Digital marketing has never stopped evolving since its earliest inception. As it does, marketers continue to revisit, expand, revamp, or even outright reroute their marketing strategies to attract audiences.
But what is it that changes, year after year? It’s technology, sure – consider the wealth of tools at marketers’ disposal now as a direct response.
After all, as channels of communication expand, marketers’ efforts must effectively span across them.
But it’s also the customers themselves; consider how much more erratic the average customer journey is now.
Or how much more impatient digital audiences are, as Google correlates loading delays with bounce rates. Or how they prefer conversational tones over “salesy” language, or why they even conduct online searches.
In brief, platforms of communication change, and technology frames communication anew. Audiences themselves change, too – and it is this combination that warrants your attention.
Marketing strategies to watch out for in 2022
This subject would, of course, require near-endless length to adequately cover.
You have certainly already heard of multiple promising marketing strategies, best practices, and technological innovations that may shape 2022.
Each of them has its own merits, of course – but this one article can’t reasonably cover them all, right?
So for this initial article, I’d like to explore the fundamentals of 5 marketing strategies to watch out for in 2022 in the following format:
Which relevant problems can we identify?
What does the data say about their implications and solutions?
How can a renewed focus on tried-and-tested practices address these problems?
This format should hopefully make this vast subject easier to explore, and the final result easier for you to read.
So without further ado, let’s begin.
#1 Customer-centric marketing
This may be the most expansive, elusive strategy among them, so let us begin here.“Customer-centric” marketing is just what the name suggests; centering marketing on the customer to produce an impeccable User Experience (UX). Hubspot illustrates this concept very well with their flywheel model:
But what exactly does customer-centricity even mean? Rather, how does one apply it? Even more importantly, why should marketers entertain this notion?
Problem #1: Customer distrust
The very first issue I can confidently identify is increasing customer distrust.
Emerald Group Publishing identified this issue in 2009, echoing past research. Over a decade later, it rings no less true today.
Adage’s Devon Smith did so just this year, in fact, among others, noting that distrust manifestations have only deepened since.
This is, I’d argue unquestionably so, an issue marketing strategies need to address directly.
Problem #2: erratic customer journeys
The second issue seems to emerge as a direct result of expanded communication channels.
In the simplest of terms, it’s the highly erratic, complex customer journeys that customers now follow.
For an excellent illustration of this complexity, simply consider the following customer journey template by Reputation:
Here, you may simply observe the wealth of channels customers navigate across to reach conversions – let alone advocacy. At the same time, each of them introduces its own Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which only complicate tracking further.
Problem #3: customer acquisition costs
Finally, perhaps partly as a result of the above, Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) continues to increase – as we’ve covered before.
Hubspot, whom we’ve cited then too, identifies many different reasons behind this, including:
Increased marketing costs
Google and social media changes
Combined with the above then, it should be safe to assert that retaining your existing customers holds immense value.
Solution #1: The flywheel model
Which practices might enhance customer-centricity, then, to refine marketing strategies for 2022? The first, holistic approach should come in the form of the flywheel model.
At its core, the flywheel model hinges on a simple truism; satisfied customers remain and become advocates. So, you may employ or reinforce strategies you’ve already been using, such as:
Robust SEO and content marketing
In turn, you may view them as a cohesive whole that affects UX, from first contact points to post-sale engagement.
Solution #2: Loyalty programs
For that matter, loyalty programs remain as potent as ever, and directly enhance your sales flywheel.
As we’ve covered before, in the aforelinked article on CAC, customer retention holds immense, demonstrable value:
Therefore, as CAC costs increase and the flywheel model takes center stage, loyalty programs make for a natural solution.
That said, however, remember to consult your own analytics to determine which program type best suits your business and customers. There is no universally best approach to loyalty programs, after all.
Solution #3: CRM
Finally, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software continues to provide a valuable asset toward addressing these concerns.
CRM solutions remain prominent, as Statista finds it is now the single largest software market in the world.
Moreover, it forecasts that its compound annual growth rate (CAGR) will remain at a steady 0.4% between 2019 and 2024.
That is, I’d argue, because CRM seeks to manage customer relations at every level – as the name suggests.
Its database offers an excellent utility toward improving contact points, informing customer service, and optimizing marketing and sales outreach.
What’s more, CRM has become increasingly more affordable, with smaller businesses now embracing it as well.
#2 Social media marketing
Of course, social media marketing could not be absent from anyone’s marketing strategies radar for 2022.
Social media continues to expand, providing marketers with access to vast, untapped audiences.
To quantify this claim, let me cite Pewresearch research, as cited by Broadbandsearch:
Problem #1: increased brand awareness needs
The first reason for this comes in massively higher brand awareness needs.
Indeed, marketers have to compete for a position in users’ highly cluttered feeds, as users become increasingly demanding. Psychological tactics applied to copy and presentation can certainly help, but will only do so much without proper framing.
In this context, it is no coincidence that brand awareness remains marketers’ primary goal for social media marketing:
What’s more, brand awareness offers the basis for other marketing strategies by definition.
