If you’re like us, dear marketer, you’ve probably been in planning mode since October, already living mentally in 2016. Now the rest of the world has finally caught up with you.
Yes, it’s true. The year 2016 has arrived and with it a new crop of challenges and opportunities for marketers. But while hindsight is always 20/20—we can all name something in 2015 we should’ve seen coming a mile away—our future isn’t so clear.
So what challenges and opportunities can marketers look forward to this year? Luckily, we have access to thought leaders who tend to be pretty great at calling trends before they happen. We sat down with Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute, social marketing strategist Ted Rubin, and Workfront CMO Joe Staples to get a glimpse at the trends and possibilities coming down the pipe. Here are the biggest trends they saw coming for marketers in 2016:
1. MARKETERS WILL HAVE TO GET MORE FAMILIAR WITH CUSTOMERS
Ted Rubin is quick to point out that, even with all the new tech coming marketers’ way, customers were beginning to demand that companies approach them as people, not just as leads or social media followers. Customers want to known, says Rubin, especially if companies can deliver products and services that are truly valuable to them.
“I don’t mind if you take all my information. I don’t mind if you track where I’m going, as long as you add value to my life. As long as you’re not just trying to sell me more stuff—if you’re trying to make it better, make my trip faster, make my family happier, make my business run smoother. I think commerce is coming full circle. People want to be known again.”
2. LESS CONTENT, BIGGER IMPACT
The most prevalent trend that Robert Rose sees on the horizon is a shift toward decreasing the output from marketing teams while increasing the impact.
“What we’re seeing is a real trend of simplification,” Rose says, “de-siloing the marketing organization as much as possible and really looking to de-silo content, reduce the amount of content being produced, increase its impact, and really look at the channels and the strategies that are making the biggest movement in the business.”
But there’s a catch, says Rose. To succeed at this approach, he sees marketing organizations having to make a dramatic pivot from business as usual.
”We’ve become so focused on becoming an on demand vending machine of content for sales enablement, for filling social channels and email newsletters and blogs—all of these things which have sort of organically grown up over the last seven years. We’ve really forgotten how to create high impact content. And so that’s a new muscle for most marketing organizations these days.”
3. COLLABORATION TOOLS WILL BE KING
A big part of making this shift toward simplification and breaking down silos in marketing will be putting tools in place to facilitate increased collaboration.
“The tools that are gonna be really important in 2016 are gonna be based entirely around collaboration,” predicts Rose. “Most of the tool sets that we have these days—whether they’re web content management, calendaring, workflow, analytics, or social media suites—they’re built around this idea of managing a single channel through a governance-based workflow. That has to change.”
Rose already sees some of the most marketing technology tools making this transition, but he predicts that, in order to fit the changes that will happen in marketing teams, all martech solutions will need to change to facilitate collaboration:
“Those tools, by nature, will have to start to work in collaboration with the teams. The ones that get that right—not only the marketing departments that deploy those tools, but the vendors that get that right—will be the winners in the long run. Because collaboration is gonna be the key here.”
4. MARKETING TEAMS WILL BE FORCED TO MOVE FASTER
Think 2015 was a dogfight? We ain’t seen nothing yet, according to Joe Staples. To survive in a crowded and competitive market, marketers will need to move and react to conditions faster than ever before.
“I believe the market is moving fast, competition is moving certainly faster,” Staples says. “And so as marketers, we need to look at how we increase the velocity of what we produce. Just how do we get to that point where we’re creating more, better, faster?”
Staples also points out that tools are directly connected to that mandate. “How can I create more work, better work in a shorter amount of time? If I can find tools that allow me to do that, I’m gonna be a better marketer.”
5. VIDEO WILL GO SOCIAL
Although video rose to the top of most marketers’ priorities in 2015, and will continue to do so in 2016, Rubin singled one particular subset of streaming video that marketers would do well to participate in.
“What I see being huge in 2016 is live streaming, apps like Periscope, Meerkat, Blab,” Rubin says, followed by a strong invitation: “You need to try these platforms. You need to jump in. You need to see how you can build relationships, communicate with the audience, create learning for your organization by using them.”
Rubin sees these tools as being more than just a another video fad, but rather as online video crossing a crucial threshold:
“You want to know really why I think it’s gonna be huge? Not because I’m using it or millennials are using it; it’s because it’s making video social. Because they’re not just streaming what’s happening live. But they’re allowing you to engage with those streams on Blab, on Meerkat, on Periscope. You are now able to be a part of the conversation.”