Digital Marketing Lessons from 2017 & Predictions for 2018

 

By Bob West

 

Well, ‘tis the season for looking back and looking forward, so who am I to not take part? Here’s a quick look at three key takeaways I have for digital marketers after 2017 as well as some thoughts as to what 2018 may hold.

 

The Takeaways

  1. Digital media is just media now. For years, we’ve differentiated between digital and print audiences when talking about how ag professionals consume content. But the results of our 2017 Media Consumption Habits & Trends Report research illustrate that the various differences in digital media use based on an individual’s age or the size of his business no longer exist (other than with social media).

 

The same is true when looking at media use across the different industries we serve. Cotton growers are just as likely to open an enewsletter as are fruit growers, who get online for the same types of content as greenhouse growers seek out.

 

The elimination of these use gaps tells us that our audiences have reached a level of maturity with their digital media use that makes enewsletters, websites and online video a critical means for them to learn about new products and business practices for work.

 

  1. Some marketers are falling behind. The number of clients buying digital advertising from us continues climbing, and our digital clients’ annual spend climbed again in 2017. However, more than 60% of our clients still only buy print media from us, which seems to reflect their overall decision not to value digital marketing. These companies’ websites typically offer poor mobile experiences, they have no email marketing to speak of, and they’re simply ignoring the growing size of the agricultural audience that prefers digital media. The growers and retailers will notice this, and simply stop engaging with these companies as often. (Sadly, those clients probably aren’t going to read this blog post given that it’s digital!)

 

  1. Our markets may not get on the video train. Technology giant Cisco and video marketing firm Tubular Insights (anyone surprised a company with that name is in the digital video space?) estimates that 75% of all mobile website traffic by 2020 will be for watching video. A wide range of news and media outlets including Fox Sports, MTV News and Vice announced an emphasis on video over written content in 2017 … but ag marketers have yet to really embrace the value of video. More than 45% of our audiences told us they watch video at least weekly for work, but few companies in our markets appear willing to invest time and money giving this audience much more to watch.

 

 

Looking Ahead

  1. Content marketing will make tremendous gains in popularity. For the last few years, we’ve written multiple times about the merits of content marketing and the keys to successfully incorporating it into your marketing practices. 2017 was the year when we saw a clear increase in the number of our clients embracing this approach. While content marketing can take many forms (written stories, video, infographics, etc.), written content was clearly most popular among our clients, likely because its more cost effective to produce and can be developed quicker. (We’re not alone in predicting this growth for 2018. Forrester reports 36% of B2B marketers will boost their content budgets for 2018.)

 

  1. Marketing innovation will become even more prevalent in 2018. Clients’ request for proposals have increasingly emphasized “fresh, unique ideas” for a number of years now as marketers recognize the challenge of effectively capturing prospective customers’ attention. Some of those ideas are being created and helping companies stand out from the crowd. (Our work in 2017 included digital product catalogs, custom events, database licensing, custom content, an e-commerce website, an entire special issue publication and more client websites than in any previous year.) That will only raise the bar for other companies working to attract attention from growers and retailers.

 

Ultimately, digital media plays a bigger role helping marketers reach new and current customers than ever, and the companies that recognize this are allocating more of their budget toward digital marketing activities than ever. That’s not going to change (and that’s one prediction I’m most certain about!).

Bob West, is the Commercial Digital Director and Director, Business Services at Meister Media Worldwide. He can be reach at 440-602-9129 and bwwest@meistermedia.com

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