It’s “Marketing Trends 2017” season! The companies are in a crazy race to publish their reports and predictions. I decided to do something more. Not only will I show you the challenges ahead, I have also prepared an actionable checklist below each trend. So that you can perform a couple of day-to-day tasks to tackle those trends right away.

So, here we go. Four marketing trends to pay attention to in the upcoming months.

Personalization is the new brand

The State of the Connected Consumer report published mid-2016 by Salesforce contains a question: “What influences your purchasing decision?” 59% of the respondents named “strong or respected brand” as one of the key indicators. At the same time 58% (only 1% less) stated that a “personalized experience” is also important to them.

If you are a small company that has been complaining about the lack of resources to build a strong, renowned brand — here’s your chance. In 2017 an agile hyper-personalization will give your company a boost it so much needs when fighting the big and the rich.

Why did I write “hyper-personalization”? Because simply sparkling a customer’s name here and there in your newsletter is not going to cut it anymore. That same report brings another revelation: 57% of customers are willing to share their private data with you (such as their birthdate, place of residence or the brand of car they drive) in exchange for a “personalized experience”. If you are collecting data, make sure you use them.

What can you do?

  • Develop deep personas, filled with not only demographic data, but also with emotional charges (what emotional messages will resonate with your customers?)
  • If you are selling to the same customers regularly, consider introducing a loyalty program and personalized offers based on the data you collect in this program.
  • Personalize messages in mass media. Platforms such as Evergage or Dynamic Yield allow you to customize your website for different audiences.
  • Develop automatic or semi-automatic one-to-one communication. Tools such as Intercom or User Engage can engage greatly plus they offer amazing segmentation options.

Content marketing — pay more attention to “marketing” part

“A good content will defend itself!” — this saying may have been true in 2015, when not so many companies engaged in content marketing strategies or did it blindly, thus generating low-quality content. What 2016 has brought us was… a flood of high-quality branded content. And it turns out that the content can no longer defend itself in this crowd.

Content marketing is one part “content”, one part “marketing”. If your content is poor, there’s nothing for you to find here. Hence the rise of trends such as storytelling — the ability to tell a story well is in high demand these days. But the second part is “marketing”. The skills to promote your content will be the key to getting through to your customers.

What can you do?

  • Engage celebrities in content creation and promotion. We touch an area called “influencer marketing” here, and it’s a good thing — both areas are linked. Influencers use content to skew the behavior of their followers. If you write your company blog and rely only on internal resources and paid advertising, there’s more to be done. A celebrity, an influencer will carry you a few steps ahead.
  • You don’t have to publish in your own channels. A small stand in a huge mall (with plenty of people wandering around) is better than a regular shop on an obscure street that nobody visits. The same happens online. Your pride from publishing an article on your own site is ill-placed, it should be trumped by the readers who visit platforms such as Medium or LinkedIn. Not to mention traditional media. So write your articles and… give them away to those who have bigger audience.
  • Experiment with engagement. There is no single, universally efficient strategy for promoting your content. Facebook, newsletter, push notifications, mobile app… There are plenty of ideas out there. Make sure you know which are working.

User Generated Content — turn your audience into broadcasters

We can divide communications channels along several criteria. One of the most important divisions is between one-directional and bi-directional (or omni-directional) channels. The entire “old marketing” relied on one-directional channels such as press, radio, TV… It still does. On the other hand we have multi-directional communication of the “new marketing”: both, one-to-many (social media), and one-to-one (chats, private conversations).

“The conversation” is a key word in omni-directional approach. There is no clear division between the “broadcasters” and the “audience”. You and your audience (or: people formerly known as audience) can swap places whenever you please. But brands have yet to see it, they still treat their blogs, Facebook pages or newsletters like a loudspeakers, they see the other side as listeners or like-givers.

The fact that you have to know your way around a conversation is another problem. Conversation is built on conventions and if you want to engage your audience into conversation, you need to teach them (or make them aware of) the conventions you are going to use. Of course, the question “what are you going to do tonight” is a convention. But it’s a poor one. Brands will have to learn the arcana of two-way communication with their audiences. But the reward will be plenty of content that can be used to further promote the brand.

What can you do?

  • Look up to the people who are great at this. Who created the last Twitter trends? Analyze how it was done and… copy all you can.
  • Add “reply count” (the amount of people who replied to you) as one of the KPIs for your newsletter.
  • Learn more about the concept of social capital and how you can use it in your conversations.

Transparency — part of value-biased marketing

Content marketing is — on one hand — writing about what matters to your customers. Replacing the loudspeaker with a magnet. But this does not sell, right? On the other hand it’s telling people what’s important to you. Only the combination of the two brings you the perfect results.

One of the means of connecting the two is value-biased marketing. No, it’s not a typo. It’s not “value-based”. Simply speaking about the values is not enough anymore, the brands have to act upon the values. Transparency is one of the values that are easy to act upon, and it’s becoming a trend really quickly. Don’t lie and speak bluntly.

Transparency is something that wins the fans over for Gary Vaynerchuk, Elon Musk, it can also work for your brand.

What can you do?

  • Define the area of your brand that you want to speak freely about. It may concern the world view (politics, ecology), finances or the ingredients in your products. You don’t have to talk about everything. What’s important is you need to make these areas completely transparent.
  • Pick your fight! Patagonia fights with Earth’s pollution by reducing unnecessary waste. Up to the point when they publish an ad that says “Don’t buy this jacket!” (think hard before buying it, because we used natural resources to produce it). Speak about your battles. Both won and lost ones.