Regardless of the industry in which you work, the winds of change are quickly turning into a hurricane. Retail giant Amazon and other ecommerce sites have changed brick-and-mortar retail forever, while AirBnB hosts more travellers every night than the world’s largest hotel chains. Launched just six years ago, Uber is already larger than the taxi industries in many of the cities where it operates.
Mobile technology and the on-demand economy are upending the value chains of traditional business models, and businesses which fail to react are destined for the scrapheap…just ask Blockbuster Video.
The foundations businesses are built upon may be changing, but thankfully for agencies and marketers everywhere the day-to-day tasks of promoting your business aren’t changing quite so fast – but they are changing. Along with disruptive business models the new economy also provides new ways to access the talent agencies will need in the coming years.
If you work in digital marketing circles you won’t have been able to avoid the phrase “SEO IS DEAD”. The thinking behind search engine optimisation’s demise is that most of the methods used by marketers in the early days of digital marketing have shuffled off this mortal coil. Google has time and again stamped out practices it deems spammy or over-used, making search results harder to influence, and search optimisation a labour of love rather than a simple numbers game.
The truth about SEO is that it’s more alive and important than ever. Google handles around 6 billion search queries every day, up from around 3.6 billion just five years ago. That’s a lot of potential customers.
A huge part of SEO in 2016 will be PR-type activities. Speaking to journalists, pitching feature ideas to publications, conducting newsworthy research, and establishing distribution channels. The smartest companies have already rolled their PR and search marketing efforts together, and being able to have one foot in both worlds will be in invaluable skills in the coming years as old-school SEO becomes more and more ineffective.
As of 2015 the digital world is officially mobile. 2015 is the year that searches on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) outstripped those on desktops and laptops. In 2015 75% of Facebook’s revenue came from mobile devices. Unless you have a specialist niche, having a desktop-only product is not an option any more.
Whether you’re building a mobile app or website, being able to design for a huge multitude of devices will be a vital skill in the next year – and not a task that can be underestimated. You might be tempted to only build for the latest and greatest mobile device, but that would exclude a huge swathe of potential users.
According to statistics released at the beginning of 2015 only around 15% of iPhone users had the latest model. Around 50% had the previous model, and some 34% used older devices. Android developers face an even more nightmarish prospect – a report by OpenSignal found over 24,000 distinct devices from 1,200 manufacturers running Google’s mobile operating system. Compatibility with as many of these devices as possible is no longer a nice-to-have feature; it’s mission critical.
The core skills that make up the content marketer’s toolbox are in huge demand. Over the last year advertisements for freelance gigs involving copywriting and content production skills have risen by up to 40%, while demand for infographic design and other audiovisual marketing material has risen by around 20%. Inbound marketing is the new normal for forward-thinking agencies and companies, and content marketing is a huge part of that formula.
Another cog in the inbound marketing machine, growing and nurturing a community is a great way to improve customer retention, and help grow your business using the power of your users’ networks.
Dropbox, who provide online storage and document syncing, were one of the first businesses to use customer advocacy to grow their user base – users simply referred their friends to get more storage. Dropbox users routinely send almost 3 million referral invites every month, all of which replace the need for traditional marketing spend. The company was recently valued at $10 billion, and most of their growth can be traced back to some stunning community engagement insight. Agencies and marketers which can effectively harness community engagement will be in huge demand for years to come.
Mastering inbound marketing, producing spectacular responsive products, and fostering a supportive community will all be vital skillsets in 2016, but agency clients want results – and providing results in the digital world means digging into masses of data. Platforms like Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and AdWords can provide great glanceable reports, but deeper insights require a head for numbers and the skills to wrangle and interpret them.
Many agencies have adapted to include data analysis and insight departments in recent years, and a strong analytics game will be a key differentiator in years to come as creative agencies struggle to get to grips with the technicalities of big data.
Many small agencies and in-house creative teams lack the budgets to hire full-time specialists in every key area, and even some larger agencies are thin on the ground in emerging disciplines like multi-device design. If there’s one lesson that can be learned from the rapid changes in the world of business in recent years, it’s that agencies and marketing teams alike need to be agile, and use their resources to maximum effectiveness.
Assembling a team of freelance specialists will provide every talent an agency will need on a flexible basis. With an on-demand freelance team you’re future-proofing your company; part of a freelancer’s job is staying on-trend and learning the latest technologies.
If your agency or marketing team needs a talent injection to keep pace with the new world of work, we can help you make the right connections.