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2016

D I G I TA L TRENDS REPORT W H AT C O M PA N I E S S H O U L D K N OW ABOUT COMPETING IN A D I G I TA L WO R L D

S E PA RAT I N G TH E FACTS F RO M TH E FADS

The face of the digital world has changed considerably over the past several years. People are more social, more mobile, and more dialed into their online lives than ever before. These emerging trends have forced companies to reevaluate their online presence in the new digital-first era. A large majority of customers are now evaluating brands based on the digital experience. If that experience doesn’t deliver, then customers will look somehwere else.


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“TODAY’S MOST EFFECTIVE WEBSITES DO NOT FOCUS ON QUANTITY, THEY FOCUS ON GIVING QUALITY INFORMATION, A BETTER USER EXPERIENCE, AND MEETING ACTUAL CUSTOMER WANTS, NEEDS, AND DESIRES.” Warren Griffith, President, FUEL

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FIRST THINGS FIRST, green

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CUSTOMER With the continuing onslaught of ever-new digital channels and interactive platforms, customers have more leverage than ever. Brands are no longer in control of their message, customers are. Their needs, desires, pains, cravings, and questions take precedent over what companies have to sell. In fact, what a company has to offer—products, services, solutions—is relevant only insofar as it solves a customer problem, addresses a need, or answers a question. Through effective content marketing, businesses must strive to get the right message, to the right people, using the right channel.

Don’t shout, engage. Customers DON’T want to be sold. They DON’T want to be told. They want authentic dialog, a genuine twoway conversation. No matter what your business, whether you’re a B2B or B2C, success depends on how well you communicate with (as opposed to talking at) customers, truly engaging them at a deeper level. Companies need to re-examine not only how they are telling their brand story—that unique, value-driven promise companies make to customers and prospects—but also the means by which they push these messages out via multiple social, viral, and interactive channels.

What’s the big deal? Brands of every shape and size will succeed or fail based on their ability to effectively engage their audience across multiple channels. Google has gone to great lengths to make this clear. Nothing is more important. It’s the very linchpin of everything businesses do (or don’t do) moving forward. And it all revolves around developing relevant, ongoing customer-centric messages. What do your customers want? What are they asking for? What information do they truly need? Identifying the answers to these questions in relation to your brand offering is the Golden Key to success.

2016 FUEL Digital Marketing & Branding

D I G I TA L TRENDS REPORT

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A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE CURRENT DIGITAL LANDSCAPE green

The linear sales cycle is obsolete. Prior to the digital era, the majority of companies followed a fairly simple sales and marketing formula: 1) they defined their expertise/capabilities, and 2) pushed those messages out to the world: “This is who we are. This is what we do. How many can we sell you?” Businesses followed a traditional linear sales cycle that went from A to B to C—from awareness to consideration to sale. Today, with the explosion of digital media and social channels, that model has been turned upside down. Prospects and customers are no longer entering the funnel at the top. They are entering at different points, often “jumping stages” and coming in further down the pipeline. What’s more, as companies scramble to meet new customer expectations, they’re realizing that they are no longer in control of their own message…customers are.

A “shotgun wedding” with your customers... Until fairly recently, a website was little more than a digital brochure for many businesses. Companies were very proud of their “story” and felt the need to put their entire history and philosophy on their website. It tended to be a very egocentric experience—the emphasis was on the company, not the customer—and the higher the quantity of information the better. We called this the “shotgun approach,” with the goal being to fire a sweeping, broad shot of information out into the universe in hopes of hitting anyone and everyone. Websites became increasingly complex and laborious with heavy graphics, extreme movement, and complicated navigation. Not surprisingly, visitors to these websites were often confused or overwhelmed and found it difficult to locate the right content to meet their needs and answer their questions.

Beware of charlatans. The shotgun approach was further complicated by search engine marketing “experts” that would often preach “the more content you have, the better.” After all, search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, previously ranked websites by the sheer amount of content they featured. Companies were doling out millions of dollars to “content farms” that were tasked with cranking out endless, and often meaningless, content that was keyword-rich to the extreme. This was known as keyword stuffing. The singular goal was to manipulate the search engines to give them higher rankings, with little or no regard for actual living, breathing customers. And it worked for a time. But then the shotgun backfired.

