I wish you a very Happy 2024!
May 2024 bring all of us greater peace, health and happiness.
As we get back to work, I hope you’ve set some SMART Goals to help you gain a greater sense of satisfaction with all aspects of your life as I discussed in the last letter. (If you missed it, read it here.) My friend and colleague Joe Pulizzi is a big proponent of this approach and keeps a note card with his annual goals on his desk.
Based on my experience, I do better when I focus on building or changing my habits to achieve my personal goals than when I set a big boulder of a goal.
The key to achieving your 2024 objectives is to focus on the top few that matter to you and to say “no” where possible to other activities. Remember: Success is defined by measuring your change versus your starting point, not by comparison to another person.
► Strategic and Competitive Forces Your Business Faces
To put the top marketing trends of 2024 in perspective, it’s critical to understand the current environment in which your business operates.
These factors set restraints and yield opportunities for your organization’s marketing and business success.
Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter’s Five Forces Framework helps marketers and business executives to:
- Assess their industry’s attractiveness,
- Determine their business’s competition, and
- Position their business for long-term, sustainable success.
Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter’s Five Forces Framework to access your business’s strategy versus major environmental and competitive forces.
Why do these five forces matter to your business?
Because they have implications for your marketing and your business more broadly.
Actionable Marketing Tips
- Do your homework. Conduct detailed internal and external research before assessing your 2024 marketing plans.
- Assess the strength of your competitors. In addition to your direct competitors and near substitutes, analyze major players such as Amazon, Google, Walmart and Costco who may enter your market. Also include second hand or previously used options.
► Economic Drivers
Despite forecasts to the contrary, the US avoided a recession in 2023. The US economy and employment show big improvements under the current President.
People believe inflation is the biggest economic problem facing them despite the fact that the economy is in good shape or that their personal financial situation has improved since the pandemic.
Americans view inflation as the biggest economic challenge.
While income has increased for many Americans including the automobile workers and the actors and writers unions, retail prices have increased in general for a variety of reasons.
As of November 2023, Americans viewed the job market as generally good.
As a result, when consumers see the price of certain weekly necessities such as food and gas, they don’t combine that with their increased personal income.
How Americans Viewed Price Increases: Notably they viewed products costs as higher for frequent purchases than infrequent purchases.
► Political Environment
Like business, politics is specific to different countries and geographies but it has an important and broader impact on other parts of the world.
Most visible and newsworthy are the wars between Ukraine, a democracy, and Russia, a one party dictatorship, and between Israel, a democracy, and Hamas, a terrorist group. In addition, there are wars in parts of Africa such as the civil war in Sudan that receive less media coverage.
2024 is a major US Presidential election year. While early state primaries start soon, most people don’t like the front runners for either party.
In the US, political and judicial decisions have increased divisiveness significantly. Adding to this impact is the fact that these views may only represent a small minority of the population where the laws were passed and enacted.
Key US political issues include:
- Reproductive freedom,
- School requirements including portrayals of native and Black Americans and book banning;
- Increased prejudice across racial, religious, ethnic, country of origin and sexual orientation differences resulting in demonstrations and hate crimes;
- Economic inequalities prevent segments of the population from access to food, housing and medical care. This also includes differences in pay; and
- Immigration despite the fact that most Americans emigrated to this country since its founding and that the US economy needs immigrants to support the labor force.
► Social Challenges
Around the world, there’s a significant lack of trust and polarization. Edelman’s Trust Barometer Research has shown this erosion over time across public institutions such as government, media and business.
Our polarized environment complicates your marketing since people feel uncertain about the future. Edelman’s 2023 Trust Barometer summarizes the 4 key factors as:
- Economic anxieties,
- Institutional balance,
- Mass class divide and
- The battle for truth.
Economic anxieties, institutional imbalances, class divide and battle for truth explain the continued increase in distrust.
The impact of the pandemic and key changes in how we live has increased social challenges. This includes less socialization especially among students from early grades through college, more work from home (WFH) and less participation in real life group activities. This hurts the social fabric of society resulting in a lack of civility and an increased sense of loneliness.
► Climate Change
According to the United Nations:
“Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. Such shifts can be natural, due to changes in the sun’s activity or large volcanic eruptions. But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change,…”
Involving real costs for governments, businesses and people around the world, the impact of climate change includes (Source: United Nations):
- Hotter temperatures,
- More severe storms,
- Increased drought and other weather events,
- Warming and rising oceans,
- Loss of species,
- Insufficient food,
- Increased health risks, and
- Poverty and population displacement.
