Marketing Predictions and Digital Trends for 2018

Ten years into the great social media experiment and 2017 was the year we saw Facebook hit the 2 billion user mark, the proliferation of real-time video across social platforms and the continuing email renaissance. With 2018 coming up fast upon us what better time to reflect on the past year, to dust off the crystal ball and to predict what 2018 will bring for marketers.

This post is divided into five sections to mirror the disciplines Out-Smarts focuses on websites trends, SEO – getting found when people search online, email marketing, social media and overall marketing strategy.

Website Design Trends

We know that Google is going to continue to emphasize the importance of mobile in 2018 so expect to see function taking precedence over form with a focus on usability and minimalist site navigation and content proliferating. It’s going to be interesting to see how the content is king crusaders balance their obsession with publishing content with minimalism and mobile. Expect to see more valuable content related to buyer intent rather than simply content for the sake of putting something out there.

Will 2018 be the year when small businesses finally catch up? 50% of small businesses still don’t have a website; we’re hoping this new year will be the one the laggards finally catch up. It is interesting that social media adoption for small business is much higher than website adoption. The popularity of social media is likely because of a low barrier to entry of social platforms. However, it is important to consider that you don’t own your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter pages (or any other social media presence you might have) the social media company owns it. What happens if they switch directions or go out of business? A website belongs to your business, not to a third party.

Watch out for more animation (logos in particular) and websites that incorporate GIFs in 2018 too – hopefully, they’re less cheesy than their Flash predecessors. Artificial Intelligence is going to be everywhere in 2018 too as enhancements make Chatbots get better and better at answering questions and simulating conversations with website visitors.

Search Engine Optimisation

Don’t let anyone tell you that keyword research is no longer important. It is and will continue to be, but there will be a shift in 2018 to focus more on semantic search, buyer intent and topics rather than specific keywords. SEOs will focus more on having their site show up at the right time when people are actually considering a purchase, rather than having the site show up to attract particular personas.

Another aspect that should be on your SEO radar in 2018 is voice search which means you need to hone your long tail keywords, i.e. keyword phrases that are hyper-specific to what you are selling.

Image search will continue to grow in 2018 so now might be the time to make sure all the images on your website have well thought out and optimized alt tags.

Email Campaigns

The email renaissance will continue in 2018. Get ready to watch videos embedded directly in email campaigns. Technological enhancements in email clients will continue to lead to more and more email apps that support embedded video. Right now less than half of all email clients can play embedded videos but thanks to Apple mail, iOS and Samsung this is changing. Up until now, most senders have opted to embed a fake play button in the email with a link to the video on a separate site or by GIF.

Including video in emails can lead to big increases in open rates – Campaign Monitor

Watch for more sophistication in list segmentation too. Segmenting campaigns so that specific audiences receive emails that contain content tailored to their unique perspective.

Social Media

2017 was the year of streaming video in social media; LinkedIn In and Twitter followed Facebook Live’s lead and began supporting live streaming video content. In 2018 watch out for growing adoption of these technologies and more creative live streams.

Over 8 billion videos or 100 million hours of videos are watched on Facebook every day (TechCrunch, 2016). – via Buffer

Not doing short video is not an option – Kat Hahn

In 2018 we will also see the increased adoption of short-lived content, content that’s only available for a short period of time before it disappears, – like Instagram stories and Snapchat. Marketers must start developing strategies to maximize the reach and impact of ephemeral content as well as considering tactics to get this content noticed.

On platforms like Instagram and Facebook, only a tiny percentage of followers actually see the content you share on your page. To get noticed in 2018, you will need to invest in ads on these platforms. Consider video ads to spice things up a little.

Social media analytics, measuring tools and management solutions will become more sophisticated in 2018 with an emphasis on enterprise social marketing integrating all platforms.

How Marketing Strategies will Evolve in 2018

2018

I am going to go out on a limb here and predict that 2018 will be the year that our obsession with all things digital and only digital will end. It’s also going to be the year we’re going to start calling our discipline marketing again (rather than digital). Marketing in 2018 will encompass all aspects of the marketing mix, both online and off and marketers will use the means most likely to help them attract their target audience.

