It’s never been easy to keep up with business and marketing trends. Conflicting information abounds online, and new digital tools arrive so frequently that many marketers find themselves operating in a tangled web of programs and strategies. Not all of these tools deliver — but knowing what to leave behind in 2013 and what to create or continue in 2014 can be daunting.

Let’s face it, you can find a self-professed expert to pronounce almost any trend dead or effective. For this reason, a lot of people go for the easy answers. But the intersection of new technologies and consumer preferences is always shifting, and it’s essential to keep the digital toolbox replenished with strategies that deliver. Here’s what to keep, what to discard and what to adopt for 2014.

Content Marketing

Content retains its throne as an effective way to attract leads, win trust and drive engagement. From educating and entertaining consumers to sharing industry advancements, you’ll want to continue producing the steady flow of fresh and valuable content customers expect.

If you’re not already doing this, now is the time to start to building a library that might include videos, blog posts, articles, white papers or social media material — whatever is more effective for your target audience.

Maximize Return on Your Investment Arrow MatrixSocial Media Marketing

File this, too, under “not just a passing trend.” Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are firmly entrenched in the B2B and B2C marketing pantheons, while Pinterest, Tumblr, Google Plus and Instagram are rising in popularity.

If you assumed social media couldn’t deliver real ROI, think again. Businesses of all types should be managing robust social platforms that foster active communities, brand ambassadors and thriving lead generation pipelines. Best of all: social media is providing more measurable data than ever, such as Foursquare geolocation data.

Persistent, Always-On Marketing

Customers jump from laptops to mobile devices to social media in the blink of an eye, and they can be online anywhere and anytime. There is no “off switch” in marketing now. Campaigns must run around the clock and appear wherever the customer turns.

If you’re still thinking in terms of compartmentalized channels, it’s time to leave silos behind and synchronize your marketing across all devices and platforms. Your brand presence must be consistent and ubiquitous, as well as responsive in real time to customer activity. Disjointed assets that vary from channel to channel will weaken your brand.

Visuals

Speaking of social media, the most popular new sites — Pinterest, Vine, Instagram and Pheed — all have something in common: image-based content. It’s easy to see why visuals are the content of choice for many consumers. In a fast-paced world, buyers who won’t waste time reading text will make time to glance at a photo or play a video as they work; consumption is quick and visuals are easy to share.

If your blog or website is mostly text, it’s time to move forward and use images to make paragraphs easier to digest.

Technology

Marketers living in the era of Big Data cannot afford to ignore its impact on marketing — not when their competitors are using CRM systems, marketing automation and digital publishing platforms to automate and supercharge campaigns that reach precise buyer personas with relevant, perfectly-timed content.

Take a look at the latest innovations on the market and what they can achieve. Then assess your current tools and upgrade however you can. The returns will be worth it.

Mobile-Optimized Content

Just a few years ago, phones were used for phone calls and laptops were used for Internet access. Today, the advent of smartphones and tablets has blurred those lines. Mobile devices are one of the most popular tools for researching and buying products, consuming media and connecting online. This means your digital assets must look smooth and clean on all devices, with strong headlines and easy navigation.

Businesses that think mobile isn’t important will lose customers to competitors; mobile is expected to account for 36 percent of new ad spend through 2016, ahead of television.

Meaningful Campaigns

The clamor of digital messages continues to rise, creating a population skilled at turning a deaf ear to your marketing. The only truly effective solution: crafting personally relevant campaigns that grab and keep a lead’s attention. Generic, one-size-fits-all campaigns are yesterday’s failure.

The tools available today make it easy to drill down to specific audiences and address their exact challenges, preferences and goals at precisely the right moment. The results: intense impact, rising ROI.

Retargeting

If you’re not using retargeting, now is the time to start. This technology follows users through their online activity to show them ads with the products or services they recently viewed on another site.

Studies have shown that this kind of repeat exposure keep the potential purchase in the customer’s mind and is effective at triggering sales. Remember, estimates hold that only 2 percent of buyers convert at first sight; retargeting pursues the remaining 98 percent and helps push buyers off the fence and into the land of purchase.

Keep, Discard & Adopt for 2014

There’s no better time to embrace new marketing programs and leave non-performers in the dust than a new year. Clean house now and adopt the tools that deliver — and you may be thanking yourself when the next New Year rolls around.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Content Marketing | Marketing Strategies Column | Mobile Marketing | Social Media Marketing

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About The Author: is the co-founder and CEO of SocialWhirled, where he oversees the innovation, growth and direction of the company as it evolves the social, mobile and digital publishing landscape.




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