Marketing changes very rapidly these days.
A technique that works one month may be a complete disaster the next. This is particularly true of digital marketing, where what works is strongly affected by ever-changing search algorithms and shifts in technology. It's important not just to stay on top of trends, but to do your best to predict what might work in the future.
Future-proofing your marketing endeavors is hard, but here are a few ways you might be able to get ahead of the pack:
Use Google Alerts
Google has a wonderful alert system. You should already have alerts set up to pull articles about you and your brand or product, so you can spot PR problems as they arise. You can also use it to find new articles on marketing that you can peruse. For example, an alert for "2019 marketing trends" should pull up items that are fresh, trending, and useful. You can also use Google Trends to show what the world is searching quickly.
While Google's algorithms can be a serious pain for marketers trying to get a page to rank, they also do tend to favor new and fresh content. Another good way to find out where the buzz is is to search hashtags on social media. You can then use this to follow the right people.
Content Still Reigns
The one thing which has remained constant over the last few years is the value of content marketing. Properly-written content encourages customers not just to visit your site but to stay there longer, improving your statistics and page rank.
However, it still becomes more important to create engaging content and as AI develops there is a lot less need to worry about keywords. Content needs to be engaging and shareable. It is absolutely vital to have Facebook and Twitter share buttons right there on every article and blog post. Comment sections are important too, although they do have to be carefully moderated to ensure they don't become toxic.
Post all of your blog posts to your own Facebook page and encourage people to start a discussion. Responding to their comments is key, whether positive or negative. Two way communication is vital, and you should consider using customer queries as a prompt for your next blog post.
Listen to your Customers
Customers can be a great resource. Whether it's as simple as asking them how they found you when they check out or whether it's more time consuming (surveys, etc).
How your customers find you is important, but even more important is to establish how much difficulty they had finding you, where they looked first. Customers look first online these days, through search, but they may also have other angles to find you. For example, do you have a way to funnel customers who are asking publicly on social media for a solution you can provide? Are your competitors responding faster to such queries?
Your customers also tell you what problems they are using your product to solve. Sometimes these are not exactly what you were focusing your marketing on.
Artificial Intelligence is Taking Over
Artificial intelligence has impacted marketing success for a while, but this is becoming even more true. For larger companies, AI has become necessary to filter large quantities of marketing data. Even smaller companies can benefit from a bit of help in this area.
Artificial intelligence speeds data analysis and can even start to identify leads. AI doesn't always mean advanced machine learning. It can mean simple algorithms that remind customers of related products.
It can also monitor customer behavior in real time, although you do need to think about privacy and ethics.
Network, Network, Network
Pay attention to what your competitors are doing and talk to other people in your industry and other marketers. Attending conferences still has huge value in the digital age, and face to face local conferences are better than online conferences where you don't end up spending the evening hanging out in the bar talking. Informal conversations can be even more valuable for networking than seminars.
Look for local meet or greets for professionals in your industry or for professionals you are targeting in business to business efforts. For example, it's a good idea for people who provide outsourced IT to visit meet or greets for lawyers, small healthcare practices, etc. This can give you confidence, help make you aware of trends, and be an opportunity for direct word of mouth marketing in and of itself.
Chatbots Now Run Customer Service
If you don't have a chatbot on your site, now is the time to look into it. Many customers hate talking on the phone and younger generations are used to texting, Facebook messaging, etc.
A chatbot can handle routine queries itself and then hand off to a human as needed, and a human customer service rep can handle four or five chat conversations as opposed to one phone call. Customers are coming to expect real time chat to be available and use it easily and comfortably. This trend is unlikely to change in the future, although those in a hurry would still often rather call. With improvements in technology, chatbots will be able to handle more and more transactions, saving time and money.
Keep Educating Yourself
In this changing world, a marketer can't sit on their laurels and assume that what they knew last year is still valid this year. In addition to courses and conferences, there are numerous books on marketing and a number of YouTube channels that provide useful information. The last have the advantage of being free. There are also podcasts on marketing, which have the advantage that you can listen to them while commuting or working out. In other words, the internet has a wealth of educational resources on marketing and related topics that you can make the most of.
Be Open to Change
The last thing is the most important: You need to be open to change. You need to be willing to try new things. For example, videos in a vertical format are becoming more popular with customers because they don't have to turn their phone. The younger generation's hangout is Instagram, and thus it's worth experimenting with it.
Try to try something new at least once a month or so, even if it's only a minor tweak, and don't dismiss an idea just because you've never done it before.
Staying abreast of ever changing marketing trends is vital if you are going to succeed. You can no longer keep doing what you did before and expect the same results, but rather should keep an open mind, be flexible, and listen to those around you, especially your customers.