The New Normal: Marketing in 2014

I realize that many of us do not like change, or have much time to implement change, and that may be why it’s taking such a long time for many small businesses to catch up with the permanent changes that digital technology has brought to marketing. We won’t be going back to a simpler time, when there were three major TV networks, newspapers flourished, and the customer’s only way to access product information was to visit a store and ask questions. Today, our choice of marketing channels continues to grow and fragment while our customers embrace user-friendly technology that allows them to search, compare, and purchase at anytime from anywhere. While marketing may have been easier to manage prior to the internet, there is now a wealth of opportunities to successfully market in news ways, reach more people, and grow your business.

2014 is the year to review, revise and respond!
The changes in online channels, including the effects they are having on offline channels, should not be ignored. This is the year to take a look at all your marketing resources and evaluate the allocation of dollars, time, and people. Create a marketing plan that will take full advantage of all opportunities while clearing out old ideas and replacing outdated methods that are no longer relevant. Many of the concepts that businesses are just learning to incorporate into their marketing mix are evolving to even higher levels of sophistication. Here are several examples of technologies that have come to the forefront and that are making an impact on your customers’ behavior.

Me-tail is the growing trend towards personalization and providing customer relevant communication. It seems that customers now want a personal experience with each of the brands they support. This requires the use of big data (the buzz topic of 2013) including targeting, segmentation and analytics. The use of data for customization is what direct marketing has been doing all along (think L.L. Bean and paper catalogs). Another factor encouraging me-tailing is our “always on” mentality. For example, Amazon aims to predict the books you want to read and Apple recommends the type of music it thinks you want to download. The question for 2014 is, how can you add personalization that adds value for your customer?

Native Content
Native advertising is commercial messaging that is purchased and presented on a specific delivery platform. Native ads take the form of ad units unique to their particular environments. For example, Facebook’s Sponsored Stories and Twitter’s Promoted Tweets. Social platforms embrace native advertising as a viable product for businesses to use for offering an experience that is more relevant and less intrusive than traditional online banner ads. Native formats have the advantage of putting content on the screen rather than in the margins with the goal of capturing consumer attention with messaging that attracts rather than interrupts. This is a new and emerging option evolving from sponsored content, advertorials, and social media.

Google’s Hummingbird
Google Hummingbird is the new search algorithm in use by Google since September 2013. A search algorithm is a proprietary system that sorts through all the information available when you do a search, and then provides you with search results. Hummingbird is a dramatically new search engine for Google. It is not just an update or a revision to the old algorithm, although it does use some parts of the previous. Google says the new search engine is designed to serve today’s search demands and the latest technology. Conversational search is one of the biggest examples of the change in the system. You type in a question, and Hummingbird aims to focus on the meaning of the question. Previous search would only focus on finding matches for the words, not understanding the meaning of the sentences.

Voice Search
Mobile search continues to grow, especially in relation to local business. We know that almost 50% of consumers use mobile devices as their primary search tool. Now, consumers are beginning to do their searches by speaking to their mobile devices instead of typing in their search queries. Google’s new “OK Google” on android tablets and the new Nexus phone, along with “Siri” on Apple systems, are bringing voice search to the forefront. Voice search requires you to take into account how people speak, use words, and verbalize their thoughts. As your customers embrace using voice search, you will need to optimize your website content for people that are typing on, and speaking to, their mobile devices.

This is just a sampling of the changes that are affecting marketing, advertising and sales. I will expand further on some of these new trends in upcoming articles. This is the year to create your marketing plans based on today’s communication standards and your customer’s preferences. Please feel free to send your thoughts, questions, and ideas to

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