Ten digital marketing lessons we learned in 2014 that we need to remember this year

By Daniel Nolan topicIcon Digital Marketing

As we start a new year, digital marketing experts everywhere are predicting the trends they believe we will all be clamouring to adopt in 2015. However, while it is exciting to look forward, at theEword, we have added a dose of retrospection to the process.

Taking a look back at the year that was, we have compiled a list of 10 digital marketing lessons learned during 2014 that we need to remember this year. From the explosion of content marketing to the demise of the exact match keyword, these lessons, if put to good use, can help your business achieve greater visibility, growth, and profitability in 2015.

1) Quality is more important than quantity

In 2014, everyone was talking about ‘content marketing’. It might have been around for over 100 years, (the Michelin Guide was first published in 1900!) however, over the last 12 months, content marketing firmly emerged as the permission based channel of choice.

Rather than interrupting people with direct sales messages, brands became publishers. However, by the end of last year, even the most passionate content marketing advocates were starting to grumble about the sheer volume of videos, guides, blogs, infographics, etc. being produced.

In response, 2015 must be the year businesses take the time to get to know their audiences and deliver the strategic, evergreen content that customers and prospects really want. Forget quantity, in 2015 if you want to see the ROI your business needs, focus instead on quality, targeted content creation.

2) Everything is personal

In 2014, the power of using cookies, algorithms and programmatic marketing to deliver personal campaigns really hit home. Businesses targeted prospects with individual recommendations, leading to a richer, more relevant customer experience and, ultimately, increased sales.

With a recent study revealing that, not only are customers aware of online personalisation, but that 78% actually want it, hyper-personalisation is set to become one of the key marketing buzzwords of 2015. Over the next year, anything and everything that can be personalised should be, and businesses will need to work smarter than ever before to treat and target customers as individuals.

3) Content production and content distribution are equally important

With everyone jumping on the content marketing bandwagon, in 2014 a glut of bad content made it difficult to be heard amongst the chatter. The bad news is that this trend is likely to continue.

To ensure that your beautifully produced content is seen by more than the bods in your marketing department, you are going to need to get smart about content promotion.

With brand owned publishing platforms such as American Express’ OPEN Forum or Red Bull’s Red Bulletin showing us how it is done, 2015 will be the year businesses look to create their very own audiences. Likewise, the challenges of content distribution will also lead to more paid amplification such as highly targeted retargeting and paid social media in a bid to increase reach and boost conversions.

4) You must be mobile

Mobile was predicted to be one of the most significant digital marketing trends of 2014. Unfortunately, however, far too many businesses are still failing to grasp its full potential. In 2015 mobile usage is set to surpass desktop for the first time; with experts predicting that more than 50% of marketing content will be consumed on a smartphone or tablet device. However, the challenge has now moved beyond ensuring that your website and emails are built using mobile responsive design.

An expansion of mobile technology, from mobile payments to wearable tech to cross-device consumer experiences has changed mobile beyond recognition. Today, rather than being an extension of the desktop, mobile is set to deliver an enhanced, integrated, user experience in its own right. Mobile is no longer a bolt-on to your digital strategy. In 2015, mobile needs to be adopted across your entire marketing strategy.

5) Stop obsessing about ‘channel’

In 2014, the lines between 'digital marketing' and ‘marketing’ became blurred. Indeed, with digital accounting for over half the media spend in the UK, many argued it was time to put it at the heart of all our marketing activity.

Taking this one step further, at theEword, we believe 2015 will be the year we move towards a truly multi-channel approach. Whether B2C or B2B, today's customer is likely to interact with your brand on multiple occasions before making a purchase. Therefore, rather than focusing on branding, SEO, advertising and PR silos, in 2015 savvy marketing departments and agencies will focus on the customer journey as a whole.

6) Stop putting Google first

 In 2014, the combined and sustained efforts of Google Pigeon, Hummingbird, Penguin and Panda upset the search rankings of businesses everywhere. With the ever changing Google algorithm effectively making the work of  less scrupulous SEO experts null and void, some digital commentators went so far as to announce the death of SEO. While this prediction may have been somewhat premature, what did become apparent was that, rather than obsessing over keywords, to keep one step ahead in the SEO game you had to write for humans first.

If there is one thing we know when it comes to Google, it is that things will change. Therefore, in 2015, it pays to be brave. Stop worrying about exact match keywords (which according to a Moz ranking study are lessening anyway) and instead focus on the creation of the high quality content your audience wants. Ironically, if you stop obsessing about the search engine and start obsessing about the customer, in the long-run Google will reward you for it.

7) The devil’s in the data

Following the explosion of 'big data' over the past few years, businesses have more information and data management tools at their fingertips than ever before. Or at least that is what we are told. The reality, however, is that in 2014, too many businesses were still struggling with out of date, incorrect, or un-actionable data.

With cutting edge tracking and analytics set to deliver a more personalised online experience, and campaigns becoming increasingly data-driven, if you have not done so already, now is the time to get your data in order.

8) You must become a film maker

In 2014, video was the star of the content marketing world with falling production costs and apps such as Vine helping us to create branded videos on a budget. And, it is a trend that is set to continue, with video predicted to account for a whopping 69% of all consumer web traffic by 2017.

In 2015, therefore, it is crucial to consider video as part of your wider marketing strategy. However, in addition, to creating videos that work across desktop and mobile devices, you also need to know what to do with them. The main social media channels are set to go head-to-head when it comes to video marketing. As such, all will show preferential treatment to content hosted directly on their respective platforms. If you are looking at video marketing in 2015, make sure to factor distribution into your strategy.

9) Social media is no longer free

In 2014, social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter worked hard to push businesses towards their paid advertising platforms.

With further plans afoot to stifle organic reach and more content being created than ever before, businesses that want to use social media in 2015 could do worse than considering social advertising to bolster their organic efforts. The truth is, the days of social media being completely free are gone and paid media is set to become increasingly important when it comes to reaching your target audience(s).

10) The customer is King

Businesses everywhere have woken up to the importance of the individual. Indeed, while there were significant technological advances made throughout 2014, the most valuable of these focused on customer knowledge and the delivery of a richer, more personal user experience. In response, over the last 12 months we have seen more and more brands stop focusing on features and prices and start looking to create fulfilling customer experiences.

If there is one lesson learned in 2014 that we should remember this year, it is that we must understand who our customers are. Only then will we know what they want; and be able to deliver it in a way that suits them.

For this reason, in 2015 take the time to get to know your customer(s) inside and out. Identify their buying patterns, their pain points, their motivations and their challenges. The more you know about who you are talking to, the more likely you will be able to get in front of them with the right message, via the right channel, at the right time.

Make 2015 the year of the customer.