Mike Corak’s session at MarketingProfs’ “Marketing Trends for 2017” virtual event centered around the big digital trends that he predicts will emerge or grow this year.

The team, here at BrightFunnel, enjoyed Mike’s session for many reasons—A) It helped our marketing team understand where we should direct our focus this year if we want to stay on-trend, and B) it confirmed something that we already knew: campaign optimization is the way of the future.

So, what does that mean for us marketers?

Before we dig in, here is a quick summary list of Corak’s top trends for digital marketing in 2017:

 

  1. Customer Experience is Still #1: Building stronger relationships by understanding and prioritizing users’ needs.
  2. Mobile Maturity: Investing in mobile-first experiences, mobile-friendly landing pages, and mobile-friendly media.
  3. Content Quality Over Quantity: Measuring content results and doing more of what’s performing well.
  4. What if Google isn’t #1?: Optimizing paid search and social strategies to ensure your content is being seen.
  5. Local Digital Marketing: Locally targeting media in all channels, and localizing emails and content.
  6. Staffing Scrappy: Hiring math majors, journalists, good communicators, empathizers, and people who pay attention to detail and work quickly.
  7. Future Planning: Experimenting and trying out new trends (such as customer digital assistants and immersive experiences) as they emerge.

While they’re all interesting predictions, a few of them really stood out to us: Corak’s focus on enhancing the customer experience, improving the quality of the content you produce, optimizing paid digital channels, and experimenting with emerging trends and technologies. All of these trends have this in common: if you can figure out how to better allocate your budget based on past results, you’ll see more success and earn more praise down the line.

Unfortunately, as B2B marketers in a data-driven culture, our activities are often questioned, our budgets often slashed, and our teams and technologies often insecure. Unlike other departments whose activities are easily quantified (such as sales, for instance), marketing’s activities are more difficult to track and measure in the context of the entire buyer’s journey. And if we can’t prove the ultimate ROI of the content, channels, and campaigns that we’re investing in, it leaves room at the executive decision table for doubt. Because of this, we have to optimize our efforts to enjoy the highest returns, and the best way to optimize is to measure what we’ve done before to see what has worked best—and then do more of that.

This is how we can apply this to the four trends we singled out above:

How do we enhance our customers’ experiences with our products and brands?

According to Corak, customer experience is the most important thing to think about as a marketer in the digital age. When thinking about how to optimize that experience, he suggests that you first capture your customer marketing data, then look at your analytics to see if you’re meeting their needs (and what you’re meeting their needs with), and, finally, apply what you learn to future efforts so that you can continuously improve upon your tactics.

 

How do we make sure that our content quality is improving, and that our audiences are engaging with the assets we publish?

It shouldn’t be a big surprise that content marketing is a huge priority for a lot of companies in 2017. In a Smart Insights survey, referenced by Corak during his presentation, 20.3% of marketers rated content marketing as their top digital marketing technique for 2017. But in order to break through the noise and develop better instead of just more content, Corak suggests auditing your existing assets and looking at how well they’ve performed. If you continue to measure your content’s performance, you’ll be able to ensure your quality is improving, and then do more of what has brought you the most success.

 

How do we make sure that we’re spending intelligently on digital ads and social campaigns?

Digital marketing efforts are some of the hardest to optimize because they are some of the hardest to measure in terms of revenue. But Corak says that it’s definitely worth the investment, as paid search and social channels are now just as important as SEO. To avoid overspending on channels that aren’t delivering pipeline and revenue for their businesses, marketers need to measure these organic and paid digital channels, and then make the appropriate allocation decisions based on what they see.

 

How do we make sure we see returns on the investments we make in flashy new technologies?

Emerging technologies can offer a chance for excellent ROI, but they can also run the risk of falling flat with prospects. Corak suggests that marketers save a little bit of their budget to try new things, and while we agree with him on this, we also suggest—as with all marketing tactics—that they continue to measure every single activity they invest in so that they can get the most bang for their budget buck.

Optimization and smarter spending are a crucial part of the digital marketing landscape in 2017. By investing in a solid plan to track, measure, and intelligently plan your efforts, you’ll be setting yourself up for a successful year across channels, content, customers, and beyond.

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