Consider this, there are 65 million business pages on Facebook, 90% of businesses use social media. These are substantial numbers, but for marketers this means that it is becoming increasingly difficult, not to mention more expensive, to get noticed. If you want to attract your target audience’s attention in 2018, then widen your horizons and consider sending them a direct mail piece (depending on the audience) in a nice coloured envelope with handwritten wording. It will likely be the only physical mail the recipient gets that day (or maybe that week or month!), they’re going to open it, and if your copy is effective they will act on it!

Conclusion

2018 is going to be an interesting year; technological advancements will continue to speed up. To be effective as marketers, it’s going to be important not simply to jump on the bandwagon of the next big thing but to consider options strategically and with your target audience in mind (rather than from a product or service-centric perspective). That said, video popularity has been growing year over year and won’t stop. Cisco predicted that video would account for 80% of internet traffic by 2020. So if you do nothing else, consider how you might incorporate video into your digital approach in 2018.


E Marketing – Add It To Your Marketing Mix Right Now

Did you know that email is the most popular activity on smartphones or that 53% of people open email on their mobile phones?

Over the past few years, email marketing has seen a huge renaissance. E marketing isn’t as sexy as social media but it is a workhorse and when it comes to conversions it blows social media out of the water.

If you craft your email strategy and build your campaigns the right way, then they can offer a return on your investment (in both time and money) of up top 44% for every dollar spent – according to Campaign Monitor.

Hands Up, Who Has an Email Account?

The answer is everyone. Email is effective because of it’s wide reach – 2.3 billion people have email addresses and many (like me) have more than one (there are over 4 billion email accounts).

For most people email is the thing they check in bed before they go to sleep, and first thing in the morning when they’re having their coffee (or on the loo!). It is versatile for all business types and it has a low barrier to entry since it is so easy to set up. Even better – when it comes to your campaigns and lists you are in full control (as long as you stay CASL compliant).

You Need An Email Marketing Plan

Crafting an email marketing plan that takes into consideration your target customers and resources is key. It should set out your business goals, map your email goals to your business goals, and outline the steps you will take to achieve them. Doing so makes it easier for you to stay on track and makes a successful campaign much more achievable.

Here’s What to Include in your E Marketing Plan:

  • Goals (Strategic, Campaign and Overall Email Marketing) – make them quantifiable i.e. $ sales, % increase in website traffic, number of leads of hope will result.
  • Audience – identify who will receive your campaign (more on defining your audience below).
  • Research – sign up for third-party newsletters to get ideas.
  • Tools – determine which email marketing tool is best given what you want to achieve.
  • Design – what will your email template(s) look like? Note that it should be about 500-600 pixels wide and vertical in design.
  • An outline of content: topics, subject, images and links.
  • Lists – identify where your lists reside i.e. in Excel, your CRM or….). First name and email addresses of subscribers in CSAV format will help you upload them to your email marketing tool.
  • Timelines / Responsibilities and Schedule – who is responsible for what and when (this includes writing content, sourcing images, laying out the campaign, proofreading, approval, send and monitoring).
  • Compliance – are you following the rule of law when it comes to sending email? Learn more about the Canadian Anti Spam Legislation in our blog post
  • Testing – determine how you will test your campaigns before they go out to make sure they work on all devices
  • Tracking – outline the tools you will use and how you will monitor the effectiveness of your campaign

Check out these email marketing plan examples from Constant Contact (this one is more of a content calendar than a plan) and Hubspot.

Four Tips for Email Campaign Success

1. Define your audience – determine whether you will you send it to current customers, past customers, new projects, suppliers and partners, or by geographic area, age, gender or job role. Hint – segmentation will increase your conversion rate.

2. Create great content starting with a content list:

  • Determine what content will be included  and outline general content types
  • Identify who is going to write it
  • Determine whether to recycle content you’ve already created or create new content (bear in mind that content should be useful and add value)
  • Get creative – if you have a popular Tweet – expand on that
  • Add great images to the mix 

3. Outline Timing – the frequency of your email blasts will depend on your target audience, products/services and the resources you have. It’s better to send fewer higher quality email campaigns than try to send too many. If you get a great response and have the time resources to do so, then increase frequency

4. Scheduling – Work back at least a month from your intended send date to give you enough time to get this right.

Week 1 – Editorial basics – develop content topics, graphics, ideas, and define your audience then start tracking down your lists. If you don’t have an email tool set up this is the time to do so then create your template (most email marketing tools have templates you can adapt or you can have your developer custom code one for you).

Week 2 – Write, refine and expand on what you want to say, source images and/or photos, and define subject lines (here’s a handy tool to test their effectiveness).

