In September, I had the unique pleasure of attending the annual IMPACT14 conference hosted by the Internet Marketing Association. This conference is their premier leadership event, focused on sharing issues, insights and improvements regarding how marketers can better approach internet marketing. The IMA was established 15 years ago due to a lack of preexisting groups in the digital marketing space. Membership is free and the group now boasts 1,000,000+ members worldwide (myself included) representing 111 countries—their website is translated into 5 different languages!
Nearly 1,000 attendees descended upon two ballrooms within the Aria Convention Center in Las Vegas—where else would you host the biggest conference of the year?
Pour yourself another hearty cup of joe because this year’s presenters tapped into the top trends shaping the way Marketers work today:
We’re in the Era of Engagement…and the Action’s happening on Mobile
As new technologies and advertising platforms emerge in the marketplace, there’s always a tipping point at which old strategy begs for a facelift. Presently, Joe DeMike, Principle Marketing Consultant, Advertising & Commerce, Google Global Business explained we’re approaching that “inversion point”, which will be the point at which your brand’s mobile traffic will exceed its desktop traffic. DeMike remarked on how Google witnessed this trend begin to develop nearly two years ago with its Google maps component. The lesson? Marketers and companies alike need to be ready with a mobile strategy.
But how should marketers approach mobile strategy creation?
Consumers increasingly rely on the mobile web for research and discovery. Responding to this growing trend, DeMike provided a thorough list of optimizations and principles for mobile site design, useful in delighting users and driving conversions. Consider that consumers will give your brand even less time on a mobile device than they will if they were using a desktop. DeMike advised marketers to let visitors explore their brand and offer content before asking users for something, be it for information, a conversion, or so on; the same goes for allowing customers to make a purchase as a guest. His best tip was in relation to cross platform conversions, whereby marketers should offer their customers a way to resume their journeys if they, for example, happen to be interrupted on a mobile device but wish to continue their searches later on a different device. Emailing the consumer a link to bring them back to the same place or a save-to-cart functionality is ideal. Bonus points for also acquiring the customer’s email!
Mobile devices have given rise to the “second screen” phenomenon, where consumers are multitasking by using any variety of devices at home and/or on the go. Sanay Dholakia, CMO, Marketo highlighted these “new rules” of marketing as the following:
- Rule #0 (because it’s sexier to have only 5 goals) Be found. Create content that’s informative and useful.
- Rule #1: Think Behavioral. Shift from demographic to behavioral communication, where “what I do is more important than what I am.”
- Rule #2: Communicate 1:1. Shift from mass advertising to 1:1 communication based on knowledge of user preferences.
- Rule #3: Listen first. Then talk. Shift from “point in time email blasts” to continuous relationships.
- Rule #4: Integrate your brand channels. Once there were few channels. Now, there are integrated channels. Use them.
- Rule #5: Automate. Switch from intuitive decision making to data-driven automation.
In this era of engagement marketing, marketer’s are essentially taking intangible data points about customers, piecing together pictures of individualized persons, and fostering real-time, personalized relationships. However, always remember that humans know best how to connect with other humans. While the data we acquire will show how consumers act online and their tendencies over time, marketers still have to apply that human element on top of this information by developing strategies for how best to reach their customers at each Consumer Decision Journey touch point as well as how best to move with consumers quickly across various channels.
Another key element of the mobile discussion was apps. Brent Hieggelke, CMO, UrbanAirship theorized about apps, saying they’re now the epicenter of brand strategy. Everything is pointing to the app–even social. He used his own brand as an example, citing that UrbanAirship drives push notifications on mobile towards apps as, “apps can eliminate fragmentation”. Furthermore, mobile’s domination comes at a time when we’re on the verge of having smart watches enter the marketplace. If people check their mobile phones roughly 200 times a day, imagine how that number will increase by way of having your phone as a watch on your wrist. As marketers, we need to switch our mindset into ownership of this important channel. Apps are definitely an avenue worth exploring and if done right, the consumer will keep your app on their phone and you’ll be able to tap into data that will allow you to customize like never before.
For a taste of what the future holds, Kreg Peeler, CEO of SpinGo referenced a clip from “Minority Report” (2002) noting that the challenge to marketers will be in finding ways to make future devices contextually aware and precise enough in order to supply the best user experience possible.
Authentic Storytelling Will Give Rise to Meaningful Sharing
Stories have the power to influence opinions and sway decisions. As Val-Pierre Genton, VP & GM, Audience Business, BrightTALK advised, the trick is with incorporating storytelling authentically into your marketing strategy is to non-evasively insert your brand, into those high value story opportunities. Consumers want brands to help them continue their self-education and self-guided development. Satiate these desires by offering easily accessible regularly developed thought leadership material without pushing for the sale.
