Every marketer knows how important it is to quickly capitalize on current trends before they become commonplace (or even old hat) overnight.
When the name of the game is generating a buzz, getting your brand’s name “out there,” and showcasing your company as a progressive organization within your industry, of course you’ll do whatever it takes to “wow” your customers.
On the customer’s end, their wants and needs are constantly evolving – so they expect you to continue providing for them in new and exciting ways. Otherwise, they’ll find a company that does.
This isn’t to say you should hop onto the latest marketing technique bandwagon just for the sake of staying current. Your customers will see right through this phoniness, which could cause them to lose trust in your organization.
And it certainly doesn’t mean you should go overboard implementing these trending techniques, either. No matter how new and exciting your customers find a specific trend, doing too much with it will quickly make your audience wish they never even asked for it in the first place.
When adopting trending marketing techniques into your overall service and retention strategy, you shouldn’t completely abandon everything you know about marketing to your customers.
In other words, while you should definitely make the following techniques a part of your marketing strategy, they’re by no means meant to replace the overarching practices proven to be effective over much longer periods of time.
While recent years brought marketers a bunch of new and innovative ways to reach out to and connect with their customers, there have certainly been some bumps along the way.
We’ll discuss trending marketing techniques that, in terms of customer acquisition and retention, can be incredibly effective when done right – or rather damaging when done incorrectly.
Let’s dive in.
#1 Marketing Automation
Marketing automation is the process of automating the simpler customer-facing processes such as email communications, social media, and content delivery.
The goal of marketing automation is to allow technology to take care of the more menial tasks that don’t necessarily require human-to-human interaction, so that the people working on a marketing team are free to tackle the more pressing issues they face on a daily basis.
Not only that, but if the delivered content is a scheduled newsletter or similar piece of content, customers can know for sure it will be delivered at a specific time.
Marketing Automation: The Good
Obviously, marketing automation has done wonders in terms of customer acquisition and retention in recent years (otherwise it wouldn’t be such a hot topic!).
A 2015 study by VB Insight showed that 80% of businesses that began implementing marketing automation into their overall marketing strategy reported increased leads. Additionally, 77% of these companies reported a higher conversion rate after operating the software.
Pardot found that smaller companies utilizing marketing automation generate 50% of their revenue from existing customers.
Because these companies have automated the “basics” of communication and content delivery, they’re able to spend more of their time and energy reaching out and communicating with their customers in a more authentic manner.
In turn, these organizations are much more equipped to address each of their customer’s individual needs – making the customer more likely to return in the future.
(Side note: We’ll get more into this in a bit when we discuss personalized marketing.)
Marketing Automation: The Bad
However, relying too much on marketing automation can essentially defeat the entire purpose of using it in the first place.
In an article for Entrepreneur, AJ Agrawal shares five common mistakes many marketing teams make when implementing a marketing automation strategy. The two overarching themes woven throughout the article are:
- Don’t use automation to replace human-to-human interaction
- Don’t use automation to be lazy
Again, the whole point of using marketing automation is to automate the simple communication tasks your team faces. It’s by no means meant as an end-to-end solution for customer outreach and engagement.
Another aspect to consider is the frequency with which your automated system sends out such content.
Case in point, a 2013 survey by BlueHornet found that, customers who had unsubscribed from a company’s email list did so because they were receiving too much content. Along with this, data collected by Econsultancy found a negative correlation between frequency of automated content delivery and receiver engagement:
Marketing Automation: The Ugly
Another major area of concern with marketing automation is ensuring you’re delivering the right content to the right customers.
Fail to do this, and you run the risk of (at best) annoying your customers, or (at worst) alienating and insulting them.
Which is exactly what happened to Shutterfly a few years ago.
Long story short: the image-publishing service accidentally sent out a congratulatory email meant for new mothers…to everyone in its customer database.
While some customers likely laughed off the gaffe, others – such as those who had had trouble conceiving or had lost a child – were, with good reason, offended and insulted by the mistake.
Suffice to say: the likelihood of something like that happening would have been much smaller had Shutterfly’s marketing team not implemented a “set it and forget it” outlook to their marketing automation strategy. In the end, you can be sure more than a few customers unsubscribed from the company’s mailing list.
#2 Personalized Marketing
The last section alluded to this point, but it definitely deserves a deeper dive.
Put simply: Customers crave personalization.
When an organization offers personalized outreach and support, it impacts its customers’ perception of the company, influences their purchasing decisions, and forges an authentic connection between the two parties.
All of this, of course, is incredibly beneficial to the company that provides such personalized content and offerings.
That is, if it’s done correctly.
While personalized marketing can lead to great things for both consumers and service providers, this is only true if the strategy is implemented…well…strategically.
Personalized Marketing: The Good
It’s easy to understand why personalized content can be so effective.
Given the choice between reading an email that seems like it was written specifically for you and one that was obviously written for an audience of thousands, which would you choose?
But let’s move away from hypotheticals, and dig into the facts.
According to data collected by HubSpot, in 2014 personalized emails saw an open rate of 17.6%, while generic emails were only opened 11.4% of the time. For companies with an email list of 10,000 individuals, roughly 620 more people took the time to open a personalized message compared to the generic message. Looking at it another way, 620 prospective customers wouldn’t have seen the message within said email – even if it would have been relevant to their needs.
Speaking of prospective customers, marketers across various industries have reported that offering a personalized web experience to their audience has resulted in an average increase in sales of 20%.
Clearly, personalized marketing can help companies gain visibility, increase engagement, and drive sales. But problems arise when companies get too personal…
Personalized Marketing: The Bad
In general, consumers love when companies use personalization in their marketing campaigns – as long as the information the companies are using has been voluntarily provided by the consumer.
