5 Breakout Marketing Trends for 2015

Times Square New Years Eve Ball

It’s that time of year again, time to make wild guesses about what’s to come in the year ahead. There are two general approaches folks use to predict the future. The first is the blatantly obvious; it’s been the year of mobile for about 3 years now. Content marketing is still pitched as a new thing, even though it’s as old as SEO.

So how do you find legitimate, new stuff to pay attention to? You look at the data! There are tons of data sources online that you can mine for breakouts, for things that have had sudden, unexplained upswings in popularity that stand out. Let’s take a look at 5 of them that I picked out using Google’s AdWords Traffic Estimator.

Green marketing

Green marketing, or greenwashing, is the bonding of your marketing to environmental causes. This can be as simple as making environmental statements about your products, or as complex as changing your entire business. Apple, for example, has been making strong pushes into green marketing in the manufacture of its technology. Some metals are no longer used. Many scraps in manufacturing get recycled.

How can you make use of environmental practices you already have in place? Can you change your business to be more green in a meaningful way?

Privacy marketing

Target. Sony. Michaels. St. Joseph Health System. These are just a handful of serious, significant data breaches in 2014. Combine that with increasing awareness of surveillance and targeted advertising, and it’s no wonder customers are thinking privacy. Privacy matters. Security matters. Giving consumers more control over their data and how you use it will be a differentiator and competitive advantage. At a minimum, it’ll put you ahead of inevitable government legislation about data practices.

Few things convey your legitimate care for the customer as well as how much control you give them over their data. How can you add that to your products, services, and marketing in the coming year?

Societal marketing

Traditionally, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been a red-headed stepchild, often handed to the public relations team to handle. Societal marketing is marketing’s reclamation of this role, using modern marketing techniques and tactics. This past year saw the Ice Bucket Challenge as the most prominent example of societal marketing, a meme that spread like wildfire across the Internet.

It’s well past time for marketing and PR to sit down at the same table and figure out how to work together on the CSR role of your company or brand. How can you make your efforts more integrated, use more modern techniques, and measure results more effectively?

Mobile content marketing

It’s beyond obvious that mobile is a thing. It’s beyond obvious that content marketing is a thing. What’s not obvious yet, or not well defined, is what content marketing is working specifically on mobile devices. For the most part, marketers are approaching mobile content in the same way they approach traditional content. For example, an infographic renders differently on a mobile device than it does on a tablet or desktop. How would you change this to be something more mobile-friendly? Google did a great job of an interactive infographic in the form of their Primer app this year that showcases what’s possible.

How can you rethink and re-imagine your existing content marketing as content specifically for a mobile user? How can you port and translate from text and images to apps and video for mobile? Add these questions to your 2015 marketing thinking.

Marketing strategy

This last term surprised me in my analysis. Marketing strategy is as old as barking and busking in the town bazaar of millennia past. How is it breaking out as a search term in late 2014? The answer – I suspect – is the same reason as why I wrote Marketing White Belt. A lot of people have flooded into the marketing space in the past few years, armed with a handful of specialized tactics around social media or other digital niches, but with no marketing foundation. Now that they’ve been in practice for a little while, they’re realizing that their knowledge base has some serious gaps and are looking for strategies, frameworks, and roadmaps to better organize the tactical and technique-driven knowledge they have.

If your marketing meetings seem like you’re throwing things against a wall to see if anything resonates, then chances are you’re looking for some strategy. If you’re doing things without any sense of where you’re going or what synergies you should be looking for, then you’re probably looking for marketing strategy. As you roll into 2015, take some time to read up on strategy. If you need a starting place, start with any marketing MBA textbooks, or David Maister’s excellent Strategy and the Fat Smoker (Amazon affiliate link).


These 5 trends aren’t necessarily the most popular or the ones most talked about. That’s why they’re breakouts – in the data, they show anomalies, unusual and sustained changes in search volume in the last month or two that can’t be accounted for seasonally. Will they continue to be the hot thing? Time will tell, but they’re certainly worth thinking about.

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5 Email Marketing Year End Tasks

As the year draws to a close, it’s not a bad idea to do some cleanup of your marketing assets. The asset most neglected, yet most valuable for the average marketer, is your email list, so let’s look at 5 things you should do with your email marketing list to freshen things up.


