Firstly Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed as many Christmas films, sausage rolls and naps as December could throw at you. While January 1st is obviously, the first day of the new year I always feel like the real first day is when you return back to work. This year has felt like an odd one as I winded all of my client projects down in the last week of December, ready to pick them up again today, rather than starting anything new. So here’s what this approach has got me thinking – how do we go back into marketing at the start of the new year? All of my instincts say dive right in, pick up that to do list, get going. But there’s another part of me that wants to reflect, strategise and take a day to actually think about the approach for 2017.
With that in mind, here’s a five-minute jot down of some good ‘checkpoints’ you can do on your own or client marketing strategies ready for 2017:
What went well/badly
Is your strategy working? Is this making a difference? Where is 90% of your energy being spent? I never get why people are scared to get into the nitty gritty of marketing activity. To look at what that blogpost or email campaign, or social media activity actually did. If I helped a client with a project and it didn’t go well, sure that’s disappointing but I can bet we’ll find four new ways to adjust, pivot, change and grow as a result. Which is much more effective than doing the same thing over and over, hoping for a fluke or one-off virality.
Look back – even Google Analytics will be able to tell you where your peak and trough months were, as will your sales figures, social media analytics or email campaign manager. Without analysing what works, it will be really, really difficult to move forward. Plus, finding patterns and trends is fun!
Where do you own your community?
Remember when we all spent time building up our Facebook fans? Then Twitter followers? Or even back links to other sites. It’s become increasingly apparent that no other site or channel owes you anything. They can flick a switch (or algorithm) and there goes your traffic/audience/exposure. So for 2017 I’d say look to where you can build your own audience rather than piggybacking another. Your own website is a great bet, write your content there, build a blog, make things that people want to download. Create a side product that people love – genuinely love. For example, if you’re a SaaS app for dog owners, create a dog advice forum site that focuses on quality of posts and modern research. If you’re trying to sell ecommerce software to a niche group of travel fanatics, give them a place to share travel tips or beautiful imagery. You get the picture. Building your own platform might take twice as long as building a community on someone else’s, but in five years time you’ll be solidly glad you did.
Are you touching all areas?
There are two theories here. The bullseye framework: pick one area, get as much traction as possible then once you’ve exhausted it (or lucked out) move to another. Or the touch all areas gently and build them up, brick by brick, into something wholesome and successful. I’ve done both and while bullseye is favourited by many new businesses and those looking to cash in and out quick, I’d still recommend looking to touch on all areas. Focus on content, but do it for SEO, video SEO and to bring users into the funnel. Spend money on social ads but use it to build an email list, send traffic to sign ups or get people to notice your wider purpose. Look outside of what you’ve always done and see if there’s something you’re missing – influencer outreach, guerrilla campaigns, even direct mail could have huge untapped potential. Think not just about a pretty website, but user experience, conversion optimization, creating a voice. When you start with one marketing area, it honestly should and does spiral into another anyway.
What does the landscape look like for the year ahead?
Social media changed massively last year – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all ended the year as largely different channels to how they started. This has to affect your social media strategy because you’re now operating in a completely different space. For example, brands have been questioning for a while just how relevant Facebook is due to a drop in sharing and also organic reach. Then something many realised towards the end of the year was that while not many post on Facebook, that doesn’t mean people aren’t using it to read news, watch videos or message friends. Just because you can’t rate your audience by a like or a favourite doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not there, or reading your content. There’s also the infamous Snapchat copy-catting when Instagram released ‘Stories’ which has already become a hugely popular medium for sharing content that’s neither as ephemeral as Snapchat, nor as permanent as posting to the ‘news feed’ or Instagram grid.
All of these nuances will change what the social media landscape feed looks like for businesses moving forward.
How’s your website looking?
It’s amazing how easily, in the throws of PPC, SEO, blogging, social media, email, events and so on and so forth, we forget to actually look at our website every now and again. I see CRO (conversion rate optimisation) becoming a huge trend for 2017 as many move away from the standard A/B testing to consistently improve user experience and conversion. With nearly every market that relies on website conversions becoming more demanding and more saturated, CRO is what may make all of the difference.
Secondly, as always SEO will mature and grow further this year. The standard format for SEO that I used even just five years ago (title tag, keyword seeding, backlinks) has changed a huge amount. From Google understanding intent and ranking sites based on keywords which may not even be apparent on the page, to a more ‘wholesome’ approach which takes into consideration the structure and relationship of your web pages to each other, rather than each as a separate entity.
This also filters into how we use Google and search engines on the consumer side – my shiny new iMac that I’m working on today has an in-built Siri function that I’m using to check spellings, capitals of countries and owners of companies. Before this, I would have opened the browser and Googled them instead.
If Siri can tell me the information I need to know, what happens to the companies who bid on ads, or all of the great content people build around key search terms when no one is going there to see them? This is backed up by a recent Hubspot study, that found 62% of people prefer to use a search engine to get straight to the answer to their question – rather than browsing. Definitely food for thought on how and why people will use our websites moving forward and again, another important indictor towards the power of building a community, rather than just selling to one.
If you work in marketing how are you approaching going back into it this year? Tell me your thoughts on Twitter @bethgladstone – I’d love to know.