How To Prepare For 2014′s Biggest Marketing Challenges

By Shannon Callarman | Small Business

I’m no psychic. If I was I’d be the marketing queen. I’d send out emails without doing a proper A/B testing (because I’d already know Test A would win). I’d go directly to potential customers who are in need of my product or service, and I’d know exactly where to share and promote my content because I’d foresee the advantages.

But that’s all hocus pocus. Smart marketers turn to data, test over and over, and take risks to find new ways to strengthen their marketing strategy. The most important thing we do is listen. We’re always listening – very closely – to what our potential and present customers are asking. We may not have psychic ability, but we have the brains to almost trick people into thinking we do.

My point is, marketing is all about tuning into your intuition. You have to test, test, test to achieve great results. One good strategy is to consistently educate yourself on the latest trends. Keep a close eye on changes that affect your work as well as the entire industry.

If you’ve been paying close attention this year, you’re probably already aware of marketing challenges that will rise in 2014. If you haven’t been, here’s a quick guide on how to prepare now, so you can start a new year on the right foot.

3 Marketing Challenges of 2014 – And How to Prepare

1. Competitive Email Marketing

Content: Quality over Quantity 

I receive about 20 promotional emails in my inbox a day. I’ll save about 2 of them. The ones I save have something of value. There’s either a coupon for my favorite store or there’s content that I find extremely valuable to read.

The scary thing is — some of the emails I receive are not hard sales at all, just a bad approach to creating valuable content. Emails are all about first impressions. If the subject line isn’t engaging, there’s no chance of it being opened.

To stay consistent, plan your content in advance. Choose a topic and begin crafting your newsletter for the upcoming month weeks ahead. Pay very close attention to your subject lines, placement of content, images. Every element of the email you send out matters.

Revamp Your Email Design 

We’re going to start seeing more emails optimized for mobile than last year. The flat design trend that took over websites in 2013 will start to take effect for email design. Flat UI is the most popular responsive design concept due to it’s simplicity, bold colors, and user-friendly approach.


Always conduct an A/B test so you can measure open rates and click-through rates

Open Rates: Test your sender name. Do more people open your emails due to the sender name being your company’s or do they recognize your personal name? Also test your subject lines. Subject lines fewer than 10 characters long have an open of 58%, which is fairly high. Also, test different words in your subject line.

Click-Through Rates: Test click-through rates by making tweaks to your content. Are you call-to-actions clear? Are there too many call-to-actions? Does your content closely relate to your subject line?

2. Promoting Content

Revise Your Sharing Strategy 

Okay cool, you’re showing up and you’re sharing original content with your online community. Unfortunately just showing up isn’t going to cut it anymore.

This is where it gets tough. No one likes spam, but you have to learn how to be a little more aggressive if you want your content to be seen. So here are some tactics I find are effective:

1. Limit your social media platforms to the ones that are the most effective. If you’re using too many platforms, you’re potentially spreading yourself too thin.

2. To share visual content, use sites like SlideShare and to upload presentations or infographics. This can help build an audience

3. Don’t be afraid to share your content with influencers. Reach out and introduce yourself. Ask them what they think.

Warning! Last week, I had a Google+ user ask me how she can block a user she added to one of her circles. The user was constantly sending her updates. You can simply “mute” these updates if you no longer want to receive them. Don’t let this happen to you! Share content with individual users, but do it in moderation.

Become a Great Community Member

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” – Steve Martin

Some marketers try to promote content online like a new intern calling the shots on the first day. Who are you and where did you come from!? No one is going to take you seriously. Instead, take the me, me, me out of the formula, and engage with others on LinkedIn groups or Google+ communities. Share valuable content, and work your way up. Once users start to see you as a consistent contributor, they’ll find your content organically. Sharing your work 10%, maybe even 20% of the time is okay, but you can catch more flies with honey just by being present and contributing to the community.

Implement Native Advertising

Native advertising is “sponsored” content that disguises a commercial message into the organic experience of a given platform. “Suggested Posts” on Facebook is an example of this type of advertising.

Buzzfeed does a great job with native ads. They’ll publish an article that’s just like their regular content, but it will be sponsored by a brand. You’ll barely notice it’s an ad, and readers find the content entertaining because it’s relevant to the site. So both sides win!

Lead Nurturing

Focus on the 3-Stages of Lead Nurturing

According to Pardot, 77% of business buyers stated they want different content at each stage of the research. In order to keep your leads engaged, send them content that is the most relevant to each stage:

Stage 1: Content that explains how you can make their job easier.

Stage 2: Content that supports how others benefited.

Stage 3: Content that defines why you’re the best choice.

Research Client and Customer Questions

Creating valuable content must be helpful and important information that your clients or customers that make their life easier. Research their pain points and develop content that answers questions or gives value, and relate it back to your product or service.

Sync Your Content Marketing with Sales

70% of the buying decision is already made before talking to a sales representative.

There should be strong communication between the marketing team and the sales team. Continue to offer useful content to your leads to help push them through the conversion stage.

Many marketers spend their time creating valuable content to attract leads, but they fail to move on to the next step to push these leads down the funnel. If this sounds like you, make it your goal to nurture these leads. The goal is to earn their business when the lead is ready to move forward.

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