2016 ended with Americans exhausted by emotionally harrowing politics, stories of foreign entanglements and violence at home. Companies have also struggled with modest economic growth and a turbulent stock market. As we begin 2017, everyone – consumers and organizations alike – faces uncertainty in a variety of areas.
Against this backdrop, companies have yet to develop, plan and execute strategies for profitable growth. After speaking with various colleagues and clients, and reading feedback from various experts and forecasters, here is my take on what awaits small and medium-sized B2B and B2C businesses in the coming year:
one. A significant number of marketers, both large and small, will conduct agency reviews in 2017. The current Advertiser Insights report (based on 420 marketers representing about 90 percent of the top 100 US advertisers) reveals a staggering number of planned reviews:
· 66% Creative Agency Review Plan;
65% plan to check search agencies;
64% plan to review media agencies;
61% plan to review digital agencies.
Why? Beyond the lack of trust in the authorities of society as a whole, trust has also been lost, rightly or wrongly, between marketers and their agencies. So if you are feeling concerned about your agency relationship, acknowledge that you are not alone.
two. There will be significant increases in the number of companies hiring “temporary workers”, that is, freelance contract workers and freelance specialists. Faced with minimum wage increases, increases in health care costs, and rising payroll taxes, companies are obviously doing everything they can to reduce their fixed labor costs. But the ability to hire top-tier talent in the short or long term is also a practice that’s gaining a lot of momentum. In fact, a recent Deloitte University Press survey showed a “significant 7 percent increase” plus a “44 percent increase” in planning to hire casual workers in the next few years.
Keep in mind that these “outsiders” bring fresh energy and ideas to any type of organization and, at the same time, can provide some savings to your bottom line.
3. Media fraud and ad blocking will increase in 2017. Much was uncovered by the National Advertisers Association’s eight-month investigation into undisclosed refunds flowing from digital media companies to agencies. However, there is an incentive for scammers to keep doing what they are doing due to the ability to bypass fraud detection systems. This widespread practice can influence agencies’ media recommendations (and bottom line), although it obviously does not serve the best interests of clients.
Perhaps most importantly, the staggering growth of ad blocking in the markets poses a huge threat to digital media. At least 419 million people around the world are blocking ads on their smartphones, almost double the number blocked on desktop computers. That’s 22 percent of the world’s 1.9 billion smartphone users (PageFair – Ad Blocking Goes Mobile).
Digital and mobile media won’t go away, but using them effectively is challenging. Find professionals you trust to make sure you get what you expected.
Four. Since customers and followers are the lifeblood of any business or nonprofit organization, organizations will need to significantly increase their efforts to better understand their real-world wants and needs. A recent McKinsey & Co. study of about 700 top executives found that: 1) only 6 percent of companies felt they understood their customers’ needs very well; and 2) seventy-two percent considered the knowledge-of-the-client budgets inadequate.
There has been an explosion in the amount of customer data available, with new software programs mining all kinds of purchase and opinion information, including social media. To be competitive, organizations will need to continue expanding their knowledge using this new information. It just doesn’t seem smart to even consider developing a specific strategy or plan without knowing your customers, so make sure you have the skills to obtain and interpret the correct information.
5. Developing and maintaining a positive customer experience will become the new king of marketing. Distrust of institutions appears to be rampant: products are withdrawn from the market, passwords are stolen, online tweets have as much credibility as government agencies. Starting with employees, make sure they have the knowledge and tools to provide better customer service, create a positive experience, and promote repeat buying and customer referrals.
Confidence is the new black. All aspects of a brand’s life must convey reliability, delivered consistently and credibly, at every point of contact.
6. The acceptance and use of direct mail by millennials will continue to explode. Yes, millennials. And yes, traditional mail. This demographic is the one most likely to open and read direct mail. In fact, 63% reported that they made a purchase based on a direct mail article that they opened in the last 3 months (Direct Marketing Information Trends Study in the US).
Perhaps their flood of spam, disrupted advertising, and meaningless content will leave you tired of staring at screens and searching for a “new” medium. After all, it’s not about technology; it’s about efficiency.
7. While internet media spending will be tied to television for the biggest spending in 2017, more marketers will acknowledge that the majority of top media spending is still accounted for by traditional media (65%). Spending on television will increase by 1 percent, away from home by 4 percent, as radio will remain unchanged and only magazines and newspapers will show decreases (by 5 and 9 percent, respectively). Additionally, the Marketing Services category will increase by 2.8 percent to $ 237 billion, led by sales promotion, telemarketing, direct mail, and event sponsorships. (Age of advertising)
It goes without saying that determining where to spend your money on marketing communications is becoming increasingly complex. The key to doing this successfully is understanding the difference between selecting the newest “efficient” tactical tool and selecting the most “effective” one. This becomes increasingly important for small businesses, which cannot afford costly mistakes.
8. Much more time and smart thinking will be spent developing marketing strategy, positioning, and planning for marketing and marketing communications. A study of “Significant Brands” conducted by Havas in 2015 reported that most people wouldn’t mind if three-quarters of all brands disappeared forever. Also, most brands haven’t updated their strategies to satisfy today’s internet shoppers. These buyers have access to a wealth of information and have a wealth of purchasing options at their fingertips. It is more vital than ever that, to survive, you must continue to keep your brand meaningful to its constituents.
Both for-profit and non-profit brands must make absolutely clear how they differ from the competition and make their value proposition completely credible at every opportunity. Once your plan is implemented, you also need to know what is working and measure everything.
Marketing Communications and Value Marketing Consultants
2017 brings a considerable number of unknowns and concerns facing your customers, prospects, and even your employees. Clearly, they are more cautious about what to believe and who to trust for the next year. All organizations are faced with these problems and the dilemma of how to run a successful business in this climate.
Many small and medium-sized organizations are partnering with established and independent senior consultants to assist them with marketing communications and marketing plans and budgets, evaluating, developing, refining and, if applicable, implementing. If this is something you might consider, look for people with extensive experience in B2B, B2C, and nonprofits across all industries and brands. Look for consultants who are media neutral and don’t sell a particular discipline. And make sure they are passionate about analyzing the results and willing to “tell it like us” so that candor can flourish.
Improving the ROI of profitable sales and marketing communications is a daunting task. Finding the right consultant to partner with can take a bit of searching, but as Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”