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.

2. Chatbots

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.

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