You Should Be Skeptical of Marketing Predictions

Everywhere you look are lists of 2018 business and marketing predictions. Which markets will be disrupted this year? What will be the biggest marketing trends? And, of course it’s a good thing to keep informed about changes in the industry. For instance, if you don’t yet recognize the growing importance of AI in marketing, you’re missing out! However, we have 3 good reasons to treat 2018 predictions with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The most obvious reason?

They’re not good science

Predictions are simply that: predictions. Annual lists of marketing predictions tend to be the best guesses of industry experts based on either their personal experience watching the market or on specific studies from the year before. In both cases, they’re still just guesses, and they often contradict each other.

For instance, ZDNet predicts a growth in influencer marketing in 2018 while MarketingDive predicts it will shrink. The best part is they use the same survey with different takeaways.

Predictions guess how things will turn out under a certain set of variables, and any given business market contains too many variables to make a safe guess. New technology emerges, user behavior changes, the political climate impacts the economy, the list goes on. Because of all these things, markets will always change unpredictably.

VC investor, entrepreneur and brain scientist Jeff Stibel explained in the Harvard Business Review:

The real rub on Wall Street is that economic and stock models play on our biases. We believe that models have accurately predicted the future in the past, and are likely to predict the future going forward. But that is no more true than believing me when I tell you a coin will land heads up just because I accurately predicted it would do so the last ten times.

The same holds true for marketing models. What works for a business for months at a time might not work again the following month.

Predictions can detract from long-term goals and strategies

Getting too caught up in short-term strategies and fleeting trends can distract teams from implementing long-term marketing plans. Of course, marketing teams need to be innovative and future-thinking, always aware of where their users’ interests might be heading and what technology is on the horizon. However, this can’t get in the way of developing a solid strategy that doesn’t dramatically change from year to year.

Consider content marketing, for example. There are rumors that blogging will soon be completely replaced by video content. And videos are certainly gaining steam. Tech conglomerate Cisco predicts that 82% of all consumer Internet traffic will be video traffic by 2021.

So should you abandon all text-based marketing efforts in 2018? Marketing expert Chad Pollitt explains why this would be a bad idea:

“With over 2 million blog posts written every day (that number grows incrementally every year), 2018 will not be the year brands start doing video in lieu of blogging. They’ll do both, just as they’ve been doing this year.”

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, the companies that had the most success in their content marketing projects had a documented strategy in place and were the most committed to it. They also considered their company’s content marketing level sophisticated or mature, as opposed to adolescent, young, or first steps. And you don’t get to the sophisticated level by changing strategies year after year.

By the way, if your company has issues developing a content marketing strategy, you’re not alone. In a recent content planning survey conducted by DivvyHQ, 64% of respondents named “coming up with a comprehensive content strategy” as their top challenge.

They are impersonal

Marketing predictions tend to be based on insights that span industries. They can be useful, but not nearly as useful as insights that target specific markets which, in turn, aren’t as valuable as what you learn from your unique customers.

Say reports in your industry suggest that email marketing is losing its effectiveness, but your email marketing software shows your campaigns continue to be your top form of user engagement. Who do you believe? The bottom line: want to know what marketing tactics work? Listen to your users.

No industry survey or report can replace your company’s own user testing and analytics, and yet, many marketers aren’t fully utilizing this valuable data. According to a new report from TrackMaven, the majority of marketers surveyed don’t use user data until after completing their campaigns and less than 28% use testing and benchmarking to adjust their strategy. Marketers miss out when they trust industry standards over their own company’s insights.

My two cents

Go ahead and read the predictions and be prepared for the changes happening in the marketing industry. But don’t let them get in the way of developing a long-term marketing strategy and prioritizing feