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What are your top marketing predictions for 2018?

8 minute read

A perfect question as we head towards the end of 2017, in today’s #asktheukdomain video I look at my top seven marketing predictions for the new year including:

  1. AI/automation
  2. Video
  3. Employee engagement
  4. No more digital vs. non-digital
  5. Content is still king
  6. Personalisation
  7. SEO will evolve (and stay the same)

Video Transcript

♪ [music] ♪ Hello and welcome back to Ask The UK Domain. Today’s question, a pertinent one for the end of the year is, “What are your top marketing predictions for 2018?” A lot of the things I’ve put up on the board you will have heard about for probably quite a long time and you’ll be thinking, “Well, what makes these new?” Well, some of these things are evolving and they’re changing. So many things are becoming more relevant to small businesses rather than being the preserve of the large enterprise.

So, let’s start with the top one. This has been a bit of a buzzword for a while, particularly in 2017, which is AI, Artificial Intelligence, and automation. Now, for anyone who’s listening and knows something a little bit about AI, automation is not AI. Artificial Intelligence is very much about systems that use machine learning and also use intelligence in order to make decisions that humans would normally make.

Automation is simply about performing tasks and functions that a human would normally make rather than making decisions, intelligent decisions. The reason I’ve lumped these two together is that A, we often talk about them at the same time, and also some of the systems that are in the background of AI and automation, machine learning, they’re very similar. So let’s just start with AI.

A lot of systems are already using AI. So if you do Facebook Advertising, Facebook’s machine learning algorithms are figuring out who’s going to respond best to your adverts and your content, and it’s showing your adverts to people who ultimately are going to convert better or engage more or whatever your objective happens to be. So it’s already happening within our ad platforms and I think that’s just going to increase.

I think it’s going to be a while before we start seeing AI working its way into other marketing systems, let’s say, content management systems for example. There is work being done in content management systems to serve up content on a website using AI and actually serving content that’s relevant to the audience, which I’ll come back to in personalisation. But ultimately, I think all the kind of ad platforms we’re using, we’ll see more and more AI and more and more machine learning. Everything will become more intelligent.

And that kind of links into the automation thing which people are realising that, yeah, we can use technology. We can use our computers in order to kind of get rid of those mundane tasks and that’s really, really important for a small business. But if there’s only one of you leading the business or if there’s just a very small team, if you’re doing a task more than once, automate it. And the systems are getting better. And, again, we’re using AI in automation because if you’re using automation, a popular tool that people use is IFTTT, “If This Then That”.

Well, if you’re using a tool like “If This Then That”, you’ve got a set of rules. You’ve got to say, “If this happens then this happens, and then if that happens then this happens”. But that requires human intervention. You’ve got to track the flow of those decisions. If AI can start helping with automation, the decision-making gets taken out of it. So that’s really, really exciting and I think we’re going to start seeing small businesses be able to use that a little bit more.

Video, we’re doing more videos at The UK Domain. As you can see, we’ve started doing a lot of these since August, September. And that’s going to be the same with lots of other businesses out there because A, social media rewards businesses and channels that use video. Facebook will serve your video higher than other image-based or text-based content.

Also, people are realising that you don’t need to have a really expensive professional kit to record good videos. Most smartphones you can record excellent video for your purposes. So, I think more and more people are going to realise how powerful video is. For businesses that are a little bit big and maybe the size of Nominet who run The UK Domain, you might start seeing more people hiring videographers rather than going out to external agencies. So we are seeing this transition towards video becoming ingrained into a marketing department. The idea that you kind of outsource all of that is gone. The idea that you hire someone with video skills is very much in at the moment.

Employee engagement, which kind of connects to my point about hiring somebody. Well, increasingly, people do become a bit mistrustful of brands. The more people use social media, the more that brands use social media, we’re seeing so many adverts in our Facebook feeds for companies that we’ve never heard of and probably never hear of again.

That doesn’t mean you should stop advertising, just means you should be intelligent about it. But what it does mean particularly for companies that are a little bit larger, maybe over 30 employees up to the kind of Nominet’s size, well, employee engagement means that you can get real people as your advocates. If you can get 100 of your employees to share a piece of content, the reach of that would cost you thousands in advertising.

I think more and more companies are starting to realise that you need employee engagement plans. And if you’re thinking, “Well, that doesn’t apply to me. I don’t really have that many employees in my business”, well, it does because if there’s only a few of you, you can attract customers and you can attract advocates using thought leadership for example. So think about the individuals because those individuals will be able to reach more people than just your brand using, you know, your brand channels and brand advertising would ever be able to.

Number four, no more digital versus non-digital. I would have probably said the same thing a year ago and I’m probably going to say the same thing in another year. Because increasingly, as companies use more and more digital channels and frankly, who isn’t using predominantly digital channels for their marketing, the idea that you have a non-digital marketer versus a digital marketer, I think that doesn’t exist now. But it still does in some companies.

So, I think just increasingly we’re going to wear away and erode the notion that you’re either digital or non-digital. You are a marketer, and if you are a marketer you’re going to be using digital channels and a bit of non-digital depending on what your audience is and what your business and service is etc. So that’s just going to continue, and what we’re also going to see rather than there being, “I’m a marketer. I’m a digital marketer”, we’re going to see specialisations. You know, “I’m an email marketing specialist,” “I’m a social media specialist,” “I’m a SEO specialist,” people are going to specialise in different niches and different channels.

And ultimately, if you look to the T-shape marketing model where essentially you’ve got a bit of knowledge across every area and you specialise in one or two of them, I think more people are going to start applying that just generally across the board.

Content is still king. Sorry that I’ve used an awful cliche, but content marketing and content in general still fuels all good marketing. That doesn’t mean that kind of push marketing via advertising is going away, I mean, obviously, it’s not because we see adverts everywhere we go. But ultimately, content, whether that’s video content, whether that’s blog content, whether that’s case studies, whether that’s image galleries of an event that you’ve done, content is still the fuel of all good marketing.

And from a small business perspective, you can use content and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. If you’ve got a website, you can produce content for your website whether that’s blogs and articles or help guides, FAQs. Well, you can do that on a low budget and it can have a very wide reach, especially when you connect it to this which I’ll come onto in just a little bit.

Personalisation. So, again, personalisation has been around for a long time. When Amazon in 1998 was using personalisation, it was a real novelty, the fact that it could look at the books I was buying and recommend more books to me that it thinks I will like. Well, those companies are still doing that. Netflix does that, it recommends things to you. It gives you a percentage chance that you’ll like a programme or a series or whatever it is.

But I think we’re going to start seeing personalisation, again, creeping down into that small business space because, again, lots of websites are doing this. You might have noticed some publishers asking you to log in to their website, and when you go to the website, they show you content that it thinks that you’re going to like. That’s why a lot of these platforms ask you to log in because they can track your behaviour, they can track what you’re looking at.

And I know that sounds a bit scary, the whole tracking thing, but ultimately, it’s there to give you a personalised experience. So consumers are expecting personalisation, and as businesses, you should be expecting to give personalisation to your customers. And that’s going to translate into various places but I think tech needs to catch up a little bit, which is what I think is going to happen next year.

My final point, SEO will evolve and also stay the same. What do I mean by that? Well, SEO is always evolving. One big area that is going to evolve increasingly over the next year or two is voice search. I think there are predictions out there that the majority of search done via search engines we’ve done via the voice. If you look at how devices such as Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Home, Apple’s upcoming similar device coming out next year, these devices are there that you can talk to them and they’ll give you answers whether that’s something as mundane as asking for a calculation or something, whether that’s, you know, “Hey, Siri. How long is it going to take me to get to work? What time should I leave the house?” I think ultimately we’re talking, we’re having human interactions with machines, which comes back to our AI and automation.

These systems are what fuel all those other systems. They give you answers in a very human way using human dialogue. And SEO, that’s how it’s going to evolve. So when we’re thinking about SEO, we’re thinking about content and we’re thinking about the questions that we need to be answering, think about what is the question that you’re answering and think about it in that very human way.

People don’t go to their search engines anymore and just type a few keywords with no, you know, not in a proper sentence. People will be using proper sentences, you know, “Hey, Siri, is there a pizza delivery place near me?” That’s a full question and it’s a full sentence, and that’s how you should be thinking when you’re optimising your content.

But why do I say it’s going to stay the same? Because the core ideas behind why search engines such as Google have their guidelines on what makes good SEO, that’s not going to change. It’s all about delivering the relevant answer, the right answer for the right query. And as long as you’re making good content, as long as you’re not doing spammy link building, as long as you’re not keyword stuffing your content, as long as you’re just being natural in making good content, you’re always going to be ahead. I think for small businesses listening to this, those who don’t have SEO specialists in the team, you don’t have to worry about, “Oh my God, I’m going to have to learn all these new rules about SEO”. All you got to be thinking about is natural language because these software and algorithms use natural language processing so be as natural and as consumer, customer, focused as possible.

So there are my predictions. There are lots more that it could be, but ultimately I think these are the ones that are going to affect small businesses a lot in 2018 and the years beyond. So if you’d like to ask a question to Ask The UK Domain, simply do so using #asktheukdomain. Use that on the social media platform of your choice or leave a comment on this video ♪ [music] ♪

Peter is the Head of Content at Nominet. He's passionate about helping small businesses make the most of being online, especially through the use of content marketing.

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