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Digital Marketing Trends For 2018

Lever Interactive and Google recently hosted a Digital Marketing Trends for 2018 event at Google’s Chicago office. Through presentations from Laura O’Connell of Google and Brian Yaro and Jen Davis of Lever Interactive, we learned about the direction digital marketing is going in and practical trends that marketers need to be aware of and master in order to get ahead in the coming year.

In an effort to summarize the key points of the event and provide further insights into the near future of digital marketing, I recently spoke with Laura, Brian and Jen about the event and the insights they feel are most important to remember.

What is one major trend you see affecting digital marketing in the next year, and why is that trend so important?

Laura:  Data. Data is changing the way organizations identify customer intent at all touch points along the journey.

Brian:  Since Laura took the easy answer with data, I’ll go with technology. Tech advancements are enabling advertisers to connect 1:1 with their customers in more meaningful ways. Today’s consumers, especially Millennials and Gen Z, have access to more information – and data – than any generation before. Technology – and data – are key to being there for consumers when and where they expect it.

Jen:  The space will continue to get smarter and, therefore, tougher and more competitive. As data grows and machine learning gets smarter and more prevalent, marketers will continue to have to do more with potentially less dollars. It is always about working smarter. We can now target individuals, but that means there could be thousands of us all trying to for the attention of this individual. Winning your space is going to get tougher, and you are going to have to be smarter.

Why is data so important in digital marketing?

Laura:  Data gives marketers the opportunity to gain a full view of the customer journey and make smarter decisions for their business.

Brian:  Sticking with technology, data is the compass for strategic digital marketing decisions. Never before have advertisers had the depth of consumer insights as we do today. And now technology is catching up to match brand solutions with consumer needs.

Jen:  For decades, marketers have complained about not having direct data to measure marketing efforts. Digital marketing came with much more direct, clear data than we ever had prior. It lets us grow our efforts with new insights to consumer behavior, and allows us to go and match that behavior to similar people who can become new customers. It makes us much smarter about our consumers and defines them better for all marketing efforts, online and offline. And ultimately, it feeds into machine learning, which keeps our digital efforts at the top of their game in this ever-changing consumer world.

Organizations that leverage customer behavioral insights outperform peers by 85% in sales growth and 25+% in gross margin. – Gallup

How can first party data & machine learning help marketers expand and reach their audiences?

Laura:  Leading marketers are able to create a truly customer-centric advertising experience utilizing first party data and machine learning. They can understand and segment their most valuable customers, activate each group differently with engaging and assistive experiences, and build meaningful relationships with them beyond the initial acquisition.

Brian:  I cannot say it any better than Laura did.  Again, advancements in technology is the enabler of creating the digital customer-centric experiences.

Jen:  I think the biggest thing that first party data and machine learning can do is show marketers the similarities between consumers we cannot see with our own eyes, or with the same limited demographic data we have always been using. Consumers are no longer seen just at the age range, gender or education level, but now online searches, mobile app usage and so much more. Connecting all the dots, or at least more of them, with machine learning will open marketers up to new and expanded audiences.

83% of media buyers using addressable media reported superior performance compared to traditional ads

What role does data play in identifying and connecting with your audience? How should marketers develop KPIs to help do so?

Brian:  Data is paramount in identifying and connecting with consumers. Every digital marketing decision needs to be based on information gathered from data. Legacy KPIs based on last click conversions and efficiency are most likely limiting advertisers’ strategies to be there for their consumers. KPI models need to be evaluated and based on customer journey and needs.

Jen:  This can be a huge miss, even though we’ve all heard the stories of companies failing because they did not listen or connect with their customers. Look beyond the age-old consumer profiles and demographics and connect with other data –  1st, 2nd and 3rd party – for complete 360 degree views. Know your consumers’ behavior – what they want, when they want and how they want it – and build your company goals to meet your consumer demand while growing your business and revenue. Those goals become your KPIs to measure both your success in answering your consumers’ needs and, ultimately, your consumers’ satisfaction as well.

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology — not the other way around.” – Steve Jobs

What should a marketer consider when selecting an attribution model for measuring marketing success?

Jen:  First and foremost, marketers need to consider their business goals and objectives when selecting the right attribution model. Second, focus on growth and expansion, not just efficiency in your metrics.  Finally, consider the strategy and tactics you will use to obtain your goals. Only once you have done these three steps will you be able to choose the attribution model that will show if your marketing efforts are obtaining your business goals. And remember, if your goals change, your attribution model may need to as well.

Brian:  Data! Specifically, your business model and consumer journey data.

“[Determining a methodology] becomes a political game because attribution will tell marketers and media planners that their efforts may not be as effective as they thought they were.” – Tina Moffett of Forrester

If you could summarize your presentation in 2-3 sentences, what would they be?

