It’s the time of year when marketers commonly reflect on the past 12 months and gear themselves up for what’s to come in the following year. But as we prepare for 2018, it’s not just a case of focusing on ‘what’s new’. There are in fact a number of key martech themes from 2017 that marketers should remember well into the New Year and beyond…

  1. The resurgence of email

Whilst email marketing is by no means the magical answer to every comms campaign, we’ve seen a far savvier use of email in the latter part of 2017. And this resurgence of the channel is set to continue.

Marketers are saying less, and delivering more value. They’re ensuring more coherent messaging over a period of time, and engaging in meaningful, humanised conversations, even if on a mass, automated scale.

In part, this is because technology exists to make this process happen – quickly and effectively – so why do it any other way?

Marketers are also slowly realising that the role of email is to educate and inform – that’s it! So 2018 is the time to see what it is truly capable of.

  1. Kicking out the average

In early 2017, I spoke to the Chartered Institute of Marketing about this being the year that the profession kicked out the average, and this prediction has definitely been fulfilled.

From an operational perspective, there’s certainly been a trend to ‘get on and do stuff’. And from a technology point of view, marketers have killed much of the complexity that previously existed in their martech use.

This shift was crucial, especially because the martech stack is constantly getting bigger. And for too long, marketers have been bogged down with second rate solutions that are either too expensive or that don’t generate enough return.

It must be remembered that ROI is affected by both the cost of the campaign and the revenue yield. Keeping it simple so that marketers can do their jobs quicker, slicker and with less resource drain, is therefore another tech trend that will continue into 2018.

  1. Iterating journeys

This year, marketing has been about evolution rather than revolution, with journeys established as a starting point and then constantly reviewed, benchmarked, iterated and refined according to learnings along the way.

This approach to creating, automating and evaluating customer comms journeys will remain valid long into 2018 and beyond. There’s never been a greater need for agility, and with the pace of changing consumer demand, behaviour and tastes set to get even faster next year, marketers cannot afford to take a backward step.

  1. Focusing on marketing metrics that matter

It was around this time last year when my Marketing Tech blog predicted how big machine learning would be in 2017. And, as the year has unfolded, there has definitely been a switch to focus on the marketing metrics that really matter.

This is because, in truth, open and click rates are nothing but vanity numbers – they’re so far removed from the bottom line of a business that they are almost irrelevant. They certainly won’t capture attention in a boardroom. But automation engines can uncover more meaningful stats.

Marketers that haven’t yet shifted their analytical focus therefore need to start honing in on the more important data at their fingertips, as we move into 2018. If it’s possible to report on segment lead scores, engagement and growth, then do it. More often than not, if mapped accurately, such metrics will start to directly mirror inbound enquiries and, ultimately, net profit. An open and/or click rate is comparatively worthless!

  1. GDPR

It wouldn’t be possible to look back on 2017 without touching upon the hype that has been the General Data Protection Regulations.

The imminent data security overhaul has dominated the headlines this year, and the new ruling isn’t even due to take effect until the end of May 2018! But the level of conversation surrounding GDPR reflects the scale of the changes and the perceived impact they’re going to have on the marketing profession.

The fact that people are continuously talking about GDPR also highlights the fact that, to date, there’s been a lot of scaremongering chat and, unfortunately, little practical advice offered. Many marketers have been led to believe that this will be the death of marketing as we know it, which simply isn’t the case.

Of course, less ethical marketers will be caught out if they continue to blindly spam customers and prospects with irresponsible and irrelevant content. But for everyone else, GDPR will actually encourage smarter thinking. It will give marketers the final push they need to ensure they only distribute timely, relevant and personalised content to their contacts, and it will make them think twice about the tech they use to manage their marketing efforts – is it GDPR-compliant?

As with most areas of business, prevention is easier – and cheaper – than cure, so the time to get really clued up about GDPR is now. There’s no way this topic is going to fall off the radar in 2018.