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What to adopt in 2020 and what to leave behind

Technology & Data

What to adopt in 2020 and what to leave behind


Rena Gadimova explores common and emerging tactics in email, content, SEO, philanthropy and social marketing, helping you evaluate what to dump and what to adopt in 2020.

This article was sponsored by Marketo to let readers know about its 11 February Marketing Forecast 2020 webinar »

There are some exciting predictions about what lies ahead for marketing in my news feeds these days. Like many of us, I’m clicking and reading quite a few of these futuristic articles because I want to be aware of how marketing will innovate in 2025 and beyond. However, I also need to know how to improve my marketing strategy right now and ensure the best outcome for my marketing programs this year.

Marketing has never been a sedentary experience, but it’s moving at a faster pace than ever. The enormous influx of data and execution capabilities that organisations have available to them have transformed strategic planning. It’s no longer realistic to lay out a locked-in, year-long strategy.

Forward-facing organisations will take advantage of the insights that technologies like AI and marketing automation provide, by viewing their 2020 marketing plans as organic rather than fixed. They’ll continually adapt strategies and transform their best practices as insights are gained.

Below is a list of which marketing practices and tactics your organisation should consider leaving behind and which ones are a must as part of your 2020 planning. Email marketing, content strategy, customer conversion, brand philanthropy, and social media – check out five high-level strategies to improve each of these marketing functions.

1. Email marketing

Leave behind: reliance on demographic segments

Adopt in 2020: behavioural segmentation

A survey by Marketing Week survey found that most marketers are still segmenting their email campaign lists primarily by age and gender, even though those tactics come in at seventh and eighth place when measured for effectiveness. Relying exclusively on demographic and geographic factors to create customer email profiles doesn’t give marketers an accurate enough understanding of their audience.

Smart Company illustrated why this approach doesn’t work by contrasting the demographic profiles of England’s Prince Charles and rock star Ozzy Osbourne. “Two men in the same demographic: Male, 61+ years, with income over $1 million. However, it goes without saying that there are worlds between Prince Charles and the British rock star Ozzy Osbourne.”

However, when behavioural attributes like purchasing traits, buying habits and preferred engagement methods become part of your company’s segmentation process, the effectiveness of your email campaigns rises exponentially. Here’s a hypothetical example: imagine supplying creative with the following target profiles and asking them to write a triggered email that will launch when items are abandoned in an online shopping cart.

  1. Male and female runners, aged 45 to 60, on the West Coast, that left items from our comfort running shoe line in their cart and have demonstrated a higher click-through rate when the body copy contains self-effacing humour.
  2. Male and female runners, aged 45 to 60 on the West Coast.

Which profile is more likely to result in a compelling, personalised email like the following?

“We noticed you searched for comfortable running shoes. It’s OK, sometimes we hurt, too. For ultimate comfort leading to peak performance, be it a sprint or a marathon – enjoy 20% off on those Nike sneakers you left in your cart.”

If you aren’t already doing so, make integrating customer preferences and behaviours with demographic data a key part of your 2020 email strategy.

2. Content strategy

Leave behind: Stuffing your content with SEO keywords

Adopt in 2020: Natural keyword density and intent for SEO

If your content strategy still involves keyword stuffing, you may find that it’s no longer as effective in 2020. Liberally repeating the same words and phrases used to work well with Google’s SERP (or Search Engine Results Pages) algorithm.

However, this year Google launched a new algorithm called BERT (or Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) that looks at your content’s keywords in a relational, contextual way. How keywords are used in a sentence will matter more than their density.

Search Engine Journal’s article ’10 Important 2020 SEO Trends You Need to Know’ suggests that rather than investing time in learning how to manipulate BERT, organisations focus on optimising their content for readers. In the article, Frédéric Dubut, senior program manager at Bing says “There’s no sign of [natural language processing] NLP and deep learning research slowing down anytime soon, and you can expect the search engines to shift even further from keywords to intent in 2020”.

What’s exciting about BERT, is that it supports the mission of engagement marketing. Resourceful, actionable, helpful websites are the ones that users linger on, click through, link up with, and return to, so modern digital marketing means good SEO.

Does this mean it’s time to abandon keywords in 2020? Absolutely not, that’s valuable data. What it does mean is letting go of the instinct to rely on obsessive keyword repetition throughout the written content. Instead, use keywords as a launch point for content strategy so you’re still speaking to the reader’s interest and queries.

