As we head into 2017, there are key trends that all marketers, regardless of market vertical, need to keep in mind.  These trends cover marketing strategy, channel usage, and marketing integration, and form the basis of much of the marketing innovation and strategy heading into the upcoming year. How many are your clients embracing?

  1. Customer engagement is the umbrella that ties it all together.

Sales are important, but we are increasingly hearing about customer engagement as a critical measure of success. This is because customer engagement creates loyalty that not only drives sales in the short term but supports customer retention and recurring revenue over the long term.  In fact, the Gallup organization has described customer as one of the most important predictors of profitability.

  1. Social media is hitching to direct mail.

Social media is inextricably intertwined with customer engagement. While this might sound like bad news for direct mail, data increasingly shows that social media and direct mail work well together.  In fact, a recent infographic from SteamFeed shows that high percentages of social media users used direct mail coupons (25%), held onto direct mail pieces for future use (19%), visit a store after receiving direct mail (15%), and pass their direct mail pieces on to others (10%). The infographic also shows that when brand advocates receive direct mail, they are also 50% more likely to create or share content online.

  1. Omnichannel experiences are increasingly important.

Marketers can no longer afford to ignore the omnichannel route. Omnichannel isn’t about simply using multiple integrated channels to reach customers. It’s about tying together the online and offline experience, whether that’s through marketing, shopping, or fulfillment. This is no easy task, but consider these numbers:

  • Companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain 89% of their customers on average compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement.
  • 56% of customers fail to become returning customers if you haven’t implemented an omnichannel strategy.
  • The opportunity cost of not being omnichannel is 10% in lost revenue.

Omnichannel is increasingly important just for maintaining your business.  MSPs need to become increasingly versed in the tools and strategies of omnichannel, not just for marketing, but for all of the elements associated with it. At the very least, you need to understand it and be able to point your clients in the right direction.

  1. What people touch matters.

Experts know that brand is not what the brand says it is. It’s what your customers say it is.  This is why what marketers put into the mail matters. The design. The use of color. The weight and type of paper. Three-dimensionality and movement. It all conveys something important about the brand.  Consistently, studies show that consumers prefer to interact with direct mail over email, and a highly cited Royal Mail study from 2015 found that 57% said that direct mail made recipients feel more valued. Value is a huge factor in customer engagement.

  1. Focus on the end goal.

Marketers are spending an increasing amount of money understanding the purchasing motivations of their target audiences, then crafting messages that target them. For example, financial services companies know that borrowers aren’t looking to buy a mortgage, a car loan, or a home equity loan. They are looking to invest in a life together, a safer way to transport the children, or enrich their lives by upgrading their home. Automakers  know that car buyers aren’t buying gas mileage and leather seats. They are buying luxury, prestige, family safety, or the desire to protect the environment. The more your customers can tie the brand to the end goal——and the more you can help them pair that message with the right channels, media, and production techniques to support and enhance that message—the more effective the effort.

These five takeaways are critical to all market verticals. They also reflect that customers need not just marketing support but brand support from their partners.