It will affect lead generation, lead acquisition, and even final conversions – hence their inclusion in marketers’ goals too.
However, this overlap actually enlarges the problem. As in, harder brand awareness comes with an immediate domino effect on the overall safes funnel or flywheel.
Problem #2: audience identification
The second problem social media marketing strategies face seems to come with a lack of clear targets. That is to say, an unclear view of who they seek to resonate with.
Among other social media insights, SproutSocial finds in no uncertain terms that:
“The top three challenges that social marketers say they face include identifying and reaching their target audience, measuring ROI[,] and supporting overall business goals.”
This, too, is likely a natural byproduct of audience expansion, at least in part. As more and more users of different age groups, behaviors, and sensibilities join social media, marketers struggle to identify their ideal audience segments among them.
Solution #1: hired experts
Thankfully, the market offers solutions when it finds demand, and social media marketing comes as no exception.
Much like with SEO, agencies, consultants, and freelance professionals continue to offer better and more affordable services for this field.
So, should you want your social media presence handled, a plethora of professional options will be at your disposal.
Think of community management, retargeting, scheduling, and other challenging elements of this marketing subset. When it offers such promise, the market will continue to provide ever more affordable solutions.
Solution #2: social listening
Should you want to handle your social media yourself, however, you may begin with social listening.
Social listening, sometimes referred to as social monitoring or social intelligence, is the simple practice of monitoring social media discussions.
Which ones? Ones that don’t directly mention you or your brand, but do mention your keywords of choice.
Understandably, this practice can directly address both of the problems I identified just above.
For one, it helps pinpoint where discussions are happening and what they’re about; your potential customers’ whereabouts and pain points. Second, it lets you identify your audiences’ needs and habits; who they are, behaviorally and psychographically speaking.
For more details on this practice’s nuances and applications, you may also watch Hootsuit’s informative video on the subject below:
#3 Influencer marketing and cause marketing
Next, as pretty much natural extensions of social media marketing, come influencer marketing and cause marketing.
Are these still marketing strategies to watch for in 2022, or have they had their time in the proverbial sun?
Problem #1: increased customer distrust
Initially, let’s note that COVID-19 has affected global trust substantially. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer notes this in no uncertain terms, finding a staggering trust crisis across the globe.
Tellingly, Business became the only trusted institution among Business, NGOs, Government, and Media, an unprecedented change. But even then, it notes that CEOs still face distrust as “societal leaders”:
“[…]CEO’s credibility is at all-time lows in several countries, including Japan (18 percent) and France (22 percent)[.]”
Coupled with severe declines in trust in the Chinese (-18%) and U.S. (-5%) economies, leadership crises, and more, distrust prevails.
Problem #2: increasingly socially conscious audiences
Second, as millennials’ buying power peaks, marketers need to address their sensibilities. The Edelman Trust Barometer notes this as well, noting that societal change now falls on businesses:
Of course, this is not a “problem” in any traditional sense. If anything, it’s a solution in the perceived absence of other societal leaders.
However, it presents a challenge for marketers to overcome to effectively engage with their audiences.
Solution #1: renewed focus on influencer marketing
The first solution to these issues, then, comes with tried-and-tested influencer marketing.
There are multiple reasons for this marketing strategy’s continued success, so let me list the relevant ones in this context:
Established communities. Influencers typically acquire audiences organically, and build communities around shared interests and values. This both allows for easier segment targeting and helps foster trust, as these communities build consensually around their thought leaders.
Perceived authenticity. For that matter, influencers’ content typically enjoys perceived authenticity. They will very often be passionate individuals, not corporate marketers or intrusive salespeople. Their content rings true and feels genuine.
Better engagement. Finally, influencers often enjoy excellent engagement rates – in part because of the above. That’s not always the case, however, so engagement rates must remain on your metrics to track.
For these and other reasons, marketers across industries continue to embrace influencer marketing. In fact, Statista found that the influencer market size exploded within a year, reaching $13.8 billion in 2021 over last year’s $9.7 billion.
Solution #2: embracing cause marketing
Influencer marketing on its own will only go so far, however. It’s certainly a great way to instill authenticity, but it won’t directly address this emerging desire for change.
Cause marketing will.
Cause marketing, as the name implies, is marketing directly aligned with an explicit cause. For a world-famous, clear-cut example of this practice, I may cite Nike’s “Dream Crazy” advert starring Colin Kaepernick.
Although cause marketing may seem risky, especially as political divides across the globe sharpen, it remains a tried-and-tested strategy. Google notes as much themselves:
What’s more, research continues to prove its effectiveness past 2017.
5WPR finds that a staggering 83% of buyers aged 18-34 want their values to align with companies they buy from. Deloitte agrees, finding social causes to foster trust with socially conscious audiences like few other practices.
#4 Search Engine Optimization
All that said, returning to the flywheel model, trust begins from the very first touchpoint. This may be traditional outbound marketing strategies, as I’ll explore next – but all too often, it is through search engines.
Problem #1: increased demands
Now, SEO is far from a new practice. As customers retreat to online purchases, however, in part due to the pandemic and in part due to technology’s penetration, it becomes increasingly valuable.
