Top 7 Things Startups Need To Know About Digital Marketing In 2016

Below is a blog post submitted by James Loomstein, Managing Partner, Rogue Marketing

Startup life is always a roller-coaster ride. Even when the planets align, execution is flawless, and customer acquisition is through the roof, you’ll likely feel you’re perched atop an unguided missile, hanging on for the ride.

Getting things right from the very beginning is your best chance of keeping that missile on an upward trajectory, and how you handle your digital marketing effort could make or break the ride.

Of course things are always changing, but the pace of change has quickened outrageously in the past twelve months. If you’re not keeping track of new trends, challenges, and opportunities, you could soon be back aboard that missile, headed down.

One of the most fundamental changes across the industry is the one most of us are actually helping to facilitate. The shift to mobile is at the heart of many trends. Here’s my personal list of the top seven digital marketing trends your startup should pay attention to in 2016:

Mobile first
Mobile isn’t new. It seems we’ve been talking about it forever. Unfortunately, talking isn’t doing. Even with Google’s mobile friendly update on April 21 this year, many companies still struggle to come to grips with what they need to do. A lot have made the move or are still trying to make it happen. But none of this is news either.

The big news in mobile is absolutely the speed with which the audience has shifted. You’ll note I didn’t say “is shifting”. This is the point we all most need to understand. In May of 2015, Google’s Senior VP of Product Management for Adwords, Jerry Dischler, announced that people searching Google on smartphones had surpassed searches using desktops and tablets in some of the world’s biggest markets. In fact, Dischler put it like this “We have now hit an inflection point. There are now more Google searches on mobile than on desktop in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan.”

While even this was not a surprise to most, it was a comment from Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, Gary Illyes, at Pubcon last month, that should have made the biggest impression. Even with all of the data the search giant has available, and has had available, Illyes revealed even Google itself significantly underestimated how rapidly users would shift to mobile!

As a Startup, if you are not already focused on providing the best possible mobile experience for your customers, you must start addressing it now. If you’re in early stage development, your mobile offering has to be where you make your biggest investment. This is critical. It will affect every facet of your operation, even product offering, most certainly delivery.

If you’re not already on top of it, take yourself to the Think With Google resource pages and get on top of it, fast.

Micro-moments and the rise of intent
Part of the fall-out from the shift to mobile is a fundamental change in how people search. And that of course has driven the change in how Google, Bing, and others view and handle the content at their disposal when a search query occurs.

Once we talked about demand-driven businesses. Now speed, portability, accessibility, and personalization have wrought a subtle, but all important change. Today we must turn our attention to dealing with need-driven customers. To be visible online, we must understand the influence of micro-moments in our customers’ purchasing decisions. This means defining your customer’s intent and building an experience that enables you to be where they are, when those micro-moments occur. Get this right and you’ll be ahead in the game. Get it wrong and you could be back on the downward ascent in no time.

App indexing
A year ago, I sat in a conference session at SMX East listening to Justin Briggs from Briggsby talk about increasing mobile visibility with structured data. During the presentation he described early efforts in app-indexation, and emphasized the importance of ensuring mobile apps were technically sound and crawlable. There were murmurs as people left that session considering the possibility of seeing their own mobile app content fully indexed and routinely served in search results.

The day has arrived. Google systems are now regularly serving app content when we search, and Webmaster Trends Analyst Mariya Moeva announced September 29th that Google would be making a ranking boost available to developers using their App Indexing API.

Interestingly, the Developer documentation also talks about an advantage for those whose app is available for both android and iOS—“If you have added support for App Indexing on both Android and iOS, your cross-platform deep links will also be enabled with goo.gl short links, regardless of the availability of deep links from Search results.”

If apps are a part of your business, but getting your head around this has you feeling out of your depth, you need someone on your team who can make it happen. You could hire an in-house specialist, work with an agency, or of course, learn it yourself. If you’re up for the DIY approach, start out by reading the Developer documentation, follow Mariya Moeva on Google+ and Justin Briggs on twitter @justinrbriggs. Also, register for a training event or conference where you can learn from (and talk to) those who are working on App-indexing every day.

