What to Expect in Marketing in 2011 and what you need to know

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If 2010 was up for a marketing superlative, it would definitely be voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” This past year, we saw the launch of the iPad, the expansion of the Facebook “Like” button to other popular websites and the rise of singer-songwriter Justin Bieber, who can thank YouTube for the fact that he can now retire at age 16. But while 2010 focused on finding new, bigger and better vehicles to market products and services, 2011 will focus on tying them all together. Gunning for the “Best-All-Around” title, 2011 will be the year that we see businesses weave online, print, broadcast, mobile, and social media initiatives together into a greater marketing plan to achieve bigger goals. And the leaders of the pack will be those who recognize this need to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Read on to find out more about Covenant’s projections for 2011, and how big-picture thinking could lead to a big ROI.

1. Video

In the next three years, 90 percent of the Internet will be video, according to Cisco Systems. Video has become a powerful way to talk directly to your target audience and build upon or strengthen the relationship they’ve already established with your brand. Video can also be repurposed on multiple platforms, from your company’s website to its Facebook Fan page. Your customers can even share the videos with their friends and family by reposting links or by embedding the video itself onto other Web pages. And the unique thing about video is that it can still be viewed years after it is initially posted.

There are many ways that video can be utilized on the Web to not only promote your brand, but also to establish it as the go-to resource in your industry. If you’re a healthcare facility, add a five-minute tutorial on tips to avoid the flu before cold season (such as washing your hands, just like Mom always said). If you’re a homebuilder, show short clips of a remodeled cabinet you did, with before and after shots. The idea is to think of a topic that will interest your customers, and then hire a professional to do the work. While flip cameras are great for taping your grandma doing the electric slide at your cousin’s wedding, they won’t deliver the same professional look and feel that a production company can. In order to effectively position your products and services in your marketplace, it’s crucial to get the right message, sound and light in place before you start rolling.

2. Digital Marketing

The last time someone in our office used a phone book was to get to the last Sweet’N Low packet on a hard-to-reach shelf. And we would venture to say the same is true for many of our clients (unless they prefer Splenda). More often than not, consumers are looking online to gather information and pricing for the products or services they need. Therefore, companies will need to move their rates, discount packages, services, and offerings where their customers are looking for it: online.

In addition to making it easier for your customers to include you in their budget for the upcoming year, it’s also more important now than ever to include digital media in your own. With new channels and capabilities being developed daily on the Internet, websites are becoming far more complex than the five-page, static HTML pages they once were. They’re incorporating instant messaging, applications, video, podcasting, gaming, blogs, social networking, and dynamically generated content pulled by an RSS feed from other sites. All of these separate initiatives are great to keep your audience coming back for more, but this year, business leaders will need to develop an overall digital marketing plan to play out how each initiative will work together to achieve their company’s greater goals.

3. Social Media

By now, even old-school business executives that were once hesitant about jumping into the social media pool are taking the plunge. It’s no longer a question of whether or not you have social media, but rather how you decide to utilize it, and whether or not those initiatives have resulted in an ROI. Offering free giveaways or coupons to people who “Like” you on Facebook is a great way to build your audience in the beginning stages. But after you get their attention, it’s just as important to keep it there. This will happen by engaging your customer through relevant—and frequent—posts, messages, photos, videos, and other offerings. It’s also important to include a call-to-action in order to drive traffic where you want it to go, such as sharing a link to a new product or service featured on your company website. This year, expect to see more in the realm of Social Listening Research and Influencer Marketing, which allow you to analyze your target audience members to better understand your customers and their needs.

LinkedIn, a professional networking website, will also continue to be a social media platform to watch in 2011, with more than 12 million small-business leaders on its site, according to its blog last year. It’s become a huge resource for finding a job, finding a job candidate or making a connection with a potential business partner.

4. Multi-channel and Integrated Marketing

It’s great to market your company across different mediums, from online, print and broadcast to mobile applications and social media platforms. But if the vehicles you’re using to promote your brand don’t cross promote one another, you’re missing out on a lot of business opportunities you could have had if they did. For example, this can take the form of a billboard with a QR code (barcode readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones), print advertising with a mobile phone SMS call to action, or a link on a company website that redirects to its Facebook page to “Like” them. It should always come full circle. You want to engage your audience to interact with you and your brand, not just hit them once with a well-designed piece that leaves them thinking, “OK great, but now what?”

It simply isn’t enough to just do a newspaper advertisement or buy a radio spot anymore. It must be integrated into multiple platforms and, consequentially, be strongly branded to your company on those platforms. This will change the role of your audience members from recipients to participants.

5. Personalized Marketing

You may have already noticed this on Facebook, but in 2011, expect to see more websites with personalization capabilities. This means that if you frequently visit a website, it will track the keywords you search for and post and store this information in its database to customize what’s displayed on the site the next time you visit. It not only determines what’s displayed based on the keywords you search, but also by the pages you visit within the site and, for first time visitors, even the referring URL that linked you to the site.

With the astronomical growth of Groupon and LivingSocial in the past two years, smart startup companies are starting to use geo-location capabilities to drive foot traffic to their local businesses. This acceleration would largely be driven by discovery via location-based social experience sharing. The explosive growth of Instagram is also an early sign of this experience-sharing trend, and we will witness a whole lot more in the coming year.

6. Print

This just in: print is not dead. Print has reinvented itself more times than Cher and Madonna combined and, like their careers, it thrives by changing its look to stay relevant. In an “all-about-me” marketplace, printers have learned that in order to stay in touch with consumers, they have to get personal. Literally. Data-driven print (also known as 1:1 printing, variable data or personalized printing) is continuously growing in popularity and often involves strategically placing a customer’s name onto an already printed piece.

For example, vacation timeshares may put a customer’s name on the back of a white robe hanging in the closet of a bedroom. A sports clothing brand might put a customer’s name on the back of a football jersey. The options are endless, and it’s a great way to get creative and grab your audience members’ attention by reaching out to them by name.

7. SEO

Ah, the ever-elusive concept of Search Engine Optimization. In recent years, the most common question we get from clients is hands down, “What can we do to become No. 1 in Google’s search results?” This isn’t surprising to us since your customers, like you, are probably using search engines as their primary means to find the information they are looking for. But the answer is much more complex than the reason behind the question. Although there are definitely ways that marketing professionals can help improve your SEO through keywords, tags and content, there is no silver bullet for getting the No. 1 spot. With the introduction of new search engines such as Bing in the U.S., Baidu in China and Yandex in Russia, Google’s not the only player in the search engine game anymore. In addition, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are also becoming popular resources for searching, making it even more difficult to solve the equation to get to the No. 1 spot. In 2011, look for things to get even more complex as search engines advance, mobile phone searches get thrown into the mix and geo-location searches also become a factor in where you fall in search result listings.

Even if there isn’t a foolproof formula to guarantee your ranking, there are certainly ways to improve your SEO. Marketing experts have conducted plenty of research in this realm and can advise you of small things you can do to make a big impact in the long run.

In conclusion, the key to a successful year in marketing will be to engage your audience, be strategic in your initiatives, customize your offerings and keep your overall goal in mind. But if all else fails, post a really funny video of your cat sneezing on YouTube and watch the TV interviews, book deals, magazine covers, and sports drink sponsorships just roll in.

In need of a little guidance in order to continue on the right foot? Contact our team of marketing experts today to develop the perfect approach for your brand in 2011 – and beyond!

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