In the US, climate changes and risks occur across all 50 states. Together, they increase risks to the water supply, food security, infrastructure, health and well-being, ecosystems, the economy and livelihoods. (Source)
YIKES: In financial terms, extreme climate events In the US result in an average of a billion dollar disaster every 3 weeks.
► Branding And Positioning: Your Sustainable Competitive Advantage
Once you understand the current state and impact of these key strategic forces on your business, review and assess how your branding and positioning stand out relative to your competitive set.
As external factors change, respond to them to stand out and remain relevant to your core audience while evolving to meet their dynamic needs. Over time, your brand’s key attributes in should remain consistent and identifiable.
Since Edelman’s 2023 Trust Barometer reveals that people trust businesses, especially their employers, to take up the slack left by other institutions, be authentic and transparent in your dealings with a wide range of constituents. Also, stand for a purpose beyond earning a financial profit while being inclusive and diverse.
Positioning is a crucial element of your branding and should support your long-term business success.
In Obviously Awesome, April Dunford defines positioning as ”… how your product is a leader at delivering something that a well-defined set of customers cares a lot about.”
Positioning consists of these 5 interdependent components:
- Competitive alternatives. What would your customers want if your solution didn’t exist?
- Differentiated features or capabilities.What can we offer that other alternatives can’t?
- Customer value. What do we provide that is worth our customers’ investment?
- Target customer segment. What characteristics set our customers apart and make them want our differentiated offering?
- Market you intend to win. What is the context in which we position our offering so it’s obvious to our target customers?
Actionable Marketing Tip
- Brand consistently across products, promotions and content both internally and externally. Make your branding guide accessible to your employees, suppliers and distributors to ensure consistent use everywhere it’s relevant.
► 3 Key Marketing Trends Will Dominate 2024
In light of the disruptions over the past few years due to the pandemic and the hyper-growth of AI and voice functionality, here are the 3 key areas that will have a significant impact on your 2024 marketing success.
1. People: The Heart Of Your Organization
Regardless of your business focus, people are at the heart of your marketing, including:
- Prospects, purchase influencers, buyers and end users. Often considered prospects and/or customers, these people may have different functions and objectives relative to your offering’s purchase and/or use. Regardless, they must all be treated consistently and with respect.
- Employees, distributors, suppliers and investors. These people work for your organization and/or have a financial relationship with it. Depending on their function and/or level of involvement, they may have different goals. Also, their objectives related to your business may differ significantly from their personal goals. So, providing fair, equal, inclusive and transparent treatment matters a lot!
- Local community. These people live or work near your business and/or are interested in how your business affects their lives.
Understand the different subsegments of your prospect and customer base. While the digital divide no longer exists, Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Boomers differ in how, why, when, where and which products and services they purchase and use. Their perspectives influence their behavior and life decisions that have marketing implications.
These differences play an important role in your business’s Customer Life Cycle. So think holistically about your customers over the period of time they do business with your organization. McKinsey doesn’t consider a buyer a customer until they’ve made their second purchase.
Depending on your offering, you may not cover your fully loaded customer acquisition cost until they make multiple purchases. Given increased competition and pre-purchase price checking, customers tend to be less brand loyal.
Actionable Marketing Tips
- Reduce the proportion of single purchase buyers. Improve your customer experience from purchase through onboarding and beyond. Make your pre-purchase and post-purchase experiences consistent.
- Eliminate redundant work by using the same content marketing for post-purchase, onboarding and on-going retention.
- Distribute marketing communications to employees. Let them know what’s going on beyond HR and corporate communications.
2. Media: Why You Need Trustworthy Options
As highlighted in Edelman’s 2023 Trust Barometer Research, people don’t believe in the trustworthiness of most media.
This is a serious marketing problem since you need to use a mix of relevant media to build your brand and show your offering to new, existing and former customers. Often, people need to see or hear a message multiple times before they take an initial action which may not be a purchase.
Today’s media landscape is fragmented across a variety of factors beyond topic/category and B2C/B2B. Each entity is vying to build their readership, listenership or viewership.
To reach a broader audience, media entities often offer their content across different offline and online platforms and/or content formats (text, audio, video.) Many repost excerpts on social media especially YouTube.
