There have been massive changes in marketing tactics over the last 20 years. In 2000, websites weren’t the first place you looked for information on a business and people were only just beginning to get annoyed about junk mail. In 2010, social media was a fairly new word and billboards had only recently gone digital. Two years ago, third-party cookies ruled the scene and Google had rolled out its most recent algorithm update. Speaking as a marketing expert, I can tell you that things move quickly and even I can’t keep up. So I can also tell you that there is no point in trying to tell you what marketing approaches and strategies are going to be most effective tomorrow or next year or in 2030. But I can give you some insight on how to keep up.
1. Pay attention to what gets your attention
You are on social media and using Google. You visit websites and see billboards. You hear radio ads and watch TV commercials. What works on you? What gets your attention? There are people with far more experience and bigger budgets who are keeping up with marketing trends. Use their work as guideposts and inspiration. If you see one of your favorite brands try a new marketing approach, reflect on if and how you could use the same approach in your own marketing. For example, I recently saw a brand use a new format on its Instagram post. It caught my attention and I immediately researched how to do it myself. It was such a simple idea but executed in a way that stood out and I just copied it. Work smarter, not harder.
As you are living your life, there will be marketing literally all around you. Watch it. Pay attention to how it is evolving and changing. Doing so will ensure you are always up to speed with new techniques, tactics, and tools.
2. Dedicate at least five hours a quarter to marketing education
Five hours might not seem like much. And it isn’t. I say five and not 10 or 15 because you are a busy professional spending time on other continuing education. And if marketing isn’t in your title, five hours is plenty. How you spend that time is up to you but I have a few suggestions:
- Google “current marketing trends” and read some of the articles or white papers that show up on the first page of the results
- Take a LinkedIn marketing course
- Visit HubSpot’s marketing blog
- Take a Masterclass in marketing
- Check out a thought leader’s LinkedIn profile; try Gary Vee or Seth Godin
- Attend a marketing-focused webinar
3. Embrace new social media platforms
I know you don’t want me to say that TikTok is going to be useful in your marketing repertoire but I am going to say it. You don’t have to make TikToks but I suggest you know what the platform is and why it is effective. The same goes for any new social media platform that pops up. Think about how every social media platform has evolved: it starts as a way to connect with people in your life and slowly morphs into another avenue for businesses to reach customers. LinkedIn started as a way for professionals to connect to other like-minded people and now companies are using it to build brand awareness and trust. Facebook started as a way to connect Harvard, and then all university students and has evolved into Meta where everyone from your great-grandma to your local bakery to Walmart goes to share what they are up to and what is on their mind. The point is, every social media platform will eventually be used as a marketing tactic and you need to be ready when that switch happens.
4. Do regular audits
Every quarter, check your website. Does everything work as it should? Are there any broken links? When was the last time you posted a blog? Does your social media profile reflect correct information? What does your LinkedIn profile look like? It is easy to let these things slip, especially if you don’t have a marketing team to take care of it for you. But setting aside dedicated time on a regular basis to audit your online presence is vital. It is quite embarrassing to have a client go to the wrong address because the website has an old office listed or to have a prospect not be able to reach you because you haven’t updated your business profile on Google. Don’t lose out on leads because you weren’t paying attention. (Seriously, put a recurring time block on your calendar now to remind yourself to do this.)
5. Outsource what you can’t do yourself
There is no shame in admitting that something is out of your realm of experience. We outsource our Google Ads because I spent about 40 hours trying to learn how to do it myself and realized it was just over my head. Now, we have a company that runs our entire Google Ads account and I just have to meet with them once a month to review numbers and make tweaks. You don’t have to do it all yourself. If there is a marketing strategy you are struggling to implement, there are thousands (maybe millions) of marketing agencies, boutique firms, and freelancers who will do it for you. Here are some resources:
- Find a freelancer on UpWork for your website maintenance
- Hire a virtual or personal assistant to run your social media
- Work with an agency for all your marketing needs
- Build a marketing team (you only need one person to start!)
- Use a contractor to create a strategy and then implement it yourself
Bonus! Three ways marketing will evolve in the next five to 10 years
1. Transparency will rule. Gone are the days of shady marketing and unfulfilled promises. People are smart. And the buyers will continue to get smarter about how marketing affects them and what they want to be exposed to. The next generation of consumers was raised on Facebook ads, pop-ups, emotional superbowl commercials, and constant scrolling. They will breeze past manipulative or fake ads. They will report fraudulent posts. They will make posts to warn their friends about business with shady practices. The ONLY way to stay relevant, topical, and worthy will be through transparency. Transparency in product and service descriptions, in company culture, and sales techniques. There is no use in trying to be sneaky because you will get caught.
2. Consumer comparison will increase. It seems like every day there is a new way to tell people your opinions. Yelp, Glassdoor, Google reviews, oh my! And this will continue. Not only will consumers have more and more access to personal experiences with businesses, more and more third-party organizations and publications will be doing market research, product reviews, service analysis, and more. If there isn’t already a website dedicated to comparing a specific product, service, or company, there will be in the next decade. This market will continue to grow, supplying consumers with more and more information to consider before making a purchase.
3. Buyers will continue to care more about your WHY than your WHAT. The market is saturated. Which market, you ask? All of them. I cannot think of one brand, product, company, or service that doesn’t have competition. And when presented with apples-to-apples options, people will go with the one that has a better story, the one that touches their heart and speaks to their values. So tell your story with emotion. Share how your company was founded by five loving, dedicated people who came together under a common goal to create abundance on this planet (or whatever your company’s story is). Tell people how a percent of every purchase goes to an animal rescue. Let the world know how your values drive your business decisions.
As you approach 2022 and beyond, the way people share information, make purchases, and advertise their businesses is going to evolve. It doesn’t take much to keep up, though. Pay attention to the world around you, create dedicated time to learn, and find help when you need it. And don’t get discouraged with the next change, I promise you will eventually get used to it.