There's a good reason the email marketing industry is strong after more than two decades: It's still a very viable communication platform and will continue to be so. The reason digital marketing strategies and tactics have performed so effectively over the years is that they provide an unmatched layer of targeting, reach, and measurability. While some online marketing trends have declined in popularity (pop-up ads, affiliate marketing, MySpace, QR codes, etc.) many of the foundational digital marketing strategies and tactics are here to stay. The following article outlines nine marketing strategies and tactics that will never die (at least in our lifetime).
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Mobile has moved from a peripheral consideration to a core component of most marketing programs in the past few years. With smartphone penetration as deep as it is, mobile will continue to drive marketing strategies and tactics into the foreseeable future. More consumers are using mobile devices for discovery, validation, and shopping. Local and social apps continue to evolve and enhance marketers' ability to target individuals. Look for continued evolution of marketing products, platforms, and services that further target and engage mobile users.
Related article: "The Mobile Opportunity for Local and Multi-Location Businesses"
Website (as your brand hub)
One of the primary areas of dispute among marketing gurus today is the long-term viability of "traditional" websites. One camp argues that mobile apps and/or social platforms will displace websites as a hub for brands. In the other camp, practical marketers like myself believe that brands should create a hub they truly control and that provides the lowest possible friction for customers. Brands don't own or control the experience on social platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Similarly, apps require downloading and can be expensive to develop and intrusive to the end user. As a result, I believe websites will (or at least should) continue to play a central role for brands moving forward. Websites are also more affordable and easier to develop, optimize, and manage than ever before.
Related article: "5 Reasons Why WordPress Should be Your Company's Website Solution"
Content (creation and syndication)
Since the World Wide Web came on the scene in the mid-'90s, content has been King. Today, the importance of fresh, unique, and compelling content is greater than ever. Google rewards websites and brands that regularly post multimedia content, including video, audio, and images. Many social platforms rely heavily on multimedia, including YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and iTunes. Due to rampant adoption of social platforms by consumers, brands are also able to leverage user-generated media to augment marketing campaigns. However, that doesn't mean you should discount old-school digital marketing platforms like blogging and webinars, which continue to drive high conversion rates, especially for the business-to-business (B2B) markets.
Related article: "How to Advocate for a Bigger Content Marketing Budget"
Search engine optimization (SEO)
I recall a disagreement between myself and an "SEO guru" six years back, after he predicted SEO would be dead within six months. I disagreed vehemently at the time, but it was only because peers asked me to respond to his declaration publicly. Years later, I thought more about what he meant and realized he had a point. SEO as we knew it was changing. That said, it didn't change as much as he'd anticipated. The greatest changes in SEO during the past few years have revolved around semantic markup, contextual search, mobile, local, and social searches. More consumers are searching via voice, within apps, or via local and social media platforms. That being said, consumers still rely heavily on search engines and therefore brands need to optimize their websites, apps, and social profiles to rank highly. Until everyone knows everything, search will continue to drive discovery.
Related article: "Your Most Common SEO Questions Answered"
Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)
In the formative years of the web's evolution, most advertising campaigns were based on the antiquated print model of cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM). While the model is easy for publishers to sell and agencies and clients to understand, it lacked a performance-based element. Enter cost-per-click (CPC), originally pioneered by GoTo in 1998. Google improved upon the auction model by adding performance metrics and set the standard now followed by major search engines and social media platforms. The self-service, performance-based model is preferred by both buyers (brands and agencies) and publishers, due to its relative efficiency, measurability, and control. Advertisers have had more than a decade to get comfortable with the model for the reasons outlined above, which makes it nearly impossible to disrupt.
Social media advertising (paying to play)
Social media has also evolved radically from the days of bulletin boards, chat rooms, and forums in the '90s. SnapChat and Instagram have grown significantly, nipping at the heels of giants like Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. The platforms were initially able to offer advertisers something that Google could not: the ability to target unique individuals based on demographic and psychographic data. A majority of these popular social platforms adopted another way to increase revenues, which was to artificially limit the flow of updates users see. Instead of 100 percent reach, updates from brands were only being seen by 5 to 10 percent of fans/followers. Brands that spent time and money to increase their number of fans/followers were suddenly required to "boost" updates in order to reach those same fans. As frustrating as this turn has been for brands and followers, brands have seen a return-on-investment (ROI) from investing in boosted/promoted posts. As a result, this pay-to-play model will likely continue well into the future.
Related article: "20 social media rules you should never break"
Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
Amazon has long proven the power of continually testing and optimizing its website to maximize conversions since it officially launched in 1995. Since then, a variety of conversion rate optimization tools have come onto the market and been incorporated into marketing programs. Platforms like Optimizely and Unbounce have streamlined the process of creating optimized landing pages for paid media campaigns. In the future, a majority of marketers will consider A/B and/or multivariate testing a key component of their website and paid media programs. The only way to double online sales without doubling site traffic is via conversion rate optimization, which makes it a timeless tactic.
Related article: "Turn Website Visitors into Customers via Conversion Optimization"
Gamification (trick or treat)
According to Google, gamification is defined as "the application of typical elements of game playing to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service." More than ever, brands are looking to "gamify" their products, platforms, and apps. I see a more encompassing definition, however, which includes affiliate and loyalty programs, contests, and other promotions. Due to increased noise online, brands need to be increasingly creative to capture and hold consumers' attention. While gamification is an effective way to compete, publishers and advertisers have a new challenge facing them: ad blockers. In the past few years, the adoption of ad blockers has dramatically impacted brands' ability to reach target audiences. The gamification answer: native advertising. Look for an increasing number of advertisers to "game the system" with advertorial-style content, which is here to stay.
Related article: "10 ways publishers are dealing with ad blocking"
Electronic messaging (email, seriously)
Email may not be seen as new or sexy, but it is still the gold standard for interpersonal communications, particularly in business. For the past 15 years, Anvil's monthly email newsletter has continued to be the single most effective lead-nurturing tool in our repertoire. Further evidence of the power of email can be seen in the adoption of sales and marketing automation platforms. Whether you've invested in a high-end platform like Eloqua or a more affordable option like Act-on, email messaging is essential in capturing, qualifying, nurturing, and converting leads into sales. Due to email's relative ubiquity and the power of marketing platforms, email will continue to be the de-facto standard for prospect and customer communications.
Related article: "The 4 Ps of a Successful Marketing Automation Program"
I'm a big believer in the K.I.S.S. methodology when it comes to marketing: Keep it simple, stupid. While I believe it is essential to continually test and evolve digital marketing strategies and tactics, I try not to get too distracted by shiny objects. I do believe cross-channel integration of data-driven marketing campaigns framed up by predictive analytics and audience segmentation are relevant now and in the future. That said, the nine strategies and tactics above have been time-tested and provide a foundational digital marketing program today and well into the future.