The Internet of Things
Still wondering exactly what the Internet of Things (IoT) means for your Startup? The growing network of everyday objects—from industrial machines to consumer goods—able to share information and complete tasks without human intervention is already having an impact on the way you do business. I know it is, because it’s having an impact on your customers.

From wearables that help improve your health and fitness, to the New Jersey Transit Authority traffic management system that gets you home to your kids a half-hour earlier each day, the Internet of Things is everywhere. According to Gartner Inc., research indicates there will be close to 26 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things by 2020. What does that mean for your Startup?

It’s easy to underestimate the impact a connected refrigerator might make in the world of business, but here’s a quick example. If you’re the corner gas station or 7-11 near a customer’s home, things could change. Think about the impact on milk sales if every home in your neighborhood suddenly has a refrigerator that will message its owner during the work day with a reminder to buy milk. If they grab milk from the market near the office instead of walking to your store when they discover the empty carton at home, that might make a hole in sales. Other, less specific challenges include security, privacy and personal safety, but being an entrepreneurial type, you may see opportunities there as well.

Our job is to recognize the opportunities and challenges the Internet of Things brings with it and turn them into advantages. If you’re looking for ideas to create a new Startup, it’s a great place to begin your brainstorming.

Brands that rock and how they get rocked
You may have heard by now (at least I hope you have) that there’s way more to successful search marketing these days than sprinkling keyword terms on a page. To be honest, there always was, but as entity-based search has evolved, the power of brands has become even more closely linked to visibility in search.

As a Startup, you already know your brand is one of your most precious assets, and how you rock it will definitely influence how important your brand entity seems to search engines. The thing to remember here is that your brand is not directly quantified in search algorithms, but how you do what you do, who you are and how you engage with your customers certainly sends signals that help to paint a picture for them.

Gone are the days when you could get away with thinking branding meant simply choosing business cards and logos. Social media plays a critical role too and you need to make sure you have your bases covered before you get in the game. If you’re taking your company to the world, you have to be ready. That means digging deep into unsettling topics like crisis management and reputation management long before trouble arrives. The key is to not mess up, but you will, and having plans in place when you need them can make or break a brand. The internet is littered with stories of bad moments in social media that brought down a company.

If you need to learn more about living you brand, follow Melanie Spring of Sisarina on Twitter @melaniespring. You can also see how well you’re rocking your brand with these free Sisarina worksheets.

If you need help with reputation management, add Andy Beal @AndyBeal and Rhea Drysdale @Rhea to your Twitter follows. Both are outstanding reputation management specialists with the added advantage of a solid background in SEO.

Personalization & segmentation
So much of digital marketing is focused on capturing customers, many have made the mistake of forgetting there’s more to business than pushing people in the door. Capturing the right customers has always been the obvious way to get the best return on customer acquisition cost.

Big data is bringing big benefits for those who recognize the power of personalization and segmentation. Follow Marty Weintraub’s work in the field of Psychographics @aimclear. Explore Pay per click, paid social, Facebook ad targeting, native advertising, remarketing and more by following Purna Virji @purnavirji, , Susan Wenograd @SusanEDub, and Sean Dolan @seandolan.

Live streaming in your pocket
Finally, don’t ignore the impact of relatively new live streaming options Periscope, Meerkat, Blab and others. For many they are still little more than a novelty, but for smart marketers they offer an entirely new way of connecting with customers on the inside of what you do. For engaged followers, the opportunity to see inside your operation, to get to know the people behind your brand and to interact in a way that feels more personal builds a powerful connection. Find clever ways to use the technology to make customers feel like privileged insiders and suddenly you have bona fide brand evangelists who want to tell the world about you. Sign up at katch.me to automatically save streams to the web and don’t forget you can save video to your phone or tablet for use right across your marketing effort.

Even though you’re busy under the hood… You can’t ignore digital marketing. Understanding what’s driving that missile you’re perched upon will help you always keep things faced in the right direction. Of course, there is so much more to it than what I’ve covered here, but those are a good place to start.

  • Raquel Vincent is a Dallas-based creative with a knack for words and inspired creative direction. When she's not working, you can find Raquel hitting a gallery opening, working on her book, or thrifting for unforgettable vintage finds. She loves music festivals, tacos, and her rescue cat Berlioz.

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