Marketing is one of the most fascinating fields of work because it’s all about collectively testing and iterating on new strategies and tactics until we find what works. Eventually, each tactic that works comes to a plateau, so we then iterate, come up with a creative solution and start testing that. This work we do – combined with changes to the digital and media landscape – leads to market trends and opportunities that drive our work.

With 2015 coming to a close, we’re excited about the opportunities we’re seeing for marketers going into 2016. The landscape has continued to shift towards globalization and personalization with everyone focused on finding ways to cut through the noise. As a result, brands and marketers are more focused on customers’ needs, and as a result, have become more creative in developing ways to meet them.

We’re seeing several exciting marketing trends unfold in 2016 – here’s a look at 15 of them!

1) Email will gain momentum as effective channel for cutting through the noise

According to the Direct Marketing Association, email sees the highest ROI for direct marketers at $39 for every dollar spent, which makes sense if you consider the opt-in nature of email.

An Adobe study says millennials check email more than any other age group, and nearly half can’t even use the bathroom without checking it. In fact, 98% of millennials check their personal email at least every few hours at work, and nearly 87% of millennials check their work email outside of work.

However, email is also a valuable tool for building community. One approach is to build an ambassador program around your newsletter like TheSkimm has done, championing its community to spread TheSkimm word, share feedback and brainstorm ideas with the team. In return, community members receive swag, first access to jobs and internships, exclusive access to partner brand opportunities and access to a network of fellow Skimm’rs.

Screenshot 2015-11-23 17.27.42

Another approach is to create a community within your newsletter. A favorite example is Hello Prompt, started by Peep Edlyn Yuen. Every day, readers are given a new prompt to respond to, and their responses are included in the newsletter the following day, creating a collective writing project. 

2) The power of organic search ranking will continue to grow

People in the U.S. alone conduct 12 billion web searches each month, according to Hubspot. And Neil Patel says 70% of searchers click on are organic results. In other words, organic search results matter.  

We’ve personally seen great improvements in organic search referrals to our blog as we’ve placed a higher focus on organic search rankings. Now, if you Google ‘freelance trends’ we’re at number one!

google-freelance-trends

Not only has a focus on optimization helped our blog, by adding more internal pages to cloudpeeps.com about the talent in our community, organic search has been the highest driver of traffic over the last two weeks, shortly after we published the pages!

Change in organic search traffic to cloudpeeps.com from August - November 2015
Change in organic search traffic to cloudpeeps.com from August – November 2015

When developing site and blog content, think long-term. Who is your audience and what are their search habits? What value or solutions are you offering them? Then develop content with keywords that describe those values and solutions on several pages. Make the content shareable and authentic for your chance to increase discoverability.

3) Marketers will realize that mobile is now our first-screen

We’ve been working towards a mobile-first world for years now, but the time has come – we’re officially living in a mobile as a first-screen world. In fact, Google announced that mobile traffic overtook desktop traffic in ten countries. You no longer need both a desktop and mobile optimized site. Today, a site (campaign page, landing page, etc.) made for mobile that will work on desktop is totally acceptable.

Considering that mobile devices making up 60% of digital media time in the U.S., we’ll continue to see more innovation take place well into 2016, especially in video and advertising.

4) Video will dominate social media in a speed-obsessed landscape

With the introduction of tools like Periscope, Meerkat and Blab, plus Facebook’s auto-play feature, video is dominating the social media landscape. AMAs (ask me anythings) have taken a new, interactive shape, allowing audience members to engage with influencers and celebrities directly asking them questions that they then answer on video, like Ryan Holmes of Hootsuite did.

According to SocialBakers, we saw a 42% increase in U.S. digital video spend in 2014. And the Facebook algorithm currently prioritizes videos to make up 30% of the News Feed.

Into 2016, we’ll continue to see an onslaught of new tools allowing publishers to easily create video content that fans and followers find interesting and engaging. Think about it, the story that once took six minutes to read can now be digested in video form in two minutes or less As society becomes increasingly busy and obsessed with speed, innovators find more ways to grab our attention with ways to digest a lot of information quickly.

5) Paid social will continue to skyrocket, reaching $24.2B in ad spend

According to AdWeek, social ad spending is predicted to grow to $24.2 billion by the end of 2016. In terms of social networks, 75% of social ad budget went to Facebook in 2014 and 8% to Twitter. Mobile video advertising grew 192% in 2014 and continues to skyrocket.

Nina Hale says that in 2016, we’ll see social networks continue to try to keep consumers in-app with native sign-up forms in ads, ‘buy now’ buttons and dynamic product ads.

facebook-in-app-forms

Facebook and Google have also allowed advertisers to get extremely targeted with offerings such as ‘lookalike’ audiences that target people with similar interests to your existing mailing list.

6) Personalization will mean more than using a customer’s first name

You’re not fooling anyone, even though their first name is in the subject line, customers know that email from the CEO wasn’t really written by the CEO and that it wasn’t sent only to them. They probably use Intercom too. Today, effective personalization means collecting as much data about your customers’ needs and interests as you can at the first touch point.

This way, you can develop content, products or experiences that speak to their needs. Something much more powerful than just using their first name in an email.  

