4 Digital Marketing Trends Entrepreneurs Should Seize

As this year comes to an end, I want to explore some digital marketing trends I think entrepreneurs should seize. I always look forward to a New Year. It gives me the opportunity to make good on all the promises I made to myself but haven’t kept yet.

Entrepreneurs get asked for a 1,000 different things a day, and sometimes we feel additional pressure from within the industry itself to make changes. But changes are scary, so we often eye trends with suspicion rather than heeding advice to seize their advantages.

However, if 2017 taught us anything, it’s that the writing on the wall will become tomorrow’s news headlines.

In 2016, Forbes and other outlets asserted that “chatbots will be your new best friend,” and now over two-thirds of consumers have used one for customer service. Similarly, Mark Zuckerberg predicted in 2016 that video would soon make up the majority of Facebook, and now there are over 8 billion views on the platform every day.

Ignoring trends will therefore likely put you further and further behind.

So what can we expect to become more important in 2018? More of the same things we’ve been hearing about all of 2017. Ideas that were once disruptions and innovations will become table stakes. Entrepreneurs and marketing executives will be expected to be more competent than ever in a larger range of projects.

To help you prepare, here are the 2018 digital marketing trends I consider most important for those in a leadership role to embrace in the months to come.

A Professional Approach to Content Trends

Marketing master Neil Patel observes that the brands finding the most success with content “aren’t just flooding their audience with content” but instead are “taking a media publishing approach.”

This shift in attitudes means that content marketing programs get bigger budgets, more resources, and more roles working in longer project cycles to get content out the door.

The gorgeous results speak for themselves. Frontline Education, which makes school administrative software, transformed their website into a content-rich journey that educates even as it subtly sells. Job listings site Monster became a go-to resource for career advice and answers to tough questions.

Your brand can create this level of professionalism and appeal to speak directly to audience values only if it pledges to put the effort into content that it deserves. A Content Marketing Institute survey revealed that 74% of marketers agree that their organization “values creativity and craft” yet only 59% agreed that their leadership team gave them “ample time to produce content marketing results.”

So give your content marketing team room to breathe through more time and resources, and make sure each project is a well-oiled machine aimed at producing quality results.

Using Video to Make Your Brand More Familiar and Trustworthy

Brands have a trust issue when it comes to online ads. Less than half of people trust online video ads, and only 39% trust mobile popup ads.

Yet, 83% of people trust recommendations from peers. Most brands have interpreted this stat as a mandate for more influencer collaborations, which is a decent take, but I suggest turning yourself into your own influencer. How? Video.

Video, especially live video, can engage audiences in a trustworthy way through intimate-feeling conversations. Emphasize transparency by giving audiences a behind-the-scenes look at your operations or industry. Answer questions from your audiences directly. Highlight comments from individuals.

Using video content and live video will become a huge factor in establishing trust and getting the attention of consumers in 2018.

More Entrepreneurs Embrace AI and Machine Learning for Automation and Personalization

When asked about the single marketing activity that will have the most positive impact in 2018, “artificial intelligence and machine learning” tied for second with big data. The only activity marketers ranked above these two categories was “content marketing” in general.

Thanks to software and platforms that flatten the learning curve for AI and machine learning, practically any business of any size can take advantage of it. Opportunities include:

  • Personalized marketing
  • Improved segmentation and identification of high-value audiences
  • Dead-on persona models for focusing content and marketing goals
  • Automated e-mail marketing campaigns
  • Programmatic ad buying, where ad inventory is automatically connected with segmented consumers
  • Optimization suggestions based on data
  • Guidance on creative and strategic decisions

Businesses willing to adopt machine learning within their digital marketing strategy gain huge competitive advantages through these opportunities. According to Salesforce, high-performing marketing teams are more than two times as likely to use AI, and 57% consider it “absolutely or very essential” in making customer touchpoints more effective.

Taking Ownership of Your Marketing Data

It’s no coincidence that the survey cited above listed “big data” opportunities as tied for second place within machine learning and AI. Big data was admittedly once a buzzword in the industry, but even the simplest digital marketing toolsets now come with some form of BI (business intelligence) features that help organizations use data effectively.

In 2018, pledge to take ownership regarding the collection, structuring, analysis and overall use of your customer data. Form strategies for using just about every scrap of data collected through marketing touchpoints as well as day-to-day operations.

Over half of marketing executives say they feel “overwhelmed” by the volume of data offered by their marketing technologies, but that’s only because they keep kicking the can down the road. Like a junk drawer full of old mail or an attic stuffed with clutter, you must eventually tackle the mounds of neglected data and establish processes to handle it in the future.

At my own company, Vonazon, we take the time to ensure that just about every piece of data has a role or purpose within our operations and strategic decision making. Our ability to integrate this data within marketing automation has even made us a leader in providing customized marketing automation solutions to others.

I point this out less as a feather in the cap and more as a way to illustrate the transformative potential adopting a data strategy can have. Don’t neglect it, and don’t be afraid to wade into the current mess and sort it out. Trust me when I say you will find far more opportunities than frustrations when doing so.

What Digital Marketing Trends Do You Anticipate as Being Most Important?

These four trends are just the ones I tend to think about most when looking forward to a fresh start in the New Year.

But every company is different. I’m admittedly leaving out a lot: mobile-first, VR/AR, 360° video, the rise of influencers, etc.

So I would love to hear from more entrepreneurs and marketing leaders to see what they consider the most important areas to tackle in 2018. Share your insights in the comments or on my social, and we can keep the conversation going!