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xerox smby Leah Quesada, Xerox

Leveraging marketing trends for growth is arguably more complicated than ever before, thanks to the explosion of technologies and tools for publishing, measuring, and pushing brand messaging online. And the impact of this technology is clear – a recent Gartner report indicates that by 2019, 20 percent of brands will have abandoned their mobile apps. By 2020, ad blocking will increase advertising effectiveness by 50 percent as consumers use these tools to communicate preferences and 100 million consumers will shop in augmented reality.

These transitions are affecting organizations and channel partners of all sizes, so it’s critical to understand the trends and adjust campaigns and tactics accordingly. Here’s a look at major marketing trends that channel partners can take advantage of to drive growth in today’s dynamic marketing landscape.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Trends

It’s widely accepted that content is the king of online marketing because of its ability to drive SEO and educate unknown buyers in a self-serve fashion. SEO will continue to drive marketing tactics in the years ahead, but will be impacted by the following:

Podcasting: With the millions of blog posts published daily (one look at the Worldmeter live blog tracker proves this point), there’s a content glut consuming readers, and savvy marketers are turning to other tactics to drive SEO and demand through content. 

As an alternative to blogs, channel partners can use podcasts to reach prospects who can conveniently listen while they are commuting, making dinner, or working out. In the United States alone, 112 million people have consumed a podcast and 42 million are consuming them weekly. In addition, the adoption rate of podcasting as a viable marketing tactic is growing steadily at about 10–20 percent each year. However, the most compelling statistic is that 85 percent of people who start listening to a podcast hear the entire show, which means, done right, you have their attention for a solid 15–20 minutes on a regular basis.

Mobile first: In late 2016, mobile outranked desktops as the most used device for accessing the internet. The change impacts search results and Google is currently in beta for the switch to mobile first indexing. The rollover is predicted to occur this year and when it does, mobile versions of websites will be indexed first, thereby pushing mobile responsive websites with quick page load times ahead in search rankings.

Voice search: As more buyers speak into their devices and voice-activated personal assistants make our homes smart, voice search continues to evolve into a prominent factor in SEO. These searches are typically phrased as who, what, where, when and why questions rather than a few typed keywords strung together.

Machine learning: RankBrain is Google’s machine-learning artificial intelligence algorithm. Or more simply, it’s Google’s ability to use your search patterns and behaviors to learn which results suit you best. By using your behavior, RankBrain ensures high quality, well-researched relevant topics rank above all else. Keep publishing top-notch content!

Video: With over 87 percent of marketers using video, it’s a powerful tactic that, alongside mobility first, local marketing, and social media, is making a significant impact on buyers. Aside from being one of the simplest methods for consuming information, video helps with SEO by keeping prospects on website pages longer which factors in search rankings.

For channel partners, creating a branded YouTube channel is a simple way to communicate about product updates, showcase customers, answer questions, and deliver printer and copier tips.

Social Media Marketing Trends

Every modern marketer knows the importance of social media and its ability to expand reach, connect and engage with the target audience, and grow business. As more and more channel partners expand their presence on social media, the competition continues to increase, and people’s attention spans decrease. Here’s what marketers should be mindful of in the social media space in the years ahead:

Social algorithm changes: To make money, social media platforms need engaged users who interact with their advertising. Social algorithms now reward engaged users by serving specific brands’ content to those users more often. The more you engage, the more people see your posts. Gone are the days of set-it-and-forget-it. If you want your messages to resonate on social media, it’s mandatory to develop an engagement strategy first.

Paid social: As most of us know, if you want to actually show up on somebody’s feed, you’ve got to pay, as Facebook algorithms favor paid posts. Channel partners have a big opportunity with paid Facebook advertising because the platform knows how to segment by title, company and role. 

Social selling: Social media profiles are the starting place for social selling. When was the last time you updated them? Do images match your brand and level of professionalism? Is your information easy to find? Take a critical look. Make necessary changes. From there it’s a matter of building an audience, cultivating online relationships, and participating in groups and conversations to establish your position as a trusted expert for your industry by commenting on and posting interesting content.

Turn connections into customers: Once you’ve polished your profiles and made the right relationships, the ability to turn a social media connection into a real-life customer opens up. Try using the following tactics to foster a relationship:

  • Create dialogue through questions
  • Invite prospects to meet at events
  • Hold your own event

Local Marketing Trends

Every online marketing tactic is driven by user demands. For local search, the focus is on users who begin shopping online and finish at a brick and mortar location. For example, searching “where to purchase a printer locally,” researching options online, and driving to your location to complete the transaction. Geo targeting and hyperlocal marketing have the promise to greatly impact local marketing in 2018. 

Geo targeting: This tactic utilizes the IP address of website visitors to determine their location which allows marketers to better target buyers by geography. Then, based on that location, different types of ads or content can be served up.

Hyperlocal marketing: Being found in “near me” searches, begins with updating Google and Bing local listings. If you have lost control of your local listings, this article will help you get it back.

Print Marketing Trends

For several years now, we’ve heard the mantra “print is dead.” But, it’s neither dead nor has it been dying – for a few reasons. One, there are still too many industries such as education, healthcare, legal and real estate that are heavily reliant on paper. And secondly, there is a palpable resurgence of print-centric, traditional marketing that has been slowly gaining popularity and proving what we already know – print is alive and well. 

Retail and wholesale print catalogs: In 2007, snail mail catalog delivery, a driving force for retail and wholesale marketing, peaked at 19.6 billion. A decade later, the volume of sent catalogs dwindled to roughly half with a mere 9.6 billion delivered in 2016. Some see this downward trend as the death of print, but savvy marketers see it as a revived and less cluttered marketing channel that suddenly stands out. 

Direct mail pieces: In a similar fashion, direct mail took a nosedive in 2009 and then resurfaced as a competitive marketing channel with a significant 3.1 percent rise in adoption between 2013 and 2016. The comeback of direct mail is heavily attributed to the tangibility aspect of holding an item versus simply seeing it on screen, coupled with its superior conversion rates and easy to track ROI. The average consumer receives more than 100 emails in their inbox each week, yet only 16 pieces of physical mail arrive in their mailbox weekly. Direct mail is highly effective, with a 3.7 percent response rate, compared with 0.2 percent for email and 0.1 percent for paid search. Combined, direct mail outperforms all digital channels by 600 percent.

Print advertising: The power of print advertising remains extremely strong as a trust-building traditional marketing tactic because print is the most trusted ad source when making a purchasing decision. A digital ad is here for a moment and gone with a click. Print ads, by virtue of what they want to accomplish, have always been one of the best uses of art and design — so much so that many print ads are elevated to collector status as they age.

The ever-expanding and ever-changing use of technology will allow channel partners to better reach their customers in the years ahead, when used effectively. Staying mindful of developing trends in SEO, social media, local and print marketing will only better prepare partners to stand out in a competitive marketplace. 

Leah Quesada
Xerox

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of The Imaging Channel.