2016 marketing wash-up with SMEs in mind

December 2016

Given the enormity of events in 2016 and specifically the BREXIT vote and Trump’s election, talking about marketing seems a tad trivial and irrelevant. However and as I stated in last month’s blog, the nightmare of both Brexit and Trump becoming the most powerful man in the world owed much to marketing – albeit not the sort of flavour of marketing I’d be especially proud of.

So the marketing of fake news aside – as I did it to death last month – what has 2016 brought us, good and bad, in the world of marketing? For me there are five standout lessons:

1. Programmatic continued to grow but so did its negative side

Programmatic ad buying, which as most readers will know is an automated process of buying advertising using software as opposed to the traditional and labour-intensive human process, continued to grow, with an estimated two thirds of all digital display advertising in the US now purchased this way. But along with this positive growth there continues to be the negative of fraud, with one study showing that 29% of web traffic generated was from bad bots (impersonators, hacking tools, scrapers and spammers). However, programmatic remains the way forward and not just for digital display but also, for example, for TV and even digital radio.

2. Ad blocking

Certainly not unrelated to point one, ad blocking software has become a real concern for brands and publishers. However, although the trend for consumers to adopt ad blocking continues to rise in the US, in Europe it seems to have stalled, with a study by IAB UK showing 21.2% of users having ad blocking software in July 16, compared to 21.7% back in February. So good news for marketers, though no room for complacency and the problem certainly isn’t helped by, for example, some brands pursuing a strategy of intrusive retargeting with little or no controls in place (the annoying ads from brands that follow you around the web after you’ve tentatively looked at their websites for no more reason than a bit of product research).

3. Social media is actually getting properly useful

It’s fair to say that it took me more than a few years to see real commercial value in adopting social media’s various marketing tactics across different platforms – and with good reason because most were totally over-hyped and over-rated. However, in the last year or so and aided by the growing sophistication of different tools to allow better targeting, there’s no question in my mind that, used in the right way, social media can now be a highly useful tool in a marketer’s arsenal to deliver specific strategies. As an example, Facebook’s post boost tool allows for highly targeted content to be placed on newsfeeds, and including by postcode region. As ever though, firstly define the strategy to deliver a business objective, and then line up the tactics to deliver that strategy – and using different social media platforms in specific ways may or may not be appropriate. And I make that point because it continues to irritate me that so called social media experts, firstly line up a host of social media tactics (which they often wrongly call strategies) without having a clue what the business objective or the marketing strategy is – assuming either exist of course.

4. Data and data storytelling

Data and the use of data continues to be ever-important in the marketing process. ‘Data storytelling’ is an increasingly used term, and essentially means translating data analysis into terms the non-specialist can understand, and this to influence business decision making. It’s probably fair to say that the one thing I push clients on and regularly meet resistance, is investing in the tools and resource needed to collect data, then use that data in a meaningful way to grow the business – and, as part of this, do so by improving the customer experience.

5. Zero-based budgeting and zero budget marketing

These are actually two different things, though both are growing in stature. Zero-based budgeting is essentially about building a business case for a budget to deliver a marketing plan which provides a return on investment, rather than the more traditional, and flawed, method of simply allocating a percentage of turnover for a marketing budget. Zero budget marketing is just that – so marketing with little or no money to spend. I’m all in favour of the former, with my view on the latter being largely that it can never be ideal but is sometimes a necessity if the cash for investment simply isn’t there.

Of course there are a heap of other notable points I might have written about (e.g. on-going changes to Google’s search algorithm) but these five are certainly all subjects the SME business owner or marketer needs to consider.

Do message me if you’d like to discuss.

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