Sometimes I feel a little bit like Noah in the middle of the flood. Only in my case, I'm drowning in a sea of marketing predictions for the coming year. Almost everyone has an opinion on what will happen next.
That doesn't mean there aren't some powerful, actionable ideas in the deluge. Here are 10 trends that will almost certainly influence B2B marketers next year.
1. Pictures, not words. While it pains the English literature major in me, most marketers have begun to accept that video and illustrations are becoming a critical element for many marketing programs. Cisco predicts online video will account for 90 percent of all Internet traffic in the next three years.
2012 checklist: How much of the budget can you move from "word content" to "picture content"?
2. Easy bite media consumption. We are now a community of "scanners," so we want our information delivered to us in small chunks and sound bites. Major news organizations—and the Obama reelection campaign—are using the Tumblr platform to satisfy that need.
2012 checklist: You've investigated WordPress blog platforms, but have you considered short form alternatives?
3. New insights into customer segments. Every second, your customers and prospects are scrolling the internet and your website, hoping to better understand your company. New tools like Personyze will allow you to understand what your visitors want, so you can give them a more customized experience on your website.
2012 checklist: You're probably already using Google Analytics or a paid tool, but have you investigated how to extend the power of that data to personalize marketing content?
4. Your marketing program has a plus one. Most B2B companies are still trying to determine how to differentiate their editorial voice on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Meanwhile, Google Plus is quietly weaving "plus ones" into its search algorithm. That means you have to pay attention to it. Now, please.
2012 checklist: Establish your page and circles … and spend time with me?
5. Turning social media disconnects into coherence. Most of my clients have social media monitoring tools that grab almost endless amounts of data. The tricky part is teaching yourself to find meaningful trends that impact your business. Are you reacting to surface data or looking below for actionable insights?
2012 checklist: Think of your monitoring tool as the first—not last—stop on your analysis.
6. Mobile matters now, so stop pretending it doesn't. When I started my career in PR, my job was to get our clients into The Wall Street Journal. Things have changed. Adults in the U.S. spend more time on mobile devices each day than they do with print media. What's more, understand that mobile users are young and wealthy. Start to build a relationship with them now.
2012 checklist: You need a website and marketing content that works well on mobile platforms. Use MobiReady to assess your weaknesses.
7. B2B thought leaders become "influencers." B2B marketing has a rich tradition in strategic thought leadership, since B2B companies often use people to communicate the value of their business offering. As businesses begin to harness the value of the Web, they are slowly becoming convinced of the need for digital footprints.
2012 checklist: While your thought leader may not need a Klout score, are you prepared to value their individual efficacy online? It's probably not enough to have a robust company presence—you still need people to embody your brand promise.
8. Email is not a silo. Online marketing is a battering ram that's knocking down pre-existing marketing silos. In 2012, 47 percent of businesses are planning to increase investment in email to drive growth in social media channels. How much time have you spent thinking about email and social media as "partners," not program elements?
2012 checklist: Adding a social share button to your email is not what I'm talking about. Take it up a level with a strategy that does justice to both platforms.
9. Content marketing forcing packaging diversity. While white papers will always find a place in most B2B marketer's hearts, new data suggests that e-books, webinars and blogs are a permanent part of the mix.
2012 checklist: Look at your editorial plans for the coming year. Have you devoted resources to develop new ways to excite your audience?
10. Get inspiration. Talking conceptually is boring and unconvincing. If you need to rally the troops around new marketing or digital PR ideas, find some stories to galvanize the situation.
2012 checklist: Are you using competitor activity to justify your marketing investments? That may not be enough. Develop an RSS inspiration feed to find a wider set of inspiring marketing programs and case studies.
Elizabeth Sosnow is a managing director with BlissPR. She writes for the firm's blog, where this article first appeared.