stay competitive in this crowded market you need to be visible and you need to be original, and that’s not an easy task.
Successful marketers focus on building brand awareness, new leads, social media engagement, customer retention, and making well-researched decisions based on data.
These priorities aren’t new, but you have to be highly creative and innovative this year to deliver value to your customers when and where they need it.
Guest Author: Joy Mali is a certified digital analyst who helps online businesses to perform better on the web with best solutions & advice. Her content is featured on many mainstream sites & blogs. You can follow her on Twitter.