Understanding Marketing Trends

When people talk about marketing these days, you may hear them using various terms or “buzzwords” that refer to current trends, such as “digital marketing,” “inbound marketing” or “search engine marketing.” I’ve talked with companies who are somewhat bewildered and overwhelmed hearing about these marketing trends and the thought of trying to keep up with and execute them all. Some think the terms relate to entirely new categories of marketing, when in fact they simply relate to new strategies or approaches using the tools we’re already familiar with, such as our websites and social media.

marketing trends

The following are brief descriptions of many of today’s marketing trends and what they entail so you can determine which ones are worth exploring for your marketing program.

Digital Marketing

Quite simply, digital marketing is using digital or online channels or technologies to reach and connect with your target audience, as it is primarily through online channels that people seek out information. I’m talking about your website and blog, of course, but also social media, email and mobile apps. Digital marketing encompasses online activities that will position your company, attract attention, drive traffic to your website and generate customer leads. These activities include online advertising (via display or banner ads or Google AdWords), conducting email campaigns, creating online content (e.g., valuable offers such as e-books and white papers), and conducting search engine optimization (SEO) for your website to ensure high rankings in search engine results. SEO involves tactics such as embedding keywords and links in your website content and having links from outside sites. Digital marketing also extends to and includes other forms of marketing described below, such as inbound marketing, search engine marketing, social media marketing and content marketing.

Inbound Marketing

As the name suggests, inbound marketing is focused on activities that will drive customers in your direction. As opposed to outbound marketing, which is focused on direct outreach to your audience, inbound marketing entails engaging customers or helping them find you and your website by providing relevant and valuable content through your blog, social media, and conducting SEO activities that ensure this content is found in search engine results. Once customers have visited your website to download your content, the goal is to “convert” them to leads and “nurture” those leads by continuing to offer them valuable content — educational materials and helpful information that build trust, credibility and relationships that will ultimately lead to a sale when the customer is ready to buy. Inbound marketing integrates with and complements sales efforts to move prospective customers through the sales pipeline or “funnel.”

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Typically called just “search marketing,” SEM involves conducting SEO activities but is mainly focused on executing what is called “paid search” — buying listings or advertising on search engines to help search engine visibility and drive traffic to your website. Each search engine offers Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Cost-Per-Click (CPC) options (e.g. Google AdWords). To do paid search ads effectively, you would want to test various key words and offers in the ad to see what works best.

Social Media Marketing

You may have company pages set up on all the relevant social media sites, but do you have an action plan for capturing attention and driving traffic to your website through these sites? That’s what social media marketing is and it involves ensuring your social media sites have that valuable and engaging content that links to relevant pages on your website (which also supports your SEO efforts). Doing social media marketing effectively also entails a high frequency of posting to the sites to grow your list of followers and maintain engagement. Read our blog, “Developing a Social Media Strategy,” to learn more.

Content Marketing

This is the marketing you need to perform to create that valuable and engaging content that will be used on your website, social media and blog and potentially offered in email and direct mail campaigns. This is not about developing the standard marketing materials that promote your products and services — it’s about offering educational or helpful information on solving a problem or addressing a situation. White papers, case studies, e-Books, infographics and research reports all fall into this category. You want to outline a strategy or plan for your content marketing to ensure you are creating diverse pieces that can be used across different areas of your marketing. Content marketing is integrated with and supports digital, inbound, search and social media marketing.

Influencer Marketing

One of the latest hot trends in marketing, influencer marketing focuses on the people who are influential in your industry and can have an effect on your prospective customers’ buying decisions. Depending on your industry, influencers can be industry analysts, consultants/advisors, authors/bloggers, acknowledged subject matter experts, manufacturers, resellers or retailers, and even current customers. They typically have a large web, social media or client/customer following. Influencer tactics can include research reports, product reviews, interviews, guest blog posts, Twitter exchanges, online community conversations and case studies.

So, there you have it! Use this glossary of current marketing terms and trends as a guideline for developing your marketing plan and determining which marketing strategies will deliver results and work best for growing your business.