Keith Laska, CEO at EUXmedia, echoed this challenge as it relates to viral videos. The reality is there’s no real planning when it comes to viral videos, they just happen. However, he did point out that “by steadily pushing your brand story across all media and channels,” marketers have a better shot at amplifying the message of their videos and reaching those viral heights.
At the intersection of the physical and digital words lives the experiential space. To this point, Alex Sapiz, Head of Sales and Partner Engagements and Recognition at Cisco Systems talked about the challenge of bringing together nearly 20,000 employees for Cisco’s annual sales and employee training. In addition to offsetting connectedness within the Cisco family, the physical training sessions enabled attendees to actually touch and feel the equipment. Alongside Cisco in this endeavor was long-time experiential event partner Tim Dempsey, VP, Strategy + Planning for George P. Johnson Experience Marketing, who synchronized app and WiFi technology to see where people were on a consistent basis throughout the conference. Using this information, the event team facilitated certain sessions when they were full and activated repeat sessions as needed. This technology also aided in the flow of logistically moving a large number of people through the event area and training sessions. Overall, Cisco found a lot of value in physically bringing their employees together, rather than simply hosting online sessions. Sapiz remarked by combining digital and in-person training, the conference elicited a higher confidence for selling as well as connectedness within the entire Cisco community.
Similarly, empowering your community is a great approach to telling stories that resonate. David May, Director of Web and Interactive Marketing at Chapman University is doing just that with an ‘audience generated’ approach to the university content. David remarked how Chapman has developed their own algorithm based on a three-tiered system, whereby the university encourages their existing user base of faculty and alumni to contribute content for the university blog. The algorithm acts as a weighting system percolating the most engaging content (ie. shares and page views) up to the next level. This system enables the team to identify the stories that are most relevant to their community, and ultimately better curate the featured content on their .edu home page. Interestingly enough, the team has seen faculty members use the platform the most for sharing research and publishing insights.
Finally, Christoph Trappe, Chief Storyteller, The Authentic Storytelling Project invited us to re-imagine marketing with the task of telling authentic stories. Trappe remarked, “search algorithms change but valuable content continues to be valuable. Consumers will always need compelling and informational content” the likes of which solve their problems and answer their questions.
What Can Marketers Do To Prepare for 2015?
It’s actually fairly simple: get focused on creating the best user experience across multiple devices. Start by making sure the hub of your brand’s informational sourcing is designed responsively and serving up appropriate content based on the device in use. Keeping up with your consumers in a digital, real-time world means acknowledging that consumers are deciding when they want to talk with marketers and on what device. As Kevin Akeroyd, General Manager and SVP at Oracle Marketing Cloud said, “consumers are now the ones driving the conversation.” The real key is going to be engaging with consumers in a dialogue across all devices and channels such as paid, earned and owned. Marketers have the unique ability to facilitate this dialogue as they are the conduit between aligning the consumer’s own journey with the business goals of the internal organization. Accordingly, Frank Holland, CVP of Advertising & Online at Microsoft gave all marketers at the IMA conference a new title; “Chief Make It Awesome Officer.” Marketers now have unprecedented tools to know what’s relevant to our consumers based on device and preference. But let’s be invitational! Let’s engage in an aggregate way and ask customers to be part of the journey (as they move with our brand across multiple screens) and not just a stopping point along the way.
There are obstacles internally, it’s true. Lisa Arthur, CMO at Teradata echoed this sentiment when she said marketers need to dig in and “untangle the data hairball.” Data needs to deliver marketing relevancy and optimization insights to the customer experience. Arthur poignantly stated, “our consumers are not going to accept that we [marketers] won’t get out of our own way to give them the best experience. Marketers need to be the ones tearing down the silos because it can’t be done alone. We need to be the ones to foster better collaboration with sales, IT, and the C suite.”
The task of taking on the brand vision and aligning it with the Consumer Decision Journey is going to force us to ask questions like “do we have the data necessary to do our jobs?” As marketers, we can start small by making metrics our mantra, advised Arthur. Marketers should champion the cultural shift inside their organizations because ultimately, “process is the new black,” meaning marketers need to automate whatever can be automated in order to gain nimbleness.
In closing, the rules of marketing have changed, yet again. We’re in an era of engagement which demands that we develop frictionless marketing strategies that coordinate across different devices and channels, in order to better track consumers and their journeys of discovery and interaction with our brand. Responsive Web Design is highly encouraged, so that any site can appropriately serve up device-specific content accordingly (insider tip: Google is pushing on the telecom providers to provide faster speeds so brands that implement RWD can actually deliver the best experience). In the wake of all these technological advancements and data abundance, remember to establish moments where the physical and digital worlds meet in the experiential arena. On the whole, marketers should tap into authentic storytelling from within their organization to create content that results in meaningful sharing.
For more information – including videos of presentations and the like – on the conference, please visit: www.imanetwork.org