3. Customer conversion

Leave behind: Leaning exclusively on martech execution for conversion

Adopt in 2020: Giving creativity a larger role for higher ROI

Advances like marketing automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) learning have empowered organisations with the ability to quickly analyse what consumer needs are and execute a content-based solution. However, Adobe’s CMO article, ‘Five Adtech Predictions For 2020’ points out that in our excitement about this new agility, we may have inadvertently pushed creativity out of the room.

Forrester’s principal analyst Jay Pattisall shares that in 2019 a large number of brands started offering “the same digital experience because they all address the same customer needs, use the same technology platforms, and design for the same mobile use cases.”

For example, Adobe points out that “in our pursuit to be customer-centric marketers – to answer every customer need, want, and desire with digital – we have forgotten an important ingredient: creativity. Most experiences look, feel, and behave alike. All airline apps allow travelers to check in and manage flights. All QSR apps allow diners to order ahead and skip the line. All fashion experiences look the same.”

Taking a critical look at how you used martech in 2019 ensures you continue to evolve as an organisation. Asking the question ‘do we need to give creativity a bigger seat at the martech table?’ is what will up-level your 2020 strategy.

4. Brand philanthropy

Leave behind: Broadcasting your contributions to causes

Adopt in 2020: Empowering customers to change the world with their dollar

Today’s consumers want to be world changers and believe they have the power to do so by making deliberate choices as buyers. Most organisations have come to realise that they need to align their brand messaging with philanthropic outreach. It’s the reason that market research firm Verdantix predicted that the market for sustainability consultancies will have exceeded US$1 billion dollars by the end of 2019.

However, Marketo’s article ‘Your Customer Wants to Be the Hero’ points out that exclusively promoting your brand’s dedication to sustainability or other philanthropic initiatives won’t be enough in 2020. Forbes contributor Solitaire Townsend explains, “Because just talking about your own values isn’t enough, consumers want you to help them live theirs.”

Leave the idea of simply contributing to a cause and broadcasting your participation with it back in 2019. Instead, find a way in 2020 to draw a clear, straight line from consumer’s point-of-purchase to the impact they’ll have on the world. Be the vehicle that provides your customers with the opportunity to have an impact, rather than just asking them to witness your organisation doing it.

Here’s a great example. The company Bridgewater Candles uses packaging that tells customers that their purchase will directly provide three meals to a child in need. Their website has declarations like, ‘Light a candle. Feed a child’ and ‘Smell good. Do good. Feel good,’ and there’s a running tally of exactly how many meals their candle sales have resulted in – more than nine million when this article was written.

5. Social media

Leave behind: Social media as a place to pitch

Adopt in 2020: Social media as a place to engage

Today’s consumers are incredibly cognisant of corporations’ desire to join their peer-to-peer conversations on social media platforms. Popular online forum Reddit even has a subreddit called ‘r/HailCorporate’ where contributors post examples of failed attempts by brands to do so.

One of the top examples of 2019 was a YouTube video of famous Argentine football player Lionel Andrés Messi attempting the trending bottle flip challenge. The obvious brand placement of the Pepsi bottle and Messi’s obvious acting was off-putting to audiences who value genuine online experiences.

Leave blatant pitches and attempts to create corporate generated, viral social media content in 2019. Spend 2020 taking advantage of consumer insights, so your social media participation is genuine and meaningful. One of the ways brands are doing this is by moving away from sponsored, influencer marketing and instead by asking real-life product users to become content generators. Lush cosmetics has been asking consumers to use the hashtag #LushLife in pictures and videos of them using Lush products so they can share those images on their social media websites.

Ultimately, it’s up to every individual organisation to determine what strategies will propel their brand in the new year. But do consider taking stock of existing 2020 plans that may have been laid out. Keep your planning process open so you can take advantage of the continual insights we are gaining as B2B marketing professionals.

Rena Gadimova is senior content marketing strategist at Adobe and manages the Marketo blog.


To join the discussion and learn more about getting the best from your marketing in 2020, join the Marketing Forecast 2020 webinar with Gurdeep Dillon and Michael Brenner on 11 February at 11am AEDT.



Photo by Yannes Kiefer on Unsplash


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