Every January for the last five years we’ve published predictions for marketing in the year ahead. It’s always one of our favourite posts to compile and makes for fascinating reading.
Trends and patterns we’ve uncovered from these collaborative posts have shifted over time:
- 2013 – The inexorable rise of content marketing plus a call for humanity with increasing automation
- 2014 – A real focus on purpose (Simon Sinek’s ideas hit home)
- 2015 – The rise of pay-to-play on social media (the death of Facebook for business?)
- 2016 – When content marketing grew up
- 2017 – After a year of political turmoil a focus on deeper audience understanding and a return to old school values
So what lies in store for marketing in 2018?
We’ve tweaked the format this year. No crystal ball gazing or magic wands, this year we’re getting real (real is one of our 3 words for the year, as you’ll hear). So we reached out to some of our favourite business leaders, thinkers and writers with this question:
How will you be marketing your own business in 2018? What changed last year, and how will you respond?
We were looking for interesting personal answers, away from any bandwagons and hype. We got that and so much more.
Here’s what our network of marketing experts has in mind for their own marketing in 2018. We hope this helps you set your marketing compass for a successful year ahead.
I will draw, write and experiment
“What changed for me in 2017 is that I started experimenting more with illustrations and text. I created my first hand-drawn infographics, and was surprised by the positive reaction. Foolishly, I had been thinking my drawings were too amateurish and my hand-writing too ugly, but even sites like HubSpot and Inc.com were happy to publish my hand-drawn infographics.
As content marketers, it’s easy to get stuck on auto-pilot and produce more of the same. But to do our best work, we need to challenge ourselves and inject fresh energy into our efforts. Readers sense our enthusiasm and it’s contagious—they feel more engaged and inspired.
I’m not planning a big change for 2018, but will continue my journey of drawing, writing, and experimentation. I’m excited to see where my journey will lead me next.”
Henneke is a writer (and illustrator) on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook – enchantingmarketing.com.
Doug Kessler, Velocity Partners
This will be a year of experimentation
“The core formats and staple tactics of B2B content marketing are starting to feel tired.
Everyone’s doing the same kinds of things.
This year, we’ll do more experiments. We’ll be more digital & interactive. We’ve rebuilt our Velocity String framework (a digital story medium with granular analytics) and we’ll be making some cool new ones for ourselves (as well as clients, of course).
We’re also playing with a new framework our dev team built for single-page, highly interactive showcases.
Oh, and podcasting. We want to try a podcast season.
Wish us luck!”
Doug is creative director of Velocity Partners – about Doug Kessler
Andrea P. Howe, The Get Real Project
Closer connection with our community
“While we’re still finalizing #my3words for The Get Real Project, “community” will likely be one, as we focus on ways to make an even bigger impact. That will include being in closer touch with those who are already a part of our tribe, plus expanding our reach.
- A bigger emphasis on programs, not just workshops. While we’ve never been in the “once and done” business, we are exploring even more ways to help people walk the talk of trusted advisorship, like the possibility of packaging our video library into our workshop pricing.
- Feeding the Weekly Tips machine. Thanks to Sonja and Sharon, I started writing weekly tips over 180 weeks ago. Readers consistently say it’s the one non-client email they read. So I’ll keep writing.
- The Get Real manifesto becomes an eBook. Our new publication includes one thought piece for each of the 17 points in our Get Real manifesto, accompanied by a “make it real” challenge—a single step towards a different kind of working world.
- Free webinars. My co-author Charlie Green and I are finally doing it—we’ll be taking turns leading free quarterly webinars. The focus is content, not promotion. The aim is value and connectedness.”
Andrea is founder of the Get Real Project – about Andrea P. Howe
I will work less yet do more
“I’m not planning on doing anything new based on last year. I’m also not planning on working harder. I’d actually like to reduce the amount of work I do, and focus more on the most effective activities.
How can I work less, but do more?
There are three major activities for me in 2018.
- Firstly, when I’m creating content I will be focussing on creating the best version of that content that’s available online today – that’s the benchmark for the content we create.
- Secondly, we have a large archive of content that we can leverage more effectively – so before we even think about anything new, let’s make sure what we’ve already got is optimised for maximum potential.
- Finally, we will be improving how we measure the effectiveness of our content – only what is measured can be improved.
In short, I’m focussing on doing less, but doing it better, saying no more than yes, and focussing only on the activities that will grow my business in the most effective way. Everything else just isn’t that important.”
Chris runs the Content Marketing Academy – about Chris Marr
Bryony Thomas, Watertight Marketing
More human contact (and something big to celebrate)
“This is pretty big year for us in lots of ways. It’s 10 years since setting up on my own and five years since publishing the Watertight Marketing book, so we’ll be reminiscing and celebrating the journey.
