My 2014 Prediction: The Great Marketing U-Turn

What’s a blog without year-end predictions? After Dana took her turn in our last post, I peered into the Carabiner crystal ball and saw that 2014 would be … The year of the great marketing U-turn.

What that means is, we’ve reached the point at which marketers are speaking primarily to individuals, not to the groups in which we believe they are members. Just as technology turned us toward mass marketing, it’s now turning us back to personal marketing.

The mass marketing we were raised on was the result of communications technology. From the time bartering began, all “marketing” was individual pitching. Mass marketing didn’t exist on a meaningful scale until radio advertisers could simultaneously tell Ralphie and every other child listening across the United States to “Drink your Ovaltine.” It became pervasive with TV advertising, which segmented audiences into identifiable groups as in “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Even that famous turn-of-the-century Apple Macintosh slogan, “Think different," actually meant the opposite: Join our club.

And now, with interactive web and mobile replacing broadcast as primary information media, technology is retiring mass marketing in favor of content marketing. That will bring about three distinct trends in 2014 among companies seeking lead positions in the great marketing U-turn.

Trend #1: Immediate, visual engagement. You attracted them with SEO and PPC – now what?

Going forward, savvy marketers will pay very careful attention to presentation when a prospect first encounters them in online searches.

A third of all Google traffic goes to the first item returned in a search. Great accomplishment, that top lead position. Now how do you capitalize on it? The evidence points to visuals, not words – and certainly not a static landing page where someone is expected to search further.

A recent study revealed that informative videos increase conversions by 86 percent on landing pages. “Informative” is as important as “videos” here; we’re not talking yesterday’s 30-second spot for mass consumption, but rather a visual story that explains value relative to the web search. The prospect was searching for information. The faster and more effectively you deliver information of value – and video does that better than words – the more likely you are to start an engagement or conversation.

Trend #2: Custom content. You have them engaged, now earn their buy-in.

No single video will seal the deal. After a prospect who has encountered you for the first time becomes visually engaged, it’s time to satisfy the need for specific information, and it’s back to words – prospects will read further at this point.

Blogs, a great vehicle for custom content, will be more important going forward than they have been. One study shows that B2B companies that blog generate 67 percent more qualified leads than those that don’t. While those companies were likely doing other things right in addition to blogging, there’s no denying the value of engaging, custom content that goes well beyond product information – reviews, testimonials, success stories, genuine FAQs and more.

Trend #3: You’ve earned their buy-in. Now move them through the funnel.

Automated marketing certainly isn’t new, but expect a new development in that we’ll get on top of it by realizing that “marketing automation” is really “marketing assistance.” I’ll write about this one more in a later post; I’ve been fascinated by the struggles and early successes I’ve seen with marketing automation tools, and believe we create difficulties for ourselves when we place too much faith in the technology of the solutions we adopt.

And so it goes with video and custom content. As all marketing becomes digital marketing, it’s important to remember that it all has to be driven by real marketing talent. What we need to achieve hasn’t changed fundamentally. We still need to attract those who can use our products and services, create genuine interest once they meet us, and transform them from prospects into loyal customers.

We’ve got great tools to do it with in video, custom content and marketing automation. Let’s really harness them in 2014.

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