Week 3 – Log in to your email marketing tool, create your campaign and add your content. Send a test campaign.

Week 4 – Get feedback, refine and improve your campaign. Send your campaign (Wednesday or Thursday morning is a good time if your audience is corporate, if it’s consumer then evenings, weekends or earlier in the morning will be best).

Week 5 – Track responses and measure success based on the goals you set at the start.

Week 6 – Start over!

If you need help or support with your email campaigns, please reach out. We’d love to work with you!


11 Tips For Staying CASL (Canadian Anti Spam Legislation) Compliant – Small Businesses

With the Canadian Anti Spam Legislation just days away from becoming the law, here are 12 tips to help you get opt ins and to remain email compliant. If in any doubt or you have any questions, consult a lawyer.

1. Sort your lists – if you already have an opt in process then those contacts on the list that have opted in (either on your website or through filling out a form) don’t need to re opt in. Remember to keep track of them. The rest do, so get ready to send out a communication to those you have implied consent from to get them to give you express consent.

2. There are several exemptions rules such as family members who don’t not need to opt in.  Read this post. If your business is as a political party or charity then you are exempt from the rules too.

3. Make sure that your opt in email and all further communications include:outsmart_bizcard

    • clear unsubscribe links so that people can remove themselves from the list easily and at any time
    • your name, company name and address
    • an outline of why they are receiving your communication

4. After you have send out your opt-in email, you have to remove the people from your list that don’t opt in so make sure you have accounted for this in your email process and that you are easily able to track. Most newsletter tools like MailChimp facilitate this although there are varying degrees of easiness in doing so. Delete those that don’t opt in so that you never, ever contact them again.

5. Put in place processes to help you track future subscribers both online and off. This should include having a double opt in when people subscribe via your website (this is not mandatory but more of a safety net just in case). In person you should create a template that states clearly what people are signing up for then have them fill out their contact info to be added.

6. You can’t collect email addresses at trade shows any more and simply add them to your newsletter and you shouldn’t anyway because it’s rather a slimy tactic.  Instead have people fill out a form that states clearly that they are subscribing. There are also apps like Chimpedeedo that facilitate this.  We haven’t use these so if you have please share your take.

outsmart_handshake7. If you have a subscription opt widget in on your website make sure it is worded right so that peope know exactly what they are subscribing to. Remember the double opt in for this too.

8. Each newsletter or communication you send should state clearly why you are sending and have an easy to unsuscribe link preferably right at the top. Again most newsletter providers make this easy for you to do.

9. Get consent from people in real life – you can’t just add someone to your list because you met them at a networking event.  Verbal consent is okay but it is hard to prove so a good idea might be to get new contacts to write newsletter subscribe on the back of their cards. Make sure and keep them in a file though just in case.

10.  Never harvest or buy email email addresses. EVER. This is cheap and tacky and says exactly that about your brand. Who wants to do business with someone or some company they can’t trust from the get go?

11. Add value rather than overtly selling. No one likes to be inundated with emails that have the sole purpose of selling your products or services in a cheap and nasty way so instead why not find creative ways to add value for your recipients and tell them something valuable that they don’t already know.  Get creative.

Related posts:

When is it okay to make contact Electronically – CASL

 


When Is It Okay to Make Contact Electronically – CASL (Canadian Anti Spam Legislation)

Canadian Anti Spam Legislation comes into force on July 1st. After this date you will no longer be able to send electronic communication via Email, SMS, Social Media or IMS (basically any electronic communication means) and could face hefty fines if you do so unless they fall under the following:

CASL Recipient ExemptionsSend - Slider

  • you are sending  to people you have personal relationships with such as a close friend, family member (not everyone who likes you on Facebook though!)
  • you are sending to employees or contractors
  • recipients are business partners or service providers
  • they are current clients who have ongoing business with you
  • if a customer has contacted you in the last 6 months – then it is okay to reply
  • they are someone  you have a legal issue with
  • if the recipient is out with Canada – there are 116 exempted countries
  • charities and not surprisingly, political parties are exempt (some of the worst offenders in my mind!)
  • if your communication is about a safety issue, warranty or recall pertaining to your products and services
  • if your communication is providing information about an account, product use, subscription or ongoing business relationship
  • if you are a digital firm providing updates or patches to users then you are good to contact them
  • if you have been referred – but remember to make it clear who you are, why you are contacting them and who referred you