Adding to public distrust is an erosion of traditional journalism in favor of less expensive editorial commentary based on investigations done by other organizations. Often these entities have a political basis.
The major third party media options are:
- Offline media includes network and cable television, terrestrial radio stations, magazines, newspapers and out-of-home options.
- Online media includes online formats of offline media, online only entities namely websites, digital radio options, streaming audio, music and video services, and email newsletters. It includes Amazon since it owns a wide range of online entities such as IMDB.
- Social media leverages consumer generated content and uses algorithms to feature content to specific individuals. Major options are Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, TikTok, X, Reddit and Discord. Blogs, podcasts and video are also social media. Also, Amazon, the granddaddy of ratings and reviews, can be considered a social media entity.
- Search is computer generated media run by algorithmic relevance. While largely dominated by Google, other options such as DuckDuckGo exist. Expect voice search options to increase in 2024 and beyond. Location search exists via mapping apps.
Beyond media advertising options add PR to your mix. This helps businesses to get featured in editorial content and via speaking engagements so audiences pay attention to your message instead of skipping or blocking ads.
Actionable Marketing Tips
- Use every opportunity to build an email list that you own. This enables you to market to these individuals at lower cost since you don’t pay for media to contact them. More important than your offer to entice people to subscribe is providing consistent quality content.
- Create owned media. Owned formats include magazines, blogs, email newsletters, podcasts, video shows and conferences. The primary goal of owned media is to present information your audience wants to receive.
- Test other opportunities to build owned lists such as mobile phone numbers for text messages and/postal addresses for direct mail.
3. Marketing Technology: AI And Data FTW
AI use and integration across the organization remains white hot. Use AI to improve your marketing:
- Offer voice-first options including chatbots and call centers. Since your audience uses a wide range of voice-enabled devices ensure that your organization is prepared to respond. To get the latest insights on customer experience using AI and voice, check Kane Simm’s VUX podcasts/videos interviews.
- Improve prospect and customer personalization. Collect the proper information and use it in accordance with the relevant laws where you operate. Also, ensure that your audience doesn’t find the information you use too personal or invasive.
- Optimize digital and social media, advertising, interactions and performance. Beyond targeting and scheduling advertising, use social media and sentiment analysis to target social media customer service. Read Brooke Sellas’s Conversations That Convert to find new sell prospects.
Beware of current AI issues. This includes AI hallucinations (which provides non-existent information) and copyright infringement (since there’s currently a court case brought by the New York Times against Microsoft).
Actionable Marketing Tips
- Assess the current data across your organization. Check for these key attributes.Is the information connected across your organization? Does the information from legacy systems communicate with your newer systems? Is your information relevant to your current needs? (For example, NPR hired librarians to transform their legacy content metadata to meet current needs.)Is your data correct and complete or do you need to clean it to meet current business and technology needs? As you do this, can you eliminate steps in your systems and/or change processes?
- Make data and metadata related to your offering and customers consistent and findable across your organization by format including text, voice and video. Give prospects and customers the same answer before and after purchase in understandable language.
- Add AI to areas where you get the most inquiries from prospects and users. This often translates to customer service and call centers. Track results to determine where processes and information need fine tuning. Across age groups, smartphones are the most used device!
Mark Your Calendar
The next three months offer a plethora of exciting marketing events across various focuses. Here are some of the top events to consider, depending on your specific areas of interest:
► CES 2024 — January 5th – 8th in Las Vegas
The Consumer Electronics Show showcases the latest innovations in technology, often with significant relevance to the marketing landscape. Think AI, AR/VR, and cutting-edge digital solutions.
► NRF 2024 Big Show —January 14 – 16 in New York City
The National Retail Federation’s trade show brings together more than 6,200 brands from around the globe to New York City for three days of learning, collaboration and discovery.
► SXSW — March 8th – 16th in Austin, Texas
A vibrant mix of sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities covering technology, creativity, and the future of culture. Expect insights on marketing tech, data-driven strategies, and innovative approaches to reaching audiences.
► Social Media Marketing World — March 12th – 14th in In San Diego, California
This event equips you with the latest marketing tactics and trends. Master platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, discover social commerce strategies and learn how to build thriving online communities.
► B2B Small Business Expo — March 14, 2024 in Miami, Florida.
The Small Business Expo is America’s #1 Trade Show and Networking Event For B2B Businesses. And it’s Free!
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