Most years look like previous years. We’re each a little older, there’s a bit more technology and the world has gotten a little bit more complex. So “marketing trends” that affect us are things you’ve already heard about, only they’ve matured a little.
I suspect 2023 will be different. There’s one massive mega-trend that you’ve already heard about that will hit marketers like a ton of bricks. More like two tons of bricks, actually.
will change has changed marketing fundamentally
I’m talking about machine learning, and artificial intelligence more broadly, of course.
This is not new, and we’ve heard this prediction multiple times before. Previously, it was accompanied by funny tweets about how an AI/ML application had gotten this or that wrong. Remember the Microsoft bot that quickly learned racism from some “helpful” 4chan users? Then there were funny examples from the Copy.ai user group where the algorithm suggested sending all emails directly to trash when asked to give productivity advice.
Well, things have gotten a lot less amusing recently.
My colleague Lauri was writing a highly technical blog post recently about moving infrastructure to Kubernetes, and related challenges. He thought he’d give ChatGPT 3, OpenAI’s latest project, a go and was mightily impressed with the results. A two-page post appeared based on a two-sentence input and was improved based on additional prompts.
ChatGPT 4 will arrive some time this year by the way, and it’ll be many orders of magnitude more capable.
If a blog post that impresses a senior software professional can be produced in less than 2 minutes, the first thing that will change beyond recognition is content marketing and SEO.
Next in line: personalizing content for emails, website copy, ads, localization. I’m struggling to think of any area in marketing that won’t be massively impacted.
Keeping in mind my future well-being and the fact machines use almost all of the publicly available content for learning, I’d like to point out this is a welcome development 🙂
As many channels get costlier, the best long-term marketing bet is to invest in your brand
Paid ads have been getting more expensive and it’s ever more difficult to get a decent ROI from that channel. Organic social media reach has been falling on multiple platforms. Search engines solve an increasing number of queries on their own turf. And machine learning will turn most of what you know upside down anyway.
Whatever you’re selling and whoever you’re selling to, the best long-term marketing bet is to invest in your brand. If your marketing plan is overly acquisition and short-term focused, your competitors will overtake you in a year or two.
Your marketing plan should include things like brand advertising, thought leadership and extreme top-of-funnel content, PR, events, and community building.
Yes, the short-term ROI on them is lower than for buying more Facebook ads right now, but you probably can’t afford to not think long-term. A Facebook ad might get you a bunch of clicks today, but truly great marketing builds you a lasting reputation that compounds over time.
Increased focus on operational excellence
Did I just catch you yawning? I don’t blame you. This sub-header sounded like true corporate speak.
But it also sounded spot on, I hope.
On the one hand, automation can remove much of the boring, repetitive work from our jobs, leaving us with more time for the fun, creative stuff.
Research shows that if you automate away the repetitive, manual tasks from the daily work of your skilled employees, they will be happier. The same research showed that businesses that automate are hiring more and seeing higher-than-expected revenues.
On the other, given the colder economic climate and increased competition, the companies with ducks in more orderly rows will win.
If you have your sales and marketing ops figured out:
- You probably have solid definitions for lead sources and attribution
- You know exactly how much you’re paying for each lead and the ROI
- You’ll have a dashboard that shows you upstream KPI’s, so you can correct course before it’s too late
- Your salespeople have context about leads before they ever speak to them (that’s where Outfunnel can help, by the way).
This does not mean that your company needs to have a Marketing Ops role (especially if you’re at the Smaller end of SMBs). But it does mean you need to give marketing operations the attention it deserves, especially if you want to remain relevant as an employer and successful as a business.
Your marketing mix should reflect changes in the marketing channels
“Best practices” get you predictable results at inflated prices – and that’s not enough to beat the competition.
Google or Facebook ads are very often the logical places to start digital marketing. The challenge for many companies is that if you pay $5 or more for a qualified click, it’s difficult to make economics work if your marketing funnel hasn’t been optimized yet and you’re not flush with cash.
The good news is almost always there are channels that have equally qualified traffic but that charge a much more reasonable cost-per-click because they’re in growth mode and/or are getting their traffic for cheap and have some room for arbitrage.
Sometimes it’s brand new platforms like iOS App Store or Salesforce App Exchange, and other times it’s new ad formats of existing platforms.
From my own experience, I remember the extremely high ROI from the then-new Capterra CPC-platform back in 2014 or so, or the crazy good results from being among the first to run Instagram story ads.
How do you find new platforms and marketplaces in 2023?
- Speak to peers and colleagues (see the last tip )
- Build experimentation with new platforms and formats into your processes. For example, set aside 20% of your budget and man-hours for finding and testing new channels.
- Do research regularly. Search for keywords relevant to you and see which new sites pop up on the first page of Google.
What you read in blog posts stopped working several months ago
Finally, perhaps you should be reading fewer blog posts.
Clicks are increasingly expensive, there’s more and more content, an ever-increasing amount of money to start new businesses, and an ever-shortening lag before any good idea gets endlessly copied.
In this context, why give away one’s best growth tactic?
To sell their tool or consulting hours, perhaps, but even then it doesn’t make sense to give away your best tactics when you can get the attention you need with something less fresh as well.
So where do you find your growth marketing opportunities in 2023?
- Talk to users and customers. Have a habit and a process for continuously interviewing customers and prospective users. I still do one or two calls with new or prospective customers every well.
- Prioritize process over hacks and strategy over tactics. While your competitors are busy chasing the next shiny object, the best thing you can do is to take the long view. When everyone is doing cold email campaigns, could you dare to invest in growing your opt-in email list instead?
- Talk to others in your field. While the best growth hacks are not usually shared publicly, tech marketers are a friendly bunch. I’ve made it one of my priorities to schedule calls and meetings with peers and the time-to-insights ratio is always about 10X better compared to reading books or listening to podcasts.
Have a great 2023!