From SEO and analytics to content and display, the marketing industry is one of the most rapidly changing landscapes this year — and 2020 will be no different.
Working closely with marketing leaders as president and co-founder of Share Your Genius, I've seen firsthand the rapid development of this industry, and one of the most prominent areas of growth is a marketer's bread and butter: content.
Marketing wants to lean into an experience people want, which is why teams are constantly exploring new avenues to connect with their buyers. Content should be delivered in the way their audience wants to consume it, which is why marketers will focus on creating brand content that serves people through a combination of audio and video in 2020.
That said, content is just one of the many marketing pillars — and I'm not the only one with ideas about where our industry is headed. As marketers finalize their budgets and prepare their strategies for 2020, we're taking a look at the predictions of several leaders in the marketing space.
Ranging from new success metrics to the latest use of AI, here are five things marketing leaders are focusing on in 2020.
6 Things Marketers are Watching in 2020
1. The MQL's Irrelevance
Too often, marketers aren't working toward a real business objective.
Fortunately, marketing will up its strategic presence in the organization in 2020.
As companies move toward a flywheel model to create a streamlined customer experience start-to-finish, marketing teams will need to align with sales and service to bring in new leads while maintaining strong relationships with current customers. As a result, the MQL in the traditional sense will be irrelevant, as Gartner predicted in 2017.
"We've been saddled with questionable metrics like the MQL and a Franken-stack of marketing products that don't work, so we need to think big picture," says Latane Conant, CMO of 6sense, an account-based orchestration platform powered by AI. "Next year, siloed marketing goals like MQLs will be irrelevant — instead, marketers will focus their efforts on aligning with overarching company goals to drive value across the board."
"I believe we will see Google continue to crack down on certain advertising industries," says Russ Jones, Principal Search Scientist at Moz. "The latest target is credit repair-related services, although we have seen the same in the medical and adult industries over Google's lifetime. When these bans take place, it creates a short-term opportunity for companies to shift advertising dollars to organic.
"Those that make this pivot quickly and strongly stand to gain a substantial market share in the long run."
As consumers prioritize based on experience and ease-of-use (take Uber, Spotify, or Airbnb, for instance), it will become increasingly important for all businesses to focus on high-quality experiences for their consumer.
"As more consumers cut the cord to cable, it is becoming harder to reach audiences with traditional brand-building ad campaigns. This is especially true for younger audiences — many of whom are not just cord-cutters but cord-nevers. At the same time, Gen Z and Millennial consumers are prioritizing experiences over 'stuff.'"
"Innovative marketers can take advantage of these trends by shifting marketing focus to live events, which can create direct connections between customers and brands," says Ben Carlson, co-President and co-Founder of Fizziology, a social insights firm.
"Take for example Buffy's tie-dye tour or Glossier's string of pop-up shops," Carlson notes. "In the past, these experiential marketing tactics have been seen as more experimental than other, more trackable forms of advertising. But technology is now letting marketers listen to anonymized conversations at live events via social media to learn about consumer's opinions, expressed in their native environments.
"We believe we will see experiential marketing mature into a regular part of a marketer's brand-building campaign," says Carlson.
4. New and Evolving Email Strategies
"The email industry is constantly changing, and the frequency of mergers and acquisitions in 2019 rivaled those of 2018," says Anthony Chiulli, director of product marketing at 250ok, an email analytics and deliverability platform.
"Major moves so far this year included Validity purchasing Return Path in May, Mailgun purchasing Mailjet in October, and most recently, Sparkpost acquiring eDataSource, which makes it clear the industry as a whole is booming," Chiulli says.
"Email remains a dominant and powerful digital marketing channel and is constantly evolving and finding new ways to reinvent itself," Chiulli adds. "I anticipate we have not crested the peak of acquisition activity in the email ecosystem just yet, and will see a steady dose of those seeking further competitive advantages in an aggressive email industry market in 2020."
5. Artificial Intelligence And Text Recommendations
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Artificial Intelligence Systems Spending Guide, spending on AI systems will reach $97.9 billion in 2023, which is more than two and a half times the $37.5 billion that was spent in 2019.
But, while it's obvious how AI can help in some instances -- like security -- it can be tricky to note exactly where it will change your marketing strategy. However, early predictions point towards text marketing.
"In text marketing, AI plays the role of informing the sender versus being the sender. Businesses will start to receive recommendations from their texting providers about the type of messages to send, which messages are seeing the most engagement, clicks, etc."
"AI will be able to recommend more on the segments and groups from a business database on who reacts better or worse to certain messages, helping them to stop outreach to disinterested parties," says Mattt Reid, CMO of EZ Texting, a leader in SMS marketing software for business.
Reid adds, "However, it is vital for text marketing to keep the human element while leveraging AI to help us have the best communication possible."
Additionally, Crystal King, a Social Media Professor at HubSpot Academy, believes augmented reality will continue to influence social media.
She says, "People are craving to move beyond passive content and be part of the action, and savvy technology companies are looking for ways to make that happen. In 2020 we're going to see augmented reality making it's way into more social media efforts — whether that's more advancement in the vein of Snapchat and Instagram filters, new AR ads available while you are scrolling through your social platforms, or the ability to network and attend live events in interesting ways."
King adds, "We're already seeing that AR is making a difference for brands like IKEA and Zenni Optical, which give fans the ability to directly and usefully interact with their products virtually. Plan on seeing more brands taking advantage of the power of AR to directly engage their audiences."
6. Google's Discover Tool Will Continue to Improve
Christina Perricone, a Manager of Pillar and Acquisition Content at HubSpot, believes Google's Discover tool will continue to improve and serve high-quality, personalized content to users in 2020.
She says, "Google launched Discover in 2017 and has been improving the tool ever since. Discover's algorithm predicts what users will find interesting based on their search and web history and interactions with Google products, like Google Maps, Chrome, and Google Home. Discover then surfaces personalized content in a mobile feed on the Google homepage based on a user’s interests."
To optimize for Google's Discover tool, Perricone suggests you implement the following three strategies:
Build topical authority around your topics (cluster model) — Discover surfaces content by topic so the more relevant/useful information you have on a topic, the more likely you are to rank
Use large (1200 px), high-quality images since the feed focuses on attractive imagery
Create your content in all languages that are relevant to your audience, as users can select their preferred language for each interest.
How to Prepare for 2020 and Beyond
As companies continue to pivot, adapt, and evolve, the marketing space will only get more competitive. A new year proves a new opportunity for marketing teams to push away from the competition by leading the industry with the most innovative tactics, tools, and technologies.