Last month, I attended Digital Summit Portland with a couple of my Bridge Partners colleagues. Besides enjoying the scenic train ride across the Columbia River, savoring fresh Northwest cuisine at Higgins, and relishing in the usual Portland “weirdness,” we walked away with key insights from smart marketers. While some of the speakers covered niche topics in great detail, others offered a holistic view of the marketing landscape. It was clear that everyone was looking to the future, trying to identify the next wave of digital marketing trends. Here are four trends we think are here to stay.
1. Creating content by cohort
Probably 90 percent of the speakers talked about being “customer-centric,” “customer-focused,” “customer-obsessed,” or “totally dialed-in on the people who pay the bills” (ok, I made at least one of those up). Whichever buzzword you prefer, it’s a mantra that has been gaining popularity for some time. Smart marketers are finally figuring out what it means to build campaigns that talk with customers—not at them. Uber’s Jessica Williams explained how they use “customer cohorts” to segment customers. Instead of segmenting based on static demographic information or assuming that all current app users will respond to the same messages, they group customers into cohorts based on their level of engagement with Uber’s service, brand, and content. For instance, I am a frequent user of the Uber app, but I don’t follow their social pages or open most emails. Different messages will land with me than with a frequent app user who also engages with Uber on social. By developing tailored content, leading brands are starting and maintaining more meaningful conversations with customers.
2. Translating acquisition to engagement
It’s true that marketers have become more customer-focused in recent years. Likewise, customers have become more aware of marketing messages. And they go to great lengths to avoid them. “Advertising on Facebook? I think I’d rather hang out on Snapchat.” “New TV spot? I’ll watch it on the DVR later and skip the commercials.” This is why so many brands are moving away from acquisition marketing and focusing more resources on engagement and influencer marketing. As Leigh George, PhD, pointed out, “Our lives are not a collection of media experiences.” Attracting potential customers and building brand awareness will always play a role in marketing. But without smart targeting, content that matters, and a cohesive strategy for rationalizing touchpoints, acquisition has little impact. Customers, whether B2B or B2C, will engage with your brand on their terms, only when they are ready. This is why marketers are increasingly focused on capitalizing on the opportunity when a customer enters the right “place and space.” You can dedicate a lot of resources to getting people in the door (whether physical or digital), but once they arrive, will you have anything to say? If you can’t add value, spending on acquisition won’t be successful.
3. Building the modern marketing org chart
When customer behaviors change, marketers are quick to respond with new tactics, technology, and content. However, marketing leaders have been slow to be as innovative with their organizations. According to Michael Berger of Marketo, one of the biggest issues for modern marketers is that their orgs are still split into silos—often separated by channel or customer lifecycle stage. Neither of these categories are discrete, stable, or particularly helpful when trying to create engaging, unified customer experiences. Forward-thinking marketing leaders are responding by organizing by customer segment—or cohort—and breaking down existing silos (e.g. merging the PR and social teams). It’s an approach that makes sense in an environment where buyer journeys are non-linear and the channel de jour doesn’t stick around for long.
4. Designing a people culture that drives customer loyalty
We also heard from Andrew Sweany of Airbnb talk about how his company is building the world’s most loved hospitality brand. The Airbnb culture values employee satisfaction and engagement the same way it values customer satisfaction and engagement. So, they approach their CX agent tool development with a product design philosophy. According to Andrew, “Brand perception is just as important for your employees as for your customers.” His dedicated team uses UX research techniques to help CX agents deliver “instant, authentic help for our hosts and guests at every step of their journey.” With all the talk about delivering dynamic experiences and personalized content, it was a great reminder that if you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your customers. Sometimes, it really is that simple.
“If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your customers. Sometimes, it really is that simple.”
Modern marketing is part of the Bridge Partners DNA, and we never stop searching for ways to help our clients transform their businesses. Hearing from a lineup of thought leaders that are wired the same way was thought provoking and inspiring. I’m glad we had the opportunity to join the conversation and am already looking forward to the next Digital Summit.