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D I G I TA L TRENDS REPORT

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The Google Factor Google is the leading search engine in the world, controlling more than 70% of the search market. Obviously, understanding and abiding by Google’s best practices are critical to any business’s search engine—and hence, lead generation—success. For its part, Google has one priority: giving users the best answers and most relevant results to their searches. Their very credibility depends on it. So Google is always updating their search algorithms to ensure that marketers are not “gaming the system” or manipulating searches based on various tricks or “black hat” tactics, including: keyword stuffing, spam, cloaking, duplicate content, invisible text, page swapping, bogus link building, and more. Google wants to ensure that brands and businesses are not simply writing for search engines, but are actually giving people the relevant, high-quality content solutions they’re looking for. It’s about providing real answers to the people who are visiting your website, not tricks or gimmicks.

Digital opportunities and pitfalls Developing and implementing a strategically sound digital program presents new opportunities and options for engaging your target audience(s). That’s the good news. The bad news is that unless you have high-level expertise in digital marketing and sophisticated Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing (SEO/SEM), then it will be nearly impossible to ensure that you are driving qualified prospects, converting more leads, or building long-term growth in the digital world. There are too many variables in play and too many specialized skill sets required to ensure digital success. It takes a TEAM of professionals: a content writer, a designer, an SEO/SEM strategist, a database marketer, and a project manager. Remember, the customer journey is no longer linear. Both B2C and B2B prospects are entering the funnel at different points, doing their own online research before they ever contact a sales person. To stay ahead of the game—to consistently find new leads—is critical for brands to get the right messages, to the right people, using the right channels.

It’s not rocket science. It’s people science. But the formula has to be right. Success in the digital era hinges on knowing your customers and building trust. You do this by providing them with answers to their questions and solutions to their problems and engaging them in genuine, twoway conversation, not shouting at them or blasting messages in their face. It is imperative to understand not only who your target markets are, but also where they live, digitally speaking. Are they on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, or YouTube? Do they respond to text updates? Do they prefer email? Or maybe eNewsletters each month? And so on and so forth. Getting the right mix of messages—digital ads, banners, blogs, social posts, info-graphics, white papers, video, and so on—to the right platform is key to success. If you get it wrong, you’re wasting time and getting nowhere. If you get it right, you can connect with your core audience day-in, day-out to not only demonstrate that you understand them, but that you can help them.

In only a few short years, everyone is realizing...

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D I G I TA L TRENDS REPORT

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THE BUSINESS LANDSCAPE HAS CHANGED

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This is what you NEED to know.

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FOCUS ON DIGITAL FIRST Customers in most industries—B2B and B2C—are only marginally responding to traditional marketing tactics: print ads, print collateral, TV, radio, batch emails, purchased database lists, and others. Digital technology and emerging social channels have transformed the way people receive and respond to information. Defining your digital strategy gives you the best chance of engaging them and building trust. The old, traditional method is limited, slow, one-sided, and expensive. The latter is more flexible, fluid, customerfocused, and cost-effective. Digital marketing enables brands to find the right mix of channels and platforms to deliver key messages, as well as collect data to determine what’s working and what’s not. Most importantly, digital communication should be a consistent, fluid stream of information that is both anticipatory and responsive to ever-changing customer needs

Digital First vs. Traditional First

Flexible, expansive reach

Limited reach

Efficient and cost-effective approach if managed properly

Unfocused “shotgun” approach that’s very broad in scope

Customer-centric and targeted

Expensive One-sided communication

Engaging two-way communication

Delayed communication

Immediate, real-time communication Responsive and adaptive

Non-adaptive

Customer focused

Brand focused

(Cannot be changed once published. Typically cost-prohibitive and requires more time)

(Changes can be made quickly and often inexpensively to meet immediate needs

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LESS WILL BE MORE A laser-focused approach: quality over quantity The future of digital is focused on connecting brands with customers in a more meaningful, helpful, and authentic way. It is designed to reach people wherever they are—at home, at work, or on-the-go—thanks to laptops, cell phones, and mobile devices. By understanding customer needs and habits, brands can get streamlined messages to the right demographic at the right time. And now, with the advent of “wearable” tech, digital technology is about to enter a new phase, further distancing itself from tired, traditional media outlets that have become cumbersome, outdated, and ineffective.