When companies somehow know too much about the consumer, they often come off as creepy – leading to a decrease in trust on the customer’s end.
According to Ipsos, 68% of US smartphone owners are concerned or otherwise turned off by advertisers that track their online activity. Similarly, 84% of consumers find targeted ads to be way too intrusive. Obviously, neither of these stats are conducive to generating trust and engagement among a company’s consumer base.
In a world in which most of our information is basically there for the taking, many of us cling to the few shreds of our personality and history that we haven’t posted on social media or submitted through a web form at some point in our lives. So, when it becomes clear that a company has somehow dug up these bits of data without our consent, it can definitely be a bit unnerving.
A good rule of thumb, then, is:
When implementing personalization into your marketing initiatives, use only data which an individual has provided you. Even if you are pretty darn sure the offer you’re providing is relevant, you’ll just come off as creepy if you “discovered” the information from a third party.
To quickly illustrate the point, imagine you receive tickets to your favorite band’s show. If you got them from a friend who knows you love the band because you told them you love the band, you’d probably be pretty excited. If, on the other hand, you got them from a “secret admirer” who found out you love the band by digging back two years in your Instagram profile…well, that’s a whole different story – you probably wouldn’t even go to the concert, would you?
Personalized Marketing: The Ugly
Okay, so that hypothetical situation was pretty ugly as it is.
But a much creepier occurrence happened a few years ago, when it came out that Target had used predictive analytics strategies in conjunction with consumers’ browsing habits, to pinpoint women within its audience base who were likely pregnant or anticipating becoming pregnant.
Obviously, this kind of detective work is rather stalkerish – and it most likely wouldn’t go over well with a vast majority of consumers in the long term.
Oh, and personalization can be creepy even if automation and “detective work” isn’t involved:
Yea…not cool. So remember, using data provided by customers can create meaningful relationships between customers and brands, but show consumers you know too much information about them, and the trust and respect will evaporate.
# 3 Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is the use of successful, well-known individuals within a certain industry to help spread the word about the amazing service your company provides.
And it makes sense: if a respected industry giant says your product is great, who’s going to argue with them?
Not only can influencer marketing campaigns increase your target audience’s trust in your brand, but it can also give you major exposure, as those who closely follow your influencer will be likely to check out what you’re offering.
There are many different ways you can implement an influencer campaign, and most involve collaborating with your influencer to create content or creating content your influencer deems worth sharing.
(A quick side note: influencer marketing is not synonymous with endorsement marketing. Without getting too far off track, you might consider endorsements to be a type of influencer marketing as long as they’re authentic.)
Influencer Marketing: The Good
A well put-together influencer marketing campaign can be incredibly good for business.
As proof, a recent study by Pardot found that 94% of marketers from a variety of industries reported influencer marketing to be an effective marketing strategy. Additionally, organizations that use influencer marketing were able to recoup an average of $6.50 for every $1 spent throughout their influencer campaign.
So, why is influencer marketing so effective?
Aside from what we mentioned earlier, influencer marketing is exactly the kind of marketing that catches the eye of the modern consumer.
According to McKinsey, “consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.” And that just goes for the run-of-the-mill recommendation from a consumer’s peers. When that recommendation comes from a trusted leader within your company’s industry, you can be sure the positive effects will be magnified.
And, as alluded to earlier, influencer campaigns aren’t the same as ads or commercials featuring a famous face. While these campaigns aren’t necessarily dead, they aren’t nearly as effective as they were decades ago. Influencer campaigns, in the modern sense, are much more authentic and meaningful.
Done well, influencer marketing campaigns can spur a growth in your lead, prospect, and customer numbers – and lead to a long-lasting relationship with an industry giant, to boot.
Influencer Marketing: The Bad
We’ve honed in on the importance of authenticity when it comes to influencer marketing campaigns for good reason.
Because authenticity is one of the top qualities that attract consumers to a brand, a lack thereof in your influencer campaign can be deadly. Most of the time (regarding failed influencer campaigns), this inauthenticity comes across in a disconnect between the influencer’s voice and that of the brand.
(This isn’t to say that the influencer should change their own voice to fit the brand, though. We simply mean the influencer and the brand should “speak the same language,” in terms of their industry and audience.)
The brand itself can come off as inauthentic if it chooses the wrong influencer. Not only can this lead to a discrepancy between a company’s voice and message, but it can also lead to exposure to an audience that, quite simply, isn’t interested in the service being offered.
Think about it: If your company sells office supplies, what good would it do if Justin Beiber shared your content on his Twitter feed? He may have millions of followers, but the vast majority of them simply wouldn’t care.
Influencer Marketing: The Ugly
There’s probably no better example of an influencer marketing campaign gone wrong than this recent Pepsi commercial:
If you’ve seen it, you know how inauthentic, irrelevant, and plain disrespectful it was
If you haven’t seen it…well, take our word for it – don’t waste your time.
There’s a strong likelihood that, after it was released, Coca Cola saw a pretty large uptick in sales.
To be clear: Your influencer marketing campaign needs to be authentic and relevant; otherwise, you might as well save your energy.
As a marketer, you always want to stay on top of the latest trends, ensuring you’re one of the first to deliver content and service to your customers in a unique, innovative way.
But, if you approach trends haphazardly, you could end up creating a marketing campaign that falls flat. Additionally, you might also lose a bunch of formerly-satisfied customers in the process.
So, before you dive into the “next big thing,” take a step back. Work to integrate the new trends into your current strategies – rather than eliminating proven tactics in favor of a technique that may or may not be effective.