What marketers have to face, in turn, is an increasingly demanding SEO landscape.
Coupled with less than fully transparent algorithm changes and a wealth of SEO myths, content personalization becomes increasingly harder.
Problem #2: the removal of cookies
To make matters worse for marketers, Google has pledged to disallow third-party cookies on Chrome.
This may have now been delayed to “late 2023”, as Wall Street Journal reports, but digital marketing already recoils.
The primary reason for this is, of course, that Chrome remains the most popular browser in the world, as Statista finds:
But even if this were to change, Safari and Firefox have also joined this cause. Rather, to be precise, Chrome joined them.
Solution #1: search intent match
So where does this leave personalization? For that matter, how can marketers fuel their flywheel in this context?
SEO itself provides an initial solution in search intent.
In brief, search intent hinges on what search engines and human visitors alike value most; relevant content. What defines relevance? Primarily, how well content matches what users were looking for.
Here, we may begin to tail back to the flywheel model. Attracting visitors in order to delight them requires that you address their pain points and answer their questions, be it through your blog, landing pages, or other means.
The best way to do so is to simply produce deep, informative content.
Some 80% of all searches carry informational intent, so matching it through SEO-abiding, valuable content will always serve to boost your online visibility.
Solution #2: strong local SEO
Speaking of search intent, Backlinko provides some more revealing statistics in this regard:
“46% of all searches on Google are for a local business or local service.”
“After searching on a smartphone for something nearby, 76% of people end up visiting the business within 1 day.”
“28% of local searches result in a purchase.”
Other researchers reach similarly conclusions, including Databox:
Especially in such trying times for many smaller businesses, these findings surely hold value.
In brief, should general SEO lie out of reach budget-wise, local SEO may suffice for a strong starting point.
As the name suggests, local SEO hinges on local visibility. It begins with Google My Business (GMB) optimizations, and ends with locally-focused keyword research, citations, and reviews.
Now, local SEO will certainly not benefit businesses of all sizes and industries equally. Nonetheless, when it holds such promise, no 2022 marketing strategies will likely afford to overlook it.
#5 Outbound marketing
Finally, digitization aside, will 2022 reserve any room for traditional, outbound, or even physical marketing? Citing Nielsen and MarketingCharts, Neil Patel believes so:
But do TV viewing habits matter anymore? Rather, does outbound marketing on the whole tackle any real problems? I’d argue that yes, it does.
Problem #1: the generational divide
To prove this, I would first point out the apparent generational divide. Segmenting your audiences to target them should soon confirm some truisms; each generation has distinctly different habits.
NCR notes this, and similar research echoes the need for multi-channel marketing.
Yes, billboards, print, and TV ads won’t boast the effect they once did, but they may best resonate with the less tech-savvy among your segments.
Problem #2: inbound marketing saturation
The second, perhaps more distinct issue arises with inbound marketing saturation.
For example, consider email marketing, one of the most powerful marketing techniques today. Yet, despite its massive ROI, the average user already receives mountains of emails every day – which partly explains consistently low open rates.
The same applies to social media marketing, where brands compete with ever-increasing fervor.
It applies to SEO, where ranking on the second page spells irrelevance. Competition is simply too fierce for many to keep up, let alone edge ahead.
Solution #1: prudent outbound marketing
So which solutions does outbound marketing offer? Well, to remain digital, let us address cold emails – the counterpart to traditional, still effective cold calling.
Cold emails are, by all accounts, an “intrusive” outbound marketing tactic. They “push” your offer onto audiences instead of “pulling” them in, as Neil Patel put it above.
And yet, cold emails remain incredibly effective. MailChimp finds they still have an impressive open rate, and so did some of the aforecited researchers too.
That said, the flywheel model hinges on personalization, and even cold emails are no exception. Woodpecker comes to similar conclusions:
Of course, that’s not to say you should prioritize outbound marketing, by any means. Rather, it is to say that it may very well help your marketing strategies diversify and solve distinct problems.
Solution #2: augmenting the outbound through the inbound
And with this find, we may conclude with a second prediction for 2022 marketing strategies; where inbound and outbound competed, they may now synergize.
Neil Patel reaches the same conclusion, arguing that:
“[I]nstead of looking for which one is better than the other, it’s better to combine both.
Use outbound marketing to build awareness, reach prospects not necessarily searching for you […] to get short-term results.
At the same time, activate your inbound marketing engines in preparation for the long-term, as you allow the algorithms to index, understand, and rank your content.”
At the same time, SmartInsights supports this conclusion through the following illustration of the customer lifetime cycle:
This illustration, too, hinges on the flywheel model’s principles, opting to satisfy customers into loyalty and advocacy.
As it does, it begins with traditional, outbound marketing as well, solidifying the notion that the two complement one another.
To summarize, 2022 seems to only offer more challenges for marketers.
Erratic customer journeys, continued audience distrust, increased social media competition, and harder SEO and personalization are only a few among them.
At the same time, however, these challenges present opportunities to adapt, innovate, and thrive.
Hopefully, this brief, cursory analysis of what the future might bring helped you do so on your way to success.