What this means for our marketing is that it gives us a great theme to focus on… and an excuse for a party (or three).
So, although we will of course be maintaining our baseline beat of regular marketing activities, like blogging, newsletters, etc. there’s a focus on human contact this year. We’re extending our monthly masterclass sessions to two new cities in the next three months – meaning that we’ll be spending two hours with around 60 actual humans in a room every month.
We’re also planning a rather fabulous launch of what will become an annual event for us. Our very first Watertight Marketing Annual Conference will be happening in September – celebrating 10 years, over 100 people through our Masterplan programme and (wait for it) the second edition of Watertight Marketing. So, more humans in a room – learning and laughing together.”
Bryony is founder of Watertight Marketing – about Bryony Thomas
Simon Swan, The Met Office
We will play to our strengths
“This is the year we stop worrying about the things we can’t control and focus more on what we can develop and make better.
We will stop the shiny tactics and build from a strong foundation – and that starts with the brand, who we are and the purpose we serve.
We’ll continue to educate and develop a common framework across the organisation to think in the eyes of the customer. I think the term “market oriented” gets used a lot but it’s essentially putting your user at the centre of your strategy no matter what department you are in and learn from this collectively.
And we’ll build on our successes – assess and audit what has worked and look to zero in on those specific channels – what can we be doing better this year? How can we continue to differentiate? Are there opportunities to create new markets and audiences by continuing on the channels that are reaping success.”
Simon Swan is Digital Strategy and Transformation Lead at the Met Office – Simon Swan’s approach
Charles H. Green, Trusted Advisor
One word: video
“To your question “How will you be marketing your own business in 2018?” I have a one-word answer: Video.
And we’re late to the party, and not great at it either. We have always been high on content, low on channels and technology. We’re behind the curve, and most others in our field, when it comes to video, and we’re finally realizing we’ve got to play catch up on it.
For what it’s worth, I think the need for video is being driven partly by the ability of technology to do more and more, but also by the demand for more and more bite-sized approaches to training. This is not all a bad thing, though it assuredly not all a good thing either.
So there you have it!”
Charlie runs Trusted Advisor Associates and blogs about Trust Matters – about Charles H. Green
Mark Masters, You Are The Media
I am going further offline
“In a nutshell, I am marketing my marketing.
2018 I am going further offline.
As a tongue twister, Mark Masters markets his marketing.
I am a huge believer that the ultimate goal for us all today is loyalty. The You Are The Media project, which has been a quest to share with others the importance of building within the spaces that are ours, so people want to stay, has been something that has been in place since 2013.
The weekly You Are The Media email and monthly You Are The Media Lunch Club, all aligns with what I do as a business (help people create, distribute and promote in order to build a loyal audience).
The biggest thing that changed in 2017, is being committed to this side project. If we are in this for the long-game and to find a rhythm (hello Valuable Content word for ‘2018’) then we have to do things that people want to join in with.
In 2018 the bar has been raised with the You Are The Media Conference (in May). Rather than using this as a means to plug, if you look around this article, there are people speaking in Bournemouth in the summer. Can’t wait.
Mark is owner of the ID Group and founder of You Are The Media – about Mark Masters
Chris Butler, Newfangled
We will write less
“While we’re always happy to make predictions, we never make a prediction we can’t envision abiding by ourselves. And this year is no different. Our prediction for this year is one we’re already acting upon: writing less. Really!
No, we’re not saying that content marketing is dead. And no, we’re not saying that you should create less content. To the contrary, content marketing is alive and well. But within content marketing, the value of text is decreasing.
There are two reasons for this:
- First, the simple law of supply and demand. The sheer abundance of text on the web devalues text on the web. It retains its critical role of attracting the unaware, who search for your expertise and are matched with it by search engines. But when it comes to all our articles, white papers, and blogs, we just can’t expect the same level of attention to them as we used to.
- And that is for the second reason: while the supply of text continues to increase, the supply of time we are all allotted is fixed. That means that we can only read so much text, yes, but it also means that as our perception of the abundance of text keeps pace with its actual supply, our willingness to spend our fixed supply of time on it drops.
Meanwhile, other types of content are vying for our attention, and the one we are most interested in is audio. Audio content reaches people in ways text does not. First and foremost, people can listen to what you have to say without having to look at a screen, so suddenly, commuting time and leisure time are available.
So what are we doing about this? Podcasts. We have two in production now (Expert Marketing Matters and Consider This) and will likely add more in the future. In addition to that, services like Rev.com, which transcribe audio content for you, enable us to create content by having conversations and conducting interviews that can be both read and listened to. This way, we can reach people where they want to give us their attention, but also capture that text in a way that Google can index and match unaware prospects in the future. Two birds, one stone.