The first and arguably most important thing you should do with your list is to clean it up. Unsubscribe any email address that’s been bouncing, assuming that your email service provider hasn’t done so for you already. Take a look at the addresses and fix the ones that are obviously wrong, such as domain name mixups. ([email protected] instead of [email protected])

Shine a Light

Take some time to identify who your very best members of your list are. Look inside your email analytics to see who always opens, who always clicks, who always shares your email newsletters. If you’re feeling generous, reach out to those folks and thank them for their continued support! If your email service provider doesn’t give you this data, consider switching – it’s that important. I still use WhatCounts Publicaster for this very reason.

Find Your Stars

Look in either your web analytics (assuming that email subscription is a goal conversion) or your email marketing software to identify the top performing conversion points for new subscribers. How are people finding you? What’s working best, and what’s not working so well? Set up some tests as you head into the new year, a testing plan that will help you improve your list subscriptions. For example, I’ve started testing out different kinds of Twitter cards to see if I can get better performance:


Check Under the Hood

Stuff changes. Systems change. If you’re using any SaaS vendors – like Google Analytics, for example – stuff can change a LOT, and in the hustle and the bustle of daily marketing life, things fall through the cracks. This is the best time to do a systems audit. Make sure you’re using the latest tracking codes from Google Analytics, from your email vendor, from Twitter and Facebook, etc. so that you’re measuring everything important.


Take some time to look at your email templates, too. Freshen up your designs. If your main email templates aren’t responsive to mobile and tablet devices, now is the best time to fix that.

Revive the List

The last thing to do is to look at your list and identify those members who have working email address, still receiving email but are dormant, meaning that they haven’t opened or clicked anything in a while.


Get their attention! Consider an outreach program using retargeting and remarketing methods to get them to come back, to get them to either re-subscribe or just pay attention to you again.

These 5 year-end to-dos (and they work any time of year, really) help put you on the path to improved email marketing performance. Give them a try!

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What to change in 2015 using Google Analytics Benchmarking

Benchmarking is one of the most underestimated tools in the Google Analytics toolkit. If you haven’t already tried it out on your site, go read this post and try it now, then come back here. If you have, excellent.

Benchmarking by itself is a useful first look at what’s working vs. what’s not in your analytics versus peer competitors. But suppose you wanted a bigger picture view than just the moment, just right now? Suppose you wanted to see historically so that you could understand what’s changing over time? Luckily, there’s a way to get that kind of insight. Start by turning on your benchmarking and then go to the calendar selector. Select a reasonable period of time in 2014, be it the last month, quarter, or year to date (assuming data is available). Then choose a comparison period of year over year:

Channels_-_Google_Analytics 2

Having done this, let’s see what I can interpret from my findings. You’ll notice that you can see this quarter and the same quarter for 2013 stacked up row on row by channel. You’ll also note that I can see how I did versus peer sites in each row.


So what’s of importance? Four things stand out to me in the table above about my website.

1: Social was good this quarter compared to Q4 2013. I was roughly comparable with my peers last year, but significantly ahead of them this year. What I find interesting is not only did my site improve, but my peers fell behind, going from 1418 sessions from social to 1087. What did I change this quarter? Whatever it was, I should improve on it.

2. Organic search still has me above my peers, but I lost 50% of my advantage. I lost 9000 sessions compared to last year. This calls for a fresh look at my organic search strategy and tactics. Where was I getting links from last year? Where did I not get links from this year? Why?

3. At first glance it looks like I narrowed the gap with my peers in referral traffic, going from -43% to -33%, but that’s not really true. When you look at the hard numbers, I’m basically where I was last year and my peers lost ground. That’s not great, so if this were a full time business, I’d be hiring a PR agency right about now and giving them a mandate to go get me placed content on third party sites.

4. When you look at the number of new users that a site gets (third column) rather than just all sessions, you get a sense for how fast your audience is growing. Direct traffic (which very often is mobile traffic in disguise) stands out because last year it was a growing contributor to my site. This year it’s a declining one. Hmm. I’d better put my site through its paces and maybe refresh the design to be more mobile friendly.

By reading through this, you get a sense of what caught my eye. #1 was a trend acceleration, where both the percentages and hard numbers picked up the pace. #2 was a decline masquerading as growth. #3 was stagnation masked as a decline. #4 was a trend reversal. Look for similar patterns in your own analytics and then figure out what happened, why, and what you’re going to do about it.

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