CEOs are forward-thinking leaders. While they rely on information from the past – and present – to guide their decisions, they’re always looking toward the what-ifs of tomorrow.

At the same time, the most successful CEOs don’t head into the future without a proper roadmap to guide their way. Below is that map – a rundown of the most important concepts and trends in marketing you need to know in order to guide your company toward your best year yet.

First, let’s start with some content marketing changes:

Shifting the roles of your team thanks to content

Not too long ago, constant content was the most effective approach to finding and winning over an audience. But the most successful brands out there don’t just flood their audience with content.

They take on a media publishing approach (think Red Bull/Red Bull Media).

In other words, having a team of writers, or freelance writers, isn’t enough. You need to think broader.

Content marketing isn’t defined solely by blog posts. There’s a greater process at work if you want to see a return on your investment. This process includes taking ideas, and constantly improving them, customizing them to different audiences, and adapting them to different formats based on the habits and preferences of your consumers.

You need a content team that can handle the many types of format types out there. That means your team should look a bit more like this:

  • Video production and editing
  • Graphic design, illustration, and editing
  • Audio editing and production
  • Content optimization (across multiple formats)
  • Content distribution and promotion
  • Campaign development and management
  • Branding and communication
  • Advertising and media buying
  • Analytics and reporting

If you look at the latest data provided by the Content Marketing Institute, you’ll see that the most successful businesses, on average, use an average of eight different tactics when creating and sharing their content.

Successful businesses use eight different way to create and share their content

The days of just blogging are over. But don’t worry. You don’t necessarily need to hire an entire staff to handle your content needs. Often times, you can get away with a content manager/strategist, who’ll then manage a team of freelancers, in conjunction with your full-timer staffers (like writers or designers).

Screens aren’t the only way to get your audience’s attention

Just when you thought that you understand where to find your audiences, 2018 promises to give you access to your audiences, without screens.

Sure, smartphones, tablets, TV and even watches remain relevant, and prevalent. But the Internet of Things has made content a part of our entire worlds, interwoven into our daily lives in a way that’s both hands-free and eyes-free.

Just think about how users already interact with Siri on their iPhones or Alexa on their Amazon Echo. These devices are becoming digital doorways into content, and organizations are already taking advantage.

The American Heart Association, for example, provides details on performing CPR through Alexa. The content will walk you through the process, step-by-step, in an emergency.

Pet owners are also getting useful content through Ask Purina.

Ask Purina, reaching to your audience through Alexa on Amazon Echo

There’s plenty of opportunity in both the B2B and B2C space – you just need to think about what your audience is looking for, and how best you can reach them.

Take, for example, what marketer Neil Patel and his colleague Eric Siu developed:

Think about what your audience is looking for

Marketing School is an Alexa Skill that delivers 10 minutes of marketing advice every day, to folks who are likely Patel and Siu’s ideal audience.

It’s been said before, but bears repeating and emphasis: Transparency is king

According to Digiday, consumers are growing tired of obvious brand advertising and blatant marketing ploys.

Take a look at Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey, and you’ll see exactly where consumers place their trust:

Nielsen survey - where customers around the world place their trust and how they respond to marketing campaigns

For folks in the U.S., getting recommendations from people they know comes in at top. Compare that to ads on TV at 63%, or ads on mobile devices (39%) – that’s an incredible gap. What that comes down to is the reality that consumers don’t feel they get the same authenticity straight from a brand than they’d get from their peers.

To earn and keep the trust of your audience, your content and marketing needs to be fully transparent.

Speaking of transparency, enter the live video takeover

In 2016, the social media tool Buffer ran a survey to get some insight into how marketers see video changing:

Video Content as the most preferable way to address to your audience

More than 80% of respondents said they want to create more video content, and 42% specifically stated an interest in creating more live video.

The question is, why?

Well, for starters, Facebook video sees about 135% more organic reach than images. Live video sees even more reach.

According to Facebook, users spent 3x more time watching live videos than a video that’s no longer live.

And, they comment more than 10x more during live videos.

Couple all that with a survey Livestream did of its users:

  • 80% of respondents would rather watch a live video than read a blog post
  • 82% said they were more interested in watching a live video from a brand vs. reading social media posts

The beauty is, while 60% of marketers are investing in video right now, only about 14% are committed to using live video, according to a report by Social Media Examiner.

In other words, live video offers a unique opportunity for you to edge out your competition and carve your own presence in a widely popular medium.