So we’ve been saying that this year is the year you’ll be writing less, and we mean it!”
Fiona Campbell-Howes, Radix Communication
We will focus our content on converting prospects into clients
“In 2018 our marketing will be much more focused on converting prospects into clients.
Like a lot of B2B firms, over the past few years we were seduced by the idea of content marketing – to the point where we were producing mainly top and mid-funnel content, and not really creating anything that might nudge our growing audience over the line into buying from us.
That was fantastic for raising awareness of Radix – our board game, Funnel!, was even shortlisted for the B2B Marketing Awards – but it didn’t really speed up the process of converting fans into clients.
We have very long sales cycles; it can literally take years for a prospect to become a client. So this year, our focus is very much on speeding up conversions. We won’t abandon top and mid-funnel content – far from it – but we will be complementing it with more sales-oriented, bottom-of-funnel content that answers prospects’ questions around things like our pricing, expertise and process (like this).
Our 2018 is off to a pretty good start already, so hopefully the new approach will make for a successful year. Maybe you’ll give us all the chance to report back in December?”
Fiona is managing director of B2B tech copywriting firm Radix Communications – about Fiona Campbell-Howes
I will tell stories about the magic, and sharpen my focus
“How will I be marketing The Ian Sanders Company this year? The answer is what Sharon came up with in a conversation we had on Twitter back in early December: “(the) Moral is do good stuff and write about it!”. Amen.
I will continue telling stories about the work I’m doing, whether that’s a photograph on Instagram or a 700 word post on Medium. For example, last November, I ran a storytelling workshop and fireside story session at Thomas Cook Money’s away day. It was a game-changing event, everybody loved it. How do I market that? I tell the story about the magic that happened around the fireside (here’s the story!). That’s set the rhythm for 2018: do more game-changing projects, tell stories about them.
What changed in 2017 and how will I respond now? 2017 was a year of transition, transforming The Ian Sanders Company to a new, higher-level proposition around taking clients on their own journeys of change via storytelling, coaching and workshops.
My response to that is to ensure that my network “gets” that transition, to communicate that change. And for me, it’s given me a sharper focus to make sure I’m doing the right work, competing on my ‘grey hairs’! What to say ‘yes’ to, what to say ‘no’ to.”
Ian is a creative consultant and storyteller – about Ian Sanders
John Beckley, Canary PR
More real, honest video + experiments with messaging apps
“Video is becoming more and more relevant. Predictions have been made that 80% of global internet traffic will be video by 2019 which is less than one year away. I believe this is true and will be focusing on my own performance in front of camera and work with my clients, to be more creative and innovative regarding short form video production for social media.
The need for perfectly staged video has been replaced by video that’s real, honest and not focused on the production quality but the content itself. I will be investing in video equipment, partners and apps to get the best out of my video first strategy.
2017 saw the rise and rise of messaging apps, specifically WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. There is no way we are going back to posting letters and faxing; there is a new way of communicating now and it’s only going to get stronger and stronger. We saw some of our clients that were more adaptive to this change, like answering direct messages late at night out of office hours win more business. This was and is, a real opportunity to talk directly to clients.”
John Beckley is Digital Marketing Expert @ CanaryPR.com.
Matthew Curry, Lovehoney
We will use data to make smarter decisions
“2018 will be quite a transformative year for us at Lovehoney – we’ve grown astoundingly well for years often just going on market expertise, gut feel and a pauper’s Analytics stack, but as we enter new territories and try to grow in mature markets, we’re having to work a hell of a lot smarter.
So we’re centring ourselves around the use of data, making data-driven decision making available at every level of the business, from Buying teams receiving emerging trends and category gaps to Warehouse organisers having access to logistical science models for stock allocation.
For Content, we’re drowning in useful data and might not know it. We can track pretty much every interaction on our website; from video views to content dwell time, highlighting, scroll speed. Now we’re in a position where we can apply big data analysis techniques to this in an affordable way to understand the value and impact of this content on a page by page basis. Is there content on your website that once someone consumes they are statistically less likely to convert?
For Marketing, we have complex attribution models and session linking tools to understand Total Cost of Acquisition, we understand that Customer Lifetime Value is meaningless without being split into real-life behavioural segments, we can use Branch and Bound algorithms to work out perfect paths to conversion. We have so many tools at our disposal now, we have to make the most of them.”
