Every January, almost every publisher and blog is talking about one thing: trends. Just log into your favorite professional network and take a look for yourself: ‘Top trends to rock marketing in 2018’, ‘The 10 trends you need to know to dominate’… etc. While some trends are innovative and inspiring, others are destined to die off as fast as ‘planking’. So before you get caught up in the latest craze, make sure to take a few steps.
First of all, creating initiatives around a trend should be treated as an experiment as it is a unique opportunity to connect with potential buyers and create experiences. Like all good experiments, make sure that you create a process and measurable outcome that will enable you to determine the value of acting on the trend. That includes asking a question, researching best practices and use cases, forming a hypothesis, testing said hypothesis and analyzing your results. Even where your trend-based initiative only requires minimal effort or resources to execute, or where it seems insignificant in terms of budget or time spent compared to other initiatives in your marketing mix, don’t forget to measure its impact.
Creating a general campaign report template that you can adapt to new initiatives as you jump onto trends or switch on and off budgets can be so helpful in ensuring that you do effectively measure the result of new initiatives. After all, what may seem like the most transient trend may become the next big thing, or even where it’s a flop you might learn valuable lessons from your experience that your marketing team can employ to great success for new campaigns.
Read on for our recommended approach to testing new trend-based initiatives:
How will creating an initiative around this trend affect your marketing strategy and help you reach your desired goals? Think of a question you’d like to answer that is directly aligned with strategic business objectives. For example:
It may be tempting to dive straight into testing. Take the appropriate amount of time, however, to research methods and strategies and debate ideas around how you can successfully implement this trend. Some trends may be relatively new and lack significant supporting documentation, but check for successful case studies, how-tos, and invest time training your team and brainstorming the best possible use case.
Live streaming was huge in 2017, and although it may seem very raw and authentic, you shouldn’t simply start rolling without proper planning. Keep your original question(s) in mind and think of your overall intent in order to see how you can align initiatives based on this trend with your larger objectives.
Furthermore, by investigating successful implementations you will be able to more accurately determine where and how you could act on this trend to successfully optimize your marketing strategy. If we look for information on live streaming for example, we find that videos on Facebook Live get viewed for three times as long as a pre-recorded video and come in at a fraction of the cost of professionally produced videos. Therefore, it’s safe to say that this trend could be acted upon to increase engagement and lower the cost of acquisition.
With a question in mind and ample findings from research, you should now be able to make an educated guess on how this trend can be used to meet a specific objective. If you’d like to test video marketing, for example, your objective may be something like this:
Therefore, with specific goals in mind, we can come up with a realistic hypothesis:
If we invest in launching a customer journey how-to video campaign with videos targeted to a younger audience, we will be able to increase our pipeline by 10% while increasing brand awareness by 25%, while simultaneously growing our subscribed user base by 10% in order to increase brand loyalty.
Here comes the moment of truth. But, before we jump into this section, we strongly suggest integrating new trend-focused metrics into your marketing dashboard or report to allow you to compare the performance of trend-based initiatives to your other campaigns.
To make this process easier, and more scalable, lay out a generic campaign dashboard or report template before you even start that can easily be adapted to integrate new campaign data. This way, your team can experiment and evaluate their results at a much faster pace.
If you, however, leave reporting to the last minute, or rely heavily on other departments for assistance, you may find yourself experiencing bottlenecks after testing. This can prevent you from acting on your findings quickly to make the most of these often short-lived trends at the moment they can have the greatest impact. For trends whose novelty captures audience attention at the very beginning (think Pokemon Go), but quickly fade in popularity, you may miss your window of opportunity. Therefore, we suggest proactively planning a reporting strategy from the get-go so that you’re able to act in the moment and evaluate outcomes immediately.
It is a good idea to document the initial question and hypothesis directly in your dashboard or report in order to communicate your entire thought process and reasoning around your actions to your higher-ups (especially where a significant budget is required).
Accurately communicate your question, intent and hypothesis by adding annotations to your campaign report template and setting goals wherever possible. For example, if we believe Trend A will increase the overall % of Engaged Readers by 20 over a 7 month period, then we can go ahead and set an objective with a defined timeline from the start.
Now that your campaign report is all set, let’s jump into testing and analysis! Will your hypothesis be validated? To find out you will need to regularly check your results over an allotted testing period. If, for example, you expect to see long-term rather than immediate results, be sure to allow enough time to accurately gather the results of your actions on those metrics.You may find that some trends take time to catch on, especially if you’re approaching them slowly or organically to get your feet wet. By frequently reviewing your dashboard and measuring its impact you’ll have a clear picture of whether or not it is worthwhile to continue with this channel or strategy, or if your approach should be modified in any way during the testing period.
Some dashboard tools, such as Sweetspot, even come equipped with built-in performance monitoring tools such as alerts and objectives that allow users to strategically track progress over a set period of time, making it easy to understand the contribution your new trend-based initiative is making towards reaching very specific company objectives.
Be ready to make adjustments and ask yourself (or your team) questions throughout the testing and analysis process in order to fully understand the overall impact on performance.
In the example below, we look at how Lowe’s experimented with a new channel and ultimately found success:
Background: Lowe’s, a popular hardware and home improvements retailer, had invested in how-to videos embedded on their website, but they were hard for their audience to find. In 2013, Vine was a social network on the rise that allowed users to upload short, share-worthy clips. Lowe’s decided to test it out with a modest budget of 5,000 dollars.
Question: If we break down our DIY videos into smaller, consumable 6-second clips, will we be able to increase brand awareness and traffic?
Research: The team decided that they would be able to create 12 videos over a 3 month period using a simple iPhone to record. The clips would have to be shot in one go, however, so practice and preparation were of utmost importance. Following the theme of quick fixes, they creatively named their new campaign “Fix in Six”.
Hypothesis: If we release 12 DIY video clips on Vine and share them simultaneously on Twitter, we will be able to reach our target audience (American homeowners) and increase brand awareness.
Test and Analysis: The campaign took off so fast and was so successful, that Lowe’s decided to adjust their original plan, launching a whopping 55 DIY videos. These helped to substantially increased brand awareness, with 30,000 new followers and over 40 million video views.
Due to the simple nature of the initiative, all 55 videos were recorded under the originally planned budget thus helping them surpass their original expectations and have additional positive impacts, such as lowering the cost of acquisition.
Have you successfully experimented with any of the latest 2018 marketing trends? We’d love to hear about your experience!
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