What you should know about live video.

Live video can be a scary thing. Being in front of a camera may not seem natural to you. But that’s the point. And that’s the lure of live video – your audience likes the authenticity it brings, vs. overproduced (and costly) videos. Folks are looking for a real human connection behind the brand. You can give them that with live video.

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Now that we have content marketing out of the way, let’s look at a few ad-based trends CEOs need to keep their eye on for 2018:

Smaller ad networks are going to go away

In 2017, Facebook and Google each grew their revenue by 20%, while all other advertising ecosystem revenues shrunk to 5%.

That trend isn’t going to change.

Google and Facebook’s dominance in the ad space isn’t the only thing hurting smaller ad networks. The widespread blocking of third-party cookies isn’t helping either. These networks rely on third-party cookies, and their fate all but depends on Google and when (not if) the search engine giant updates Chrome to follow the likes of Apple and Mozilla by blocking third-party cookies.

When that move happens, smaller ad networks will crumble, and you’ll be left with Google and Facebook for your ad campaigns.

Ad blockers won’t be as effective

In 2015, ad blockers really threw marketers for a loop, and for two years, they’ve been wreaking havoc on advertisers.

But there are a couple of reasons why their effectiveness will falter in 2018 and beyond.

For starters, most folks use their mobile devices far more than their desktops, and desktops are where ad blockers are primarily used.

Second, publishers have begun to force users to shut off ad blockers to access content. Sites like Forbes and the Huffington Post have, for example, marketed their “ad light” and subscription products to ad blocker users. Facebook has completely blocked ad blockers.

In the end, consumers will be faced with a choice: either white list the sites they care about (thus allowing ads on those sites) or pay up to access that content. In the end, the result will be a smaller impact by ad blockers in the marketing world.

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Here are some new technologies and tactics to keep an eye on for your marketing endeavors in 2018:

Chatbots are everywhere!

Chatbots aren’t new, by any means, but in 2018, we’ll continue to see a rise in companies integrating chatbots as valuable communication assets. In fact, according to Gartner, it’s estimated that 85% of interactions will be with chatbots by 2020, according to Gartner.

Use of chat apps has actually surpassed the use of social media and audiences will expect this type of technology from most companies.

This means you and your team have to create a predefined workflow to help drive customer engagement and answer questions or offer suggestions in a natural, meaningful way.

It’s not uncommon for successful brands to have a chatbot specialist on staff, someone to come up with the strategies for all of your touchpoints and execute that strategy across your platforms.

Reach mobile users with geofencing

Few folks go anywhere without their mobile devices. On average, people interact with their smartphones at least 75 different times each day.

That means they engage with their devices throughout the day, across a variety of locations. You can use geofencing to collect information about, and target, your customers as they enter, leave, or remain in specific areas (known as geofences).

Geofences are specific areas that prompt mobile notifications when a customer is active in a certain area.

During these key micro-moments, you can send promotional messages offering discounts to users. Geofencing is an incredible way to engage with customers on the go.

What you need to know about geofencing

In order for this technology to work, customers have to allow your app to track their location. All too often apps simply ask permission to track location, without outlining the benefits of this tracking.

Let your users know the benefits of sharing their location

You want to make sure you highlight the benefits of location sharing and how it’ll improve their user experience.

The future is exciting. The future is filled with potential. The future is here.

2018 is right around the corner, and with it will come new trends, technologies, and standards in how you go about growing your brand. Our online marketing company is ready for these upcoming challenges. Are you prepared?

It’s incredibly important to latch onto, and adapt to, the most important strategies consumers relate to, as outlined above.

However, it’s equally important to remember that in the end, digital marketing for education at its core hasn’t changed. Your goal is to go where your audiences are, and give them an experience they’ll remember and care about.

Sure, how you go about doing that is constantly evolving, but so long as you remember that key tenet, and stay atop the latest trends to hit the industry, your brand will do just fine in 2018 and beyond.

Alex Membrillo Cardinal CEO

Alex Membrillo

Founder and CEO

Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal, a digital marketing agency focused on growing multi location companies. His work as CEO of Cardinal also recently earned him the honor of being selected as a 2015 and 2016 Top 20 Entrepreneur of metro Atlanta by TiE Atlanta, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2016 Small Business Person of the Year (Rising Star), and the 2015 Digital Marketer of the Year by Technology Association of Georgia (TAG).