Matt is Ecommerce Director at Lovehoney – Matthew Curry on Twitter
Peter Stephen and Glenn Sturgess, Ogilvyone Business
Learning and engagement
“Last year, I created the Twitter account @OOBCopy for our team of copywriters and set a target of reaching 2,000 followers. But we soon learned that nurturing a Twitter following—much like lowering a golf handicap—takes time and effort. This year, to grow our appeal and drive more interaction, I’ll be tracking engagement. We’ll be constantly learning which content hits the spot and making sure it’s meaningful and relevant to our audience. After all, marketing content should always be valuable, right?”
Pete is Senior Copywriter, OgilvyOne Business – about Peter Stephen
“Our adventures in Twitterland and speaking at Copy Cabana 2017 showed me that putting it out there starts with a goal. I’m always imploring colleagues to voice opinions about creative work, copywriting, popular culture, politics, you name it. So, in 2018, my focus is to publish more on LinkedIn—one Pulse article per month. Call it indirect marketing for OOB. My motivation? To learn more about the medium, to generate debate and to delve deeper into topics that matter to me and my readers.”
Glenn is Head of Copy, OgilvyOne Business – about Glenn Sturgess
Sonja and Sharon, Valuable Content
Action not just words
“We echo what lots of our contributors are saying. The idea of content marketing as a stream you can just switch on to supply a willing line of customers to your business doesn’t exist – if it ever did. There is so much noise and repetition that people are switching off in droves. We all want less digital noise, not more.
Our response to this chimes with others who spoke to us. So we’re focusing more on real world events and talking to the people in front of, less talking to the world in general. And alongside our digital efforts we’re going to invest in beautiful print to help us tell our story.
Our network is our biggest source of referrals, and the source of the most joy in our business life, so we’ll nurture that. We’ll be doing more good stuff in and around Bristol – more walks, more Pub Schools, more Pub Clubs – and we’ll create content for this community. We’ll create a rhythm for this, and it will be our marketing, as well as our service; the rhythm of serving our community will set the drum beat for our marketing.
We’re aiming for more real life stories – the content that still cuts through the noise for us are the pieces where we speak from the heart.
Do good stuff and write about it. Action, not just words.
And we’ll enjoy it.”
Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton are on a mission at Valuable Content and run a business school in a Pub – about Valuable Content
Important lessons to guide your marketing in 2018
Is it just us or are you noticing some very clear themes shining through this year? Here are three overarching trends we see:
1. Stretch yourselves and experiment
No more same old same old in 2018.
There’s a mass of content out there (Content Shock is real!). Formats get tired. This year we really need to challenge ourselves and get off auto-pilot. This is not just for our customers, but for ourselves. Energy and enthusiasm is infectious, as Henneke reminds us. Let’s shake things up.
Our experts are experimenting and taking themselves out of their comfort zones – Henneke with her fabulous illustrations; Newfangled and Velocity with podcasts; we’re going to see more video, webinars and even experiments with messaging apps – from Charlie, Andrea and John; and Velocity are going so far as to create their own formats.
The quest for exciting new ways of telling good stories is definitely on.
2. Balance digital with REAL
Our focus on REAL has been echoed again and again, and it’s heartening to see – more humans in the room says Bryony; more real world events and experiences – such as Mark’s conference which pulls people together from all over the world, Ian’s story telling sessions, our walks and Pub School.
(Perhaps there’s crossover here with the experiments with more video, podcast and webinars. A way to connect and talk directly to their existing communities, over and above anything else.)
3. More effective – doing more with what you have
This year more people said ‘no’ to our request for input than in last few years. Although of course that smarts a bit and we’d love their views, this is interesting in its own right. People are busy and focused. And that’s good right?
This focus echoes in the words from our experts. Chris, Simon, Matt and the Ogilvy team all told us they were being more mindful with how they use their time and resources. Fiona is focusing her content efforts on one part of the sales cycle.
There’s a big message here for marketing in 2018. Be clear on what you want your marketing to do for you, and don’t waste your fire power.
Service businesses like ours can learn from products business like Lovehoney. Use what you really know about your customers to talk to them at exactly the right time. Just because you can communicate with thousands in seconds doesn’t mean you should. Learn more about your customers and connect with them in the way that they like. Invest time in developing (and documenting) a clear strategy, and follow it. This will help you say ‘no’ more too.
So there are our reflections. How about you? We’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’ve read. What other ideas and patterns leap out for you? What inspires new focus for you for the coming year? We can’t wait to hear.
Good luck with all you do with your marketing, and for your business in 2018.
Sonja and Sharon
P.S. A massive thank you to all our kind contributors. We know January is a busy time and we really appreciate your input. And yes, in answer to Fiona, let’s report back at the end of the year. It’s going to be an interesting one…