Which Digital Marketing Activities Should We Focus On In 2017?

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Dr. Dave Chaffey considers what digital marketing tactics businesses should adopt for 2017, with content marketing once again proving a major focus for the year ahead.

Digital marketing has given us many opportunities for communicating digitally with our audiences as this list of more than 100 marketing channels by consultant David Sealey shows. This presents the challenge of where to focus efforts when so much choice is available and new marketing options are regularly being introduced from the likes of Google and the social networks.

As you consider your use of digital media for 2017, a good approach to stock take is to review current and potential future activity using this Content Distribution Matrix, which I developed for discussion in training workshops.

Content Distribution Matrix

To use the matrix, start by marking up the current or past use of different paid-owned-earned media options for your business. Plot each media type on the horizontal axis based on its importance in the number of leads or sales you can attribute to it from a low-level of effectiveness on the left to the highest volume on the right. Next consider cost effectiveness on the vertical axis based on the time or money spent on promotion from lowest cost (or better overall return-on-investment) at the bottom to highest at the top.

To take a couple of examples, in this case, long-tail SEO, shown in the bottom right quadrant, is one of the most effective techniques since it produces a high volume of leads or sales at relatively low levels of investment. Compare this to paid distribution options shown in the top left quadrant, such as LinkedIn Promoted posts, which have a relatively low-level of volume, but highest costs/poorest ROI. To gain new ideas, you can review the promotion gap against competitor or out-of-sector use of content distribution techniques.

Finally, you can select and prioritise new methods of content promotion. Discuss which options could be worth trialing in future tests, based on your discussion.

The Content Distribution Matrix focuses on using different online reach techniques to gain engagement. Looking at digital marketing broadly, what are the other marketing techniques that you should be reviewing for 2017? To answer this question, I asked Smart Insights readers to vote for the technique that would be most important for them in the year ahead in my post on 2017 marketing trends. Here are the results based on more than 2,300 responses from marketers.

Digital Marketing Trends 2017

To get an idea of the trends that will have the most impact in 2017 we asked readers to select the ONE marketing activity that they think will give their business the biggest incremental uplift in leads and sales in 2017 (or their clients if they work for an agency or as a consultant).

So, what do the responses show? Well there are two clear winners in popularity: Content marketing trends and Big Data. Content marketing has been in the top 3 for the last 3 years we have run this poll, so it shows the aspiration for content marketing to commercial success. A focus on content marketing makes perfect sense for modern marketing, since it supports a more integrated approach to digital marketing where content is used as the fuel to increase engagement across different inbound channels, including organic and paid search, social media and email marketing and also outbound. Content marketing can support a strategic approach based on engaging different customer personas across the customer lifecycle, rather than treating different channels in isolation.

It is more surprising that Big Data is in the second position since it's not a specific term and you may think that it is limited to use in big businesses with big budgets. Its popularity is explained since, in the poll, we caveated it to include market and customer insight and predictive analytics. With IBM reporting that the volume of marketing data has doubled in the last 18 months, it's understandable that marketers want to mine and apply this as insight to boost response and conversion. Applying Machine Learning, a technique that was much hyped in 2016, supports this well.

Of the other techniques, many have a similar level of votes with marketing automation, mobile and social media marketing between 5 and 10%. The variation in the remaining techniques reflects the different maturities of businesses and the varying importance of techniques in different sections. I was surprised to see organic and paid search with a relatively low percentage (less than 5%). I think this reflects their maturity as techniques with companies looking to newer techniques for bigger gains. Investment in content marketing should support organic and paid search too.

I hope the two visuals in this article have made you question your approach in the year ahead, or provide some simple benchmarks. All the best for moving your digital marketing forward in 2017!

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