Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The beginning of a new year is a great time to review business plans, reassess marketing strategies and finalize budgets. When it comes to marketing, there’s no shortage of ideas, trends and new tools. As a marketing leader with over 15 years of experience scaling marketing initiatives and teams, I’ve found that every business has its own success formula at the end of the day.
To help you find your formula, here’s my take on three trends that I believe are critical for business growth this year and beyond.
1. AI technology
As customer expectations for personalized experiences continue to grow, businesses of all sizes are constantly looking for ways to provide a faster and better service and compete with audiences distracted by more content than ever before.
From writing sales emails to answering customer questions to creating images for marketing campaigns, AI-based tools, such as ChatGPT and DALL-E, can help scale customer interactions, test marketing ideas, and grow business without increasing overhead costs.
While you can’t completely outsource your marketing to AI (still need to check for accuracy, relevancy and brand alignment), AI platforms like ChatGPT — which can generate copy that closely resembles human-produced content and is capable of accurately interpreting highly customized requests — can help you get started on projects, maintain consistent customer outreach and save time.
Instead of endlessly revising a blog post, spending all of your “marketing” time on social media, or skipping a holiday email because you don’t have enough time to write it, you can use AI tools to keep up with marketing outreach without feeling overwhelmed or losing sight of other parts of your business.
AI’s potential in marketing is vast, and that by itself can be overwhelming. Start small — make a list of repeatable tasks you want to outsource and work from there.
2. Digital accessibility
As a marketing leader who built a career at leading tech companies in the United States, I rarely saw digital accessibility — or the practice of making websites, digital tools, and technologies accessible and usable for people with disabilities – prioritized in planning and developing websites.
As digital accessibility lawsuits skyrocketed and the Department of Justice (DOJ) cracked down on healthcare companies during the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses began to pay attention.
Among the key reasons contributing to the increase in lawsuits and, more importantly, to a widely inaccessible internet (97%!) is the general lack of awareness and concerns around the cost of digital accessibility.
Yet, by making your website more accessible, you can reach millions of Americans with disabilities who, according to the Return on Disability Report 2020, with their family and friends, control over 8 trillion dollars in disposable income in the United States.
As more people search for products and services online, your website’s search ranking will continue to impact your business’s discoverability. Accessibility best practices, such as clear and descriptive headings and text descriptions for images, help people with disabilities navigate content and also make it easier for search engines to crawl and interpret websites.
Accessible websites are also more discoverable to people who use voice search. A Google Mobile Voice Study found that 41% of US adults and 55% of teens use voice search daily.
Here are a few steps you can take right now to make your website more accessible:
- Add alt text, or a written description, to all your images, which screen readers can read aloud for people with visual impairments, sensory processing disorders, or learning disorders.
- Use video captions and descriptions for people with hearing impairments. Make sure to review and correct any mistakes made by automated tools.
- Make your emails accessible – avoid using images as an entire email, underline inline links, and describe links accurately, so people who use screen readers know when text is linked and get a clear idea of where a link will take them.
- Use a color contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. You can check your website and other digital content color contrast using a free color contrast checker.
- If you’re working with a digital agency, ask if they can provide you with a digital accessibility solution. If not, consider getting a solution that will continuously monitor your website for accessibility errors and fix at least the majority of common errors in real time, helping you maintain an accessible website without breaking the bank (manual audits and fixes are expensive).
Influencers come in different shapes and sizes: macro influencers, such as celebrities and bloggers with millions of followers on social media; micro-influencers with under 100K followers; and nano influencers — those with fewer than 10K followers.
While macro and micro-influencers might be out of budget for you (unless they organically find your product and like it enough to start promoting it before making a deal with you), nano influencers might already be in your network — loyal customers, industry experts, your employees and partners with large social media following. Cultivating these relationships and organically tapping into influencers’ networks can help you get more exposure exponentially and build brand equity.
To make the most of these organic influencer relationships, create opportunities for social sharing — events, product news, helpful content, etc. — that would benefit your brand and theirs.
AI technology, digital accessibility and influencers all share a common thread: customer experience. AI technology makes it easier for small businesses to consistently provide timely and personalized online experiences to their customers. Digital accessibility is critical in creating inclusive experiences and providing equal access to products and services for people with different abilities. And finally, outstanding customer experiences are key to building relationships with influencers and earning their and their followers’ trust in a brand.
I hope you’ll find my take on marketing trends valuable as you decide where to invest your time and marketing dollars in 2023.