Trends I love for 2014
I know – I know… The previous blog promised that the next one would cover the importance of building on your core values to create a vision and mission for your company that will inspire both customers and employees. And the very next one will. I promise. But I’m going to butt in here (“guest-blogging” would be the nicer way to put it) and in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share a round up of some of the trends and predictions I love for 2014, along with my thoughts on what those trends might mean to you in terms of consumer behavior, branding, content, marketing, social media, and storytelling.
Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want
The customer is always right, yeah? The only gotcha is that in order for that premise to be true, you have to have—and keep—actual customers. Loyal customers. Satisfied customers. And because loyalty and satisfaction are largely a by-product of giving your customers what they want, it made sense to start with a recent prediction I read on Forbes.com about what it is that customers want. The answer according to Forbes contributor Robert Passikoff? More.
But what does that really mean? Citing insights gained from over 100,000 consumer assessments, Passikoff talks about the struggle brands face in keeping up with the Joneses:
“Over the past 5 years consumer expectations have increased on average 20%. Brands have kept up by only 5%, a big gap between what’s desired and what’s delivered.”
So basically that’s a 15 point spread between what customers want and what businesses are giving them. That might make for a great Super Bowl bet, but it’s a lousy gamble when you’re talking about your life’s work. Passikoff says the only way to close that gap is to have access to—and be able to measure—what “more” means to your customers. Do they want more content, more guidance, more insight, or more savings? Or more of all of the above? And how do you keep your finger on that increasingly ravenous pulse? I I think it starts with asking yourself a few key questions:
- Who do I currently sell to?
- Who do I want to sell to?
- How do I know for certain what they expect from my company?
- And the kicker — is my business capable of marketing to—and meeting—those expectations?
No Brand is an Island
Bridgette wrote a few weeks ago about how Jeff Bezos equates brand with reputation – and how a brand earns a reputation “by trying to do hard things.” Cool. I get it. So does Hayes Roth, CMO for brand strategy giant, Landor. But Roth takes that concept a step further and cautions companies to keep in mind what he calls “the transparency factor.” Or what I call the “letting it all hang out” factor.
In an interview on landor.com, Roth says that “as companies start to make big promises, both to their own employees and to the public, it’s no longer possible to make a promise you can’t keep. Someone will find you out, and probably very quickly, thanks to social media and other vehicles.”
To guard against that takes another hard thing – figuring out what your brand’s purpose is. At Landor, they describe brand purpose as “a natural outgrowth of the values embedded in your corporate culture.” In other words, if the hard things your company does aren’t done with a clear, authentic purpose, they won’t have their intended results.
So before you can really answer the questions about who your customers are, you need to figure out who your company is, what you stand for (or stand against), and how those core values can help you become a more purpose-driven brand. And hang on to those answers. They will come in handy.
It’s Still the One
Content. It’s been called King. Emperor, even. Bill Gates predicted way back in 1996 that it would drive the internet economy. And masterful-marketing.com author Debra Murphy believes his majesty (“Content” not Gates…) will dominate small business marketing strategies in 2014.
Murphy begins by citing research from the Corporate Executive Board that 60% of customer purchase decisions are made before the customer initially makes contact with a vendor. Yep. They’re out there making up their minds without you. Unless of course you’re out there, too.
According to Murphy the best way for businesses to be “out there” is to blog. And when you consider the Hubspot data point she shares that “almost 80% of marketers with a company blog have acquired new customers” the only question to ask yourself is: what am I waiting for? And , maybe, what do I write about?
Which brings us back to “letting it all hang out” or the next prediction I love: emotional marketing.
Feelings, Whoa Whoa Whoa, Feelings
Washington D.C. based-author and editor Monica Jansen predicts that emotional marketing will play a big role in reaching customers in 2014. Writing in a recent post on smallbusinessforum.com, Jansen writes that, in terms of content, “one way to stand out is by communicating your values using emotional marketing. Think about what drives your clients’ decision-making, and tap into those emotions in your marketing.”
Now, we’re not talking messy stood-up-on-prom-night emotions. We’re talking about finding common ground between what you value and what your customers value and tapping into that to market your services. So if you’re serious about reaching new customers, the work you do on establishing your core values and your brand purpose will give you the perfect foundation to get your blog up and running.
Cats – 20% Off, Or Something Like That
Maybe you’ve seen headlines similar to these: Twitter reaches 1 Trillion users! Facebook takes over the world! If you’re anything like me, after a while predictions about social media all start to sound the same – focusing on how big it is rather than what it’s being used for. Size does matter, but what I loved about Kim Garst’s recent prediction on Huffington Post is the inclusion of Instagram and Snapchat – and her thoughts on how businesses will be leveraging those platforms in 2014.
Garst indicates that with Instagram moving into the top spot as the fastest growing social network in 2013 and Snapchat becoming the 9th most used iPhone app, coupons and discounting via these visual platforms will take off in a big way. This doesn’t mean people will stop posting pictures of their cats. But it might mean coupons with pictures of cats on them. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it’s great news for small businesses, for whom couponing (with or without cats) is a standard marketing practice.
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night (or What Had Happened Was . . .)
The old “once upon a time” is fast becoming the norm and as you might imagine, storytelling showed up on more than a few trend lists — along with encouragements to “think big.” Joanna Lord’s article on Entrepreneur.com caught my eye because she did the exact opposite. She encourages folks to think small. Calling it “snippet storytelling,” Lord feels quality and speed in storytelling are equally key – and the snippet approach can accommodate both drivers.
In a market where seven second videos are all the rage, consumer hunger for “more” is right up there with their desire for “faster.” The key to delivering truly tasty morsels, Lord says, is “concise messaging, consistent branding and emotional content.” Where Lord applies this primarily to video storytelling, companies can embrace this focused approach to storytelling across other mediums as well. Even if the story includes cats.
What’s It All About, Alfie?
Consumer behavior. Content. Coupons. Cats…what does it all mean? Only that 2014 looks to be another exciting, but challenging, year for marketers. So here are a few key takeaways to keep in mind as you go about your business this year.
- Be present. You can’t know what your customers want if you’re not listening.
- Be purposeful in your approach to building and growing your brand.
- Be out there. Or as Spock might say “Blog long and prosper.”
- Be real. Develop your core values and stand behind them at every customer touchpoint.
- Be bold. Dare to lead the way by being the first in your market to use social media for new things.
- Be yourself. Know your story and tell it in as many creative, interesting ways as possible. Your customers will love you for it.
p.s. in addition to it being Valentine’s Day, it’s also Random Act of Kindness Week. Go do something special for someone just for the heck of it. They’ll love you for it, too.