Content isn’t king–the customer is. As we mentioned, Google’s new search algorithms are aimed at rewarding sites that focus on delivering quality content within the proper context. Google doesn’t want companies to write for search engines in an attempt to manipulate their position on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). They want brands to write and design for people—real, flesh-and-blood customers and prospects. After all, Google’s livelihood depends on connecting people with the sites that best answer their questions, fulfill their needs, or solve their problems. It is critical that the content of your website aligns with your target audience(s). This requires truly understanding what your customers are seeking and providing answers. Your message should be delivered as clearly and succinctly as possible in order to minimize user frustration or confusion. (There are always ample opportunities for brands to extend conversations and messages via blogs, sponsored stories, and video, which lend themselves to longer formats.) The quicker you cut to the chase, the better. Brands that get it right will be rewarded—both by customers and search engines.

It’s all about the customer experience. We’ve all been there. That frustrating moment when we scratch our heads because the website we’re visiting is confusing and convoluted. We don’t know where to go or how to navigate. Maybe the text is too small to read. Or the visuals don’t fit the screen. Or it is agonizingly slow to load. And when it does load, the information is mashed together in a weird, indecipherable way. These are all examples of user confusion. The internet is full of websites that are frustrating or confusing because they deliver a poor user experience. But luckily, Google has taken note and is now penalizing sites that don’t abide by best practices. The latest trend in web design is to deliver clear, concise, visually appealing messages that are simple to view, and easy to navigate. The days of ponderous, slow loading, complicated websites are long gone. Visitors are seeking a digital experience that is visually and substantively balanced. Mobile has become a game changer. In fact, mobile search now exceeds desktop. That would have been unheard of just 4 or 5 years ago. As touch and tactile interactions progress, your website MUST maximize those interactions and provide people with the best experience possible. Mobile users don’t spend prolonged time wading through tons of text on your site, so don’t cramp their actions with unnecessary digital noise. Simplicity sells. Period. Make sure you’re partnered with a company who intimately understands this philosophy and has the agility and skill to adapt to the new digital landscape quickly and effectively.

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MOBILE DESIGN GIVES WAY TO RESPONSIVE DESIGN So, what exactly does that mean? Why a “mobile-first” approach is necessary right now 2010 was a bit of a defining year for mobile. Touch-centric smart phones were finally taking hold and cellular carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint were matching public demand with increased bandwidth in order to deliver mobile content faster. Consumers were craving a more immersive mobile experience and technology had no choice but to advance. Over the next five years, we’d see the effects brought on by consumers and how it has impacted mobile device usage. As you can see below, the trend isn’t going away or slowing down. If they haven’t already, brands need to adapt now rather than later. It isn’t inevitable. It’s alreay here.

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A few years ago, simply having a mobile website to complement your desktop site was perfectly acceptable. When smartphones gained prominence as search devices, brands figured it made sense to create a smaller, separate version of their main website. It usually was nothing more than a scaled-down version of the mainsite, containing fewer pages, less information, and a link to the larger website proper. Hence the term “mobile-friendly” was born. It was also relatively inexpensive to build, as it was smaller and less dynamic. On the other hand, a responsive design adapts itself automatically to fit and scale itself to whatever computer, laptop, or mobile device is being used. So rather than having a smaller, separate version of your main website, a responsive site is the main site, created in a way that makes it responsive to any device. A responsive website is preferred by Google because it is more user- friendly and gives people a consistent “full website experience” no matter the shape or size of the particular device. It helps with SEO as well, as all pages on your responsive site exist on a single domain. Also, over the course of the past year, Google has begun penalizing sites that aren’t responsive. So this too, is no longer optional.

The Benefits of Responsive Design

FLEXIBLE: Responsive websites are fluid, meaning the content moves freely across all screen resolutions and all devices. RECOMMENDED BY GOOGLE Search engines (i.e. Google, Yahoo, Bing) give more domain weight to responsive websites. EXCELLENT USER EXPERIENCE: One cohesive and consistent experience for website visitors regardless of the device they’re using COST EFFECTIVE: The advantages of having a single site that conforms to the needs of all devices are significant when compared to having multiple separate websites to accomplish this. EASY TO MANAGE: Managing a single site is so much easier than trying to manage content for several. A singular strategy for content and SEO is best.

