It’s an interesting question, not only because it’s the end of a year and marketers are making plans for 2018, but also because there are so many “run of the business” things that aren’t still happening - thinking beyond the basics seems almost crazy. So, here’s a question for the marketers out there - how innovative will you be in 2018?
Innovation in running the business
The most important thing I can say right now is that innovation can happen anywhere, anytime. While some might think you have to be on the bleeding edge of change to be innovative, I disagree. You can innovate every day if you have the right mindset.
There’s a lot of things marketers still aren’t doing that well that they should probably spend at least the first half of the new year focusing on. More innovation in their content marketing is one key area.
In the State of Digital Marketing in 2018 from Smart Insights, content marketing topped the list of marketing activities respondents believe will have the most commercial impact on their business:
Graphic from Smart Insight's State of Digital Marketing in 2018
There’s far too much content out there on the Web, most of it more noise than substance, and the amount of money spent on content that doesn’t provide the value to the audience, prospect or customer is huge.
It’s time to get more innovative with content. Think outside of the whitepaper or traditional blog post and produce some amazing content. Some things that might appeal to your audience:
- How to videos that explain how your product works. I’m not talking about that 30 sec cartoon that flashes images of John trying to decide how to create a website, but real instructions that show how to use your solution.
- A weekly podcast that discusses topics around your audiences’ industries, interests, and challenges. Getting a happy customer on board to talk about their challenges would give a real-world example everyone can relate to.
- Interactive white papers and ebooks that do more than highlight challenges and opportunities. These papers could provide scenarios that the reader must work through - like those choose your adventure books we had when we were kids. It’s a lesson and a guide in one nice little package.
- Customer stories with some meat. We’ve gone too far in the direction of short, snappy case studies that say little to nothing. Give your prospects clear examples of how your product has been used. If you have to anonymize the story, so be it; getting a detailed understanding of how your solution has helped another company is more important.
Neil Patel developed Marketing School - a ten-minute marketing and social media lesson served up via Alexa. That’s an innovative way to share information.
It’s also smart to plan to spend more time with your data to figure out what appeals to your audience today (and your customers), so you can focus on their areas going forward. If you’ve written a blog post that received more traffic than you’ve ever seen, that’s an opportunity for a webinar, or a podcast, or a video - or all three. Innovation happens when we find new ways to create content that we know people want to consume.
Innovation in the next big thing
Of course, for as many who will focus on the basics in 2018, just as many will reach beyond to the next big thing. There are a few thoughts on what will be important, but the one you seem to hear most about is AI.
If you meet a marketer, who tells you they need to do more AI, walk away. What the heck does that mean anyway? There are plenty of things AI can help you do in the context of actual activities.
It’s the marketers who say, ‘we need to look at true 1-1 personalization’, ‘how can we be at the top of Alexa’s search list?’, or ‘how can we make our live events more personalized and meaningful?’ - these are the ones who understand the value that AI can bring to the table.
So when you are sitting around the brainstorming table, talk about your personas and the customer journey. Then, think about how you can improve that journey, ensuring the right information is provided at the right time. There’s no doubt whatever idea you come up with will leverage AI capabilities.
Augmented reality is another “next big thing” for 2018, and in the right context, it is exciting to think about. One example that uses the new iPhone 8:
The MLB at-bat app will now have augmented reality capabilities on the iPhone 8, giving baseball fans access to more action, data and stats than ever before. Here’s how it will work: by pointing your iPhone 8 toward the field during an MLB game, users will be able to see information and stats for each player. Forget about searching online for how many homeruns Aaron Judge has hit this season. You can use the iPhone to collect this information in the fastest and most efficient manner possible.
Many marketers would kill to be in the position to do both types of innovation, but the budget may not be there. Improving on the essentials is critical and should be a primary focus for 2018. There’s time to get in on the “next big thing” soon enough.
Of course, if you have the budget, plan for both. Do the essentials and define some cool projects to try one or two new things. Focus on areas you believe will have the most impact on your audiences and customers.
I’d love it if you shared some of your marketing plans for 2018 in the comments below. Are you focusing on the getting better at the essentials, or are you jumping off the bleeding edge to try something new?