7) Data scientists will continue to bridge the gap between marketing and product

According to Forrester, 2016 should be less about collecting big data and more about putting it to work – turning insights into actions. We’ll see a new term circulating in the tech world referred to as “systems of insight,” that are equal parts people, process and technology.

Data scientists will work with product and community teams to develop products that truly meet the needs of customers, that marketers will then develop messaging around.

8) Everyone will start thinking globally

We officially live in a global economy where even internal teams are distributed across the world and are working together like well-oiled machines.

It’s not just startups that are thinking globally. According to  the “2015 World’s Most Admired Companies” survey by Fortune, 61%  of WMAC respondents saw globalization as one of the top three megatrends (i.e. the future composition of the workforce) impacting their strategic workforce planning in 2015. And, 86% of WMAC respondents indicated that leaders in their companies are currently effective in managing with a global perspective. In other words, most companies are thinking globally.

As the majority businesses are now operating online, customers can be located anywhere. This means having translated copy, customer support available around the clock and being culturally aware when writing copy and developing products. Not only that, it means implementing campaigns that are either relevant to a global audience, or developing several highly targeted ads. It means being inclusive and creative in your messaging.  

9) The role of the CMO will continue to evolve drastically 

A survey from Oracle and The CMO Club reported that just 13% of CMOs (among 110 surveyed) thought they were able to truly deliver a seamless, personalized consistently customer experience across all touch points. And, 21% of CMOs report that they need help evaluating the right marketing platform to use, and which analytics to use.

Gone is the yesteryear of silos and departments working on different parts of the customer funnel. Now, marketers need to be in tune with the customer every step of the way and be ready to make meaningful 1:1 interactions at any given part of their journey in order to see conversions. As Jay Baer has said, they need a 360-view of the customer.

10) Outreach will be automated and standardized – how will you stand out?

Tools such as Notifier have entered the landscape, allowing you to automate your outreach to influencers mentioned in the content you create. This is great, we love automation! However, when using these tools, be careful to customize your messages to different individuals, or else you’ll be lost in a sea of self-promotional tweets.

11) Facebook groups and Slack will bring focus back to community building

You may not be a fan of your Facebook feed–that’s a lot of noise! However, Facebook groups have taken off as a way to build community with intimate and relevant conversations based on a given topic. Back in 2010, Google indexed 620 million Facebook groups, so we can only imagine how many exist today.

New tools such as Sociograph.io have been developed, allowing brands to measure the engagement within Facebook groups and identify their top contributors. Use this information to build an ambassador community or to create loyal brand advocates. For example, our Peep community gathers in an active Facebook group to share ideas, questions, best practices and ask for advice daily.

This graph is for our page, but you can pull a similar one for public Facebook groups
This graph is for our page, but you can pull a similar one for public Facebook groups

As Slack has become the communication tool for teams, many other communities have adopted it as a platform for engagement. On chichats.co alone, there are 673 searchable Slack communities, some of the most popular being #Startup and #Music

12) Ambassador programs will be more important than ever

By now, you’ve probably heard that it costs 80% less to retain a customer than it does to acquire a new one and increasing customer retention rate by 5% can increase profits by up to 95% over the long-term. And friend recommendations are the number one influencing factor in purchase decisions. Creating a referral mechanism is crucial for brand success. You want your customers sharing the word of your brand with their friends and families.

Community is a powerful way to drive referrals. According to Marketing Science Institute, increased engagement on community sites can result in up to 25% increase in revenue.

One effective way to build community and drive engagement is through an ambassador program. Focus on quality over quantity and get a small group of customers more involved in your brand or product. Ask them for feedback, send them swag, include them in product development. The result will be a group of people who have your brand top of mind when talking to others.

13) Marketing teams will become increasingly remote 

According to Startup Compass, 43% of startup employees work remotely in Silicon Valley and 30% of marketing teams have one contractor for every employee. Teams have become increasingly dispersed and remote, making us reliant on digital communications such as Slack, Skype and in some cases, email.

This means people are more available and accessible digitally than ever. Keep that in mind when developing your communication strategies as a brand. Who is your audience, how do they work, what tools do they use? If you can make their life more streamlined or productive, you’ll grab their attention.

14) Side projects will become the new content marketing (sort of)

Some say that side projects are the new content marketing or blogging. One of the most well-known examples is how side projects (specifically Unsplash) saved talent marketplace, Crew. As the CEO Mikael Cho said, “Things like blogging work but can take months before they have a big impact. Building a great product to generate word-of-mouth is a must but that takes time too.”

Crew certainly aren’t the only ones developing side projects as a form of marketing. Forums Inbound.org and Growth Hackers are both side projects of well-known SaaS companies. We also have our own with a global, monthly coworking event, Freelance Fridays.  

15) Brands will reach audiences by being supportive

Our content lead, Shannon recently ran a Kickstarter campaign for her side project and noticed that whiskey brand Johnnie Walker donated $1,000 with a highly branded message without claiming any reward.

johnnie-walker

She did some research and reached out to make sure it was legit, and it certainly was. To date, the brand has backed 42 projects.  

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It’s a pretty smart marketing move on the brand’s part. Shannon was so impressed and appreciative, she told tons of people about it and even shared on Twitter. By donating to projects they find interesting or promising, they’re supporting the startup ecosystem and making a lasting impact.

What marketing trend are you most excited about going into the next year?

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CloudPeeps Team
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