By now, you’ve probably seen the forecasts referring to 2016 as an “OK” year, with US GDP growth of about 2.6 percent, unemployment at 4.8 percent, wage growth of 2.7 percent, and increased volatility in financial and political arenas.
Why would any B2B, B2C or nonprofit marketer feel comfortable with this outlook? In fact, the December Chief Executive Magazine’s “Confidence Index” for the year ahead is at its lowest since June, 2014.
Marketing Communications Forecasts
With so many macro strategic and tactical issues on the horizon, it’s difficult to know where to start. But corporate and nonprofit marketers will still have to make decisions about their businesses, so here are my top five forecasts for you to consider as they relate to your marketing communications needs in the coming year.
1. Current client-agency relationships are at a very low level, and there will be an increase in the use of outside marketing communications consultants and groups to help small and midsized organizations.
Over time, client’s lack of trust in their agencies, combined with the huge overhead garnered by the larger agencies, has resulted in a weakening of the bond between clients and agencies. As an example, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) recently hired two consulting firms to investigate allegations of undisclosed rebates in digital media flowing to agencies. Much to the chagrin of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the ANA is working without their involvement.
Is it any wonder there was/is $30 billion under review in 2015? Transparency is the new black.
2. Content marketing will become even more important, as marketers learn to use market research and data analysis to deliver more meaningful information to customers and prospects. Further, as the number of people in the US blocking ads rose to 45 million in the second quarter of 2015 (up 48 percent from a year earlier), the economic viability of digital media is threatened. Taken together, this offers a unique opportunity to provide customers, prospects and donors with better information once the marketer understand what they really want to know. Look before you leap.
3. How marketers gather, analyze and integrate data about customers and prospects will help determine how well they achieve marketing and profitable sales success. By 2017, 69 percent of marketers say they expect data to drive most of their decisions (Gartner).
Everyone agrees there is an overwhelming amount of data. That’s the good news. The challenge is knowing how to interpret it and being able to communicate the implications correctly and effectively. Without this skill set, the entire marketing communications ROI is just another fancy name.
4. In 2016, with political advertising dominating media, many small and midsized companies and nonprofits will be priced out, finding it difficult to secure and/or afford many media and marketing tactical services. Next year, Advertising Age estimates that media will account for 54 percent of spending, while other marketing services will account for 46 percent.
Specifically, direct marketing is projected to account for one-third of all spending, followed by television at 23 percent, digital at 15 percent, plus newspapers and sponsorships, each at six percent. More than ever, being flexible and media neutral should be the first priority.
5. Despite the seemingly daily appearance of new online marketing tactics, human connections will, in fact, become more important. The explosion of digital tactics has created a unique opportunity to efficiently build awareness and initiate a dialogue. However, it’s also left behind a lot of clutter in its wake.
If you want to close a sale, you may have to resort to the “old” method of face to face relationships. In fact, nearly eight out of ten B2B and B2C marketers use in-person events for just that reason. Importantly, employees who understand the category and believe in the product can provide the quality, sincerity and emotional connection that are missing in most digital dialogues. Your own employees can not only be significant brand ambassadors but can also be an important source of customer feedback. Don’t be afraid to use them.
There are many other areas of prognostication worthy of discussion – including mobile, native advertising, baby boomers vs. millennials, internal communications, ROI measurement, videos, etc., etc. – but I believe the forecasts discussed above will have a significant impact not just on 2016 but the years ahead. The question then becomes what to do about them.
Marketing Communications Consultants Add Value
With all of the changes in the years ahead, consumers, buyers and donors will be forced to become more knowledgeable and more demanding, and will become even more cautious about how to spend their money. The rapid changes in technology have created an “always on” media environment. And a recent study by Forrester Research reports that over one-third of marketers currently feel overwhelmed by change.
I believe the 2016 will be the year of people, not technology or media or brands or companies. In almost all organizations, but especially in small and midsized ones, people are probably stretched to the limit and/or simply do not possess the background or expertise to handle the marketing communications challenges of 2016.
Because of this, an increasing number of for profit and nonprofit organizations have partnered with established senior level consultants to help develop, refine and, if appropriate, implement ROI focused programs. Look for people with broad industry and brand experience, across organizations, large and small. Candor should flourish. Look to make your future better than your past.