Laura:  Shifting mindset from channel-first to customer-first allows a business to connect with their customers like never before. Leading marketers are adapting to this shift and utilizing data to apply intelligence at every step of the customer journey.

Brian:  Every digital marketing decision needs to be based in understanding your consumer through data. We now have the technology and platforms to be able to create customized, customer-centric experiences for our customers. Advertisers need to evaluate the measurement of their digital marketing strategies with new attribution capabilities.

Jen:  2018 is the year to review and possibly change your attribution model. How you do that is to define your business goals and choose the model that is designed to show how you are achieving those goals. Do not settle for the out-of-the-box model that comes with the tools you are using to run digital marketing. Choose tools that ask you what model you want to use.

What did you find most interesting from the other speakers?

Laura:  Brian really drove home the importance of audience by reminding us of companies that grew through a customer-first approach, and those that faltered by holding on to old KPIs and success metrics. Jen used the power of storytelling to show how narrow a focus using last-click attribution really is.

Brian:  We need to do another event solely on attribution decisions!

Jen:  Seeing how the current way of thinking has lead marketers down a path of channel-first, away from the customer-first mentality we as an agency use with our clients. First, it’s about our clients, but secondarily, it had become about what channels our clients want to us to manage.  But it is, and should be, first our direct clients, and next, their clients. Only after that do the channels, strategy and tactics come.

What is the key takeaway you hope people came away with from this event?

Laura:  In order to stay ahead, you must embrace new consumer behaviors and let go of any metrics that stand in the way of that.

Brian:  I hope attendees are going back and evaluating and challenging their internal processes and KPIs that may be prohibiting their business from being truly relevant and timely for their customers.

Jen:  I hope those who attended have a better understanding of what attribution model works best with certain goals. I think that until recently there was not a lot of information connecting business goals and objectives to attribution models and marketers attempted to choose a model based on what showed the most conversions for their marketing efforts, which is how we got to last click model in the first place. I hope there is an understanding that marketers should start with goals, and determine an attribution model second.

In regards to the previous question, what is/are the first step(s) people should take to make that happen?

Laura:  Ask yourself and your team, “are you working together to put the customer first?” If not, take steps to make that your first priority.

Brian:  Ask, “what is our overall business goal(s), and are we measuring our digital marketing strategies accordingly?”

Jen:  In a couple of words (3-5), define your business goal. It can be as simple as “revenue growth” or “brand awareness.” Do not put any metrics/numbers to it. Based on those few words, you should be able to narrow down your attribution model choice to three or less (of the basic models). From there, start defining your strategy to obtain your goals, again using a few words. Once you start doing that, the model should be narrowed down to one, maybe two. If you do have two, just continue to define goals and strategy to help you narrow your choice to the clear model that will work best for your goals.

Looking beyond 2018, what do you believe is the next big trend in digital marketing?

Laura:  Did I mention machine learning? Brands that combine audience data with the capabilities of machine learning will continue to have an advantage over competitors.

Brian:  Machine learning and AI.

Jen:  Machine learning is only going to improve and become more prevalent in our day-to-day, both as marketers and as human beings. Knowing how to keep your data flowing, correct and working with machine learning capabilities, and ultimately working for you as a marketer, is going to be key to the future.

What was your favorite part of the event?

Laura:  Presenting with the Lever Interactive team and speaking with attendees!

Brian:  Hanging out at the Google office… 😀

Jen:  My favorite part was meeting and talking to so many people who are passionate about digital marketing and have a desire to do and learn more.

Wish you could have attended? Here’s a video of the presentations:

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Laura O’Connell is an Agency Development Manager at Google, based in New York City. She works with Premier Partner agencies, including Lever Interactive, to ensure their team and their clients are getting the best results from their digital marketing strategy. Prior to Google, she worked with Fortune 500 companies on the traditional media side at Fox Sports and Viacom.

Brian is the Manager, Digital-Paid Media at Lever Interactive. He helps lead the overall Paid Media practice – from strategy to client relationships, as well as the tactical execution. Brian’s career exposure to varying verticals and channels has provided insights that he now applies at Lever. Brian loves that on a daily basis at Lever Interactive, he has the opportunity to help clients identify digital, mobile and social solutions to drive them toward their business goals.

Jen Davis is the Senior Vice President Operations at Lever Interactive. She combines two decades of marketing and technology skills from both agency and client-side roles to bring the best of both worlds to clients. Jen’s approach to digital marketing with the Lever team, bringing the creative and technical together, has helped clients achieve and exceed their goals faster and more efficiently than typical agencies. Jen looks beyond the numbers and analyzes all of the data to produce the best digital marketing strategy for each client. No cookie cutter plans!

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