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SMALL

IS THE NEW BIG MICRO

MACRO

Big data as it relates to your marketing efforts can be defined as a collection of data from traditional and digital sources, inside and outside of your company, that can be used to identify business or industry trends in order to understand what customers value most. Big data was all the rage a year or so ago. But then brands started to realize that big data created big headaches. It was difficult to corral and make sense of because it was difficult to boil it down to a digestible size in order to make actionable. An example of big data can be seen in large eCommerce sites like Amazon. They would typically collect information across many data points on things like product/page views, customer/membership information, product reviews, page shares to social media, photo/ video uploads, product pricing, promotions, customer service feedback, and so on. It gave a wealth of information across multiple segments and categories. It was exhaustive. And therein lied the problem.

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MACRO

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THE MACRO WORLD green

Here are the facts.

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30

QUINTILLION

BYTES CREATED DAILY BY THE AVERAGE CONSUMER

4X PEOPLE

AMOUNT OF USERS ONLINE IN 2015 COMPARED TO 2014

BILLION

272,070

50

217 USERS

PIECES OF CONTENT ADDED TO FACEBOOK MONTHLY

MILLION NUMBER OF “LIKES” ON BUSINESS FACEBOOK PAGES EVERY 24 HOURS

DOLLARS SPENT EVERY 60 SECONDS ONLINE

1

AMOUNT OF NEW MOBILE WEB USERS EVERY MINUTE

PERSON

34,260

3

WEBSITES CREATED EVERY HOUR

BILLION NUMBER OF PEOPLE ONLINE IN 2015

2

BILLION

4,762 TEXTS

AMOUNT SENT BY THE AVERAGE TEEN MONTHLY

VIDEOS WATCHED ON YOUTUBE TODAY

READING THESE NUMBERS RIGHT NOW CAN’T UNDERSTAND HOW THIS HELPS YOU

...and this sums up big data. Very few businesses can relate to this scale. For years, the term big data has been thrown around as the be-all and end-all of business and marketing analytics, but if a business has a thousand data points about every customer, how do they understand which ones are important and which are just noise? It’s too much information. What brands need is boiled down, relevant information as it applies to a smaller cross-section of their unique customer base. This is an important part of marketing to your customer’s behavior. This is what’s called Behavioral Marketing and it’s key to connecting with your customers on an entirely new level.

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BE ONE WITH THE CUSTOMER It’s time to relate to them on a new level. Put your customers first no matter what. How well do you really know your customers? What keeps them awake at night? What goals do they have? What are they striving for? Your customers’ needs are changing and evolving over time, just as industries change. What was critical to them two years ago may not necessarily be as relevant today. Both external and internal factors can cause shifting dynamics with any customer, even within the industry as a whole. Oftentimes, companies may think they know their clients when in reality they do not—at least not as deeply as they need to. According to a recent study conducted by IBM and Econsultancy, nearly 80% of consumers stated that brands and businesses don’t really understand them. The article states: “The consumer/brand relationship has evolved into a two-way partnership where consumers are willing to share their most personal details with trusted businesses in exchange for experiences that are unique to them. The onus is on brands to deliver.”

Loyalty begins and ends with trust. Trust. It’s the biggest reason companies today fail to achieve digital marketing success. If customers don’t trust you they won’t be loyal to you. It’s that simple. In order to build their trust you must do three things: 1) truly understand them, 2) care about their particular situation, and 3) be able to give them real answers and solutions. No matter how successful your company has been in the past, or how great your products or services may be, it does you no good if you are not engaging your customers—that is getting the right messages to the right people in the right way. Customers today have distinct preferences as to how they consume information—and it’s rarely over the office phone or on a desktop computer. Given the complexity and ever-evolving technologies of digital marketing, it is next to impossible for any business to master all the nuances, platforms, tracking mechanisms, and strategies available to be successful. It takes a team of experts to not only make sense of the chaos, but to leverage digital media to build awareness, drive leads, and convert new customers for the long haul.

C O N TAC T U S T O DAY. W E ’ D L OV E T O TA L K W I T H YO U A N D C R E AT E T H E PL A N T O G ROW YO U R B US I N E S S . FU ELI NGBRA N D S.CO M | 864.627.1676

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