Every year, new technologies come out, existing technologies get smarter and prospects get savvier and more bombarded with marketing.
This will continue to happen every year at a faster pace. That said, the goal of marketing — and digital marketing, in particular — has always been the same: getting and keeping your audience’s attention. The only changes that will continue occurring are where the attention goes, and that’s what you need to be leveraging.
Without further ado, here are five digital marketing trends for 2019:
1. Artificial Intelligence
Everyone talks about artificial intelligence (AI) but few understand it. Think of AI as a bunch of computers that can analyze things rapidly. They are able to better understand behaviors and patterns by going through data.
You can use AI for tasks like scouring your databases and providing insights to your team. For example, you could leverage AI to find prospects who look like your existing customers or scan social media conversations to provide you with real-time intel on your competitors.
Our agency uses AI on a daily basis. For example, we work with quite a few preschools, daycares and child care centers. In an effort to help them grow enrollment, we want to drive the right type of prospects. What better way to find the right prospects than by analyzing current and past enrollments? We download their customer data and leverage AI to identify what zip codes and neighborhoods we should target and even what attributes the parents have in common. In the past, this would take days to analyze.
In my article on 2018 digital marketing trends, I wrote about chatbots. I’m including it again here as the trend continues to evolve. For some reason, businesses have been slower to adopt chatbots than I expected. But by 2022, it’s estimated that chatbots will help businesses save over $8 billion per year.
Chatbots can help with customer service tasks and tie into your various systems to answer repetitive customer questions like: “When will my package be delivered?” “What time is my appointment?” “Where are you located?”
Bots can also be used to warm prospects, schedule sales appointments and help make purchases. I recently set up a bot to help a client close auto loans without ever needing a human. It asked all the questions that a human would ask and was designed to include emojis to make the conversation sound more natural.
In deciding whether or not to invest in a bot, figure out if you’d want to use the bot for customer service or in more of a sales capacity. From there, you can steer yourself toward the technology that makes the most sense for your goals.
One thing to keep in mind is that chatbots are not meant to replace complex human conversations. They can help, but they are still evolving and improving.
3. Smart Speakers And Audio
My kids start every morning with Alexa. We ask the device many questions (things to do, recipes, etc.) and order things in seconds. I believe voice will continue to be the next disruptor.
To capitalize on this trend, I suggest optimizing your website for voice search. To do this, you must understand what your prospects are searching for. Keep in mind that audio queries are conversational and longer. A prospect searching for a restaurant wouldn’t say: “Alexa, restaurant,” but something like: “Alexa, what restaurants are serving dinner now?”
The second step is to incorporate those questions and phrases throughout your website. Build a FAQ section and answer all of those questions you discovered. You could also write blog posts on the various topics and questions, but the best way is to naturally incorporate the particular phrases. If you were optimizing for “restaurants serving dinner now,” you could write content that says, “We serve dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday thru Saturday.” This would get picked up and allow you to rank higher with voice search.
4. Local Influencer Marketing
While influencer marketing is not a new topic, the focus on local influencers is. Unless you run a massive global brand or an e-commerce business, chances are your marketing is mostly local.
While it’s “cool” for an influencer or celebrity to endorse your product or service to their millions of social fans, it can be short-lived. Try partnering with local influencers and put together long-term campaigns and promotions.
Make a list of the top influencers in your market. Check out podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and other platforms. Follow them first, and learn about them and their brand. Then, reach out with a casual message and start a conversation.
5. Live Video
Video is still at the top of content marketing. The only thing better is live video. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What would you want to experience from your company? Think behind-the-scenes tours of your office, product demos/releases, live Q&As, etc.
There are two key action steps to move the needle with live video. First, it’s important to create a robust content strategy. My favorite strategy is to simply sit for an hour or two, grab some stickie notes and just brainstorm ideas. What are all the things your customers would find useful, helpful or fun? Brainstorm and generate ideas until your hand starts to hurt.
Keep in mind that video should be your starting point, but these assets can be leveraged across multiple platforms and turned into other forms of content (audio, blogs, white papers, infographics, social media, etc.).
Step two is to pick the platform you want to focus on — Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Instagram Live, Periscope, or even Livestream.com. Right now, we are advising our clients to focus more on YouTube Live and Instagram as the space is less crowded. Keep your videos fun, engaging and create experiences along the way.
While there are many other tactics, these are the five I’m focusing on for 2019. With that said, trends do not replace good marketing. The three best ways to stand out from a crowd are to build your brand, tell a great story and provide helpful, authentic content. Do those three things consistently and leverage the latest trends and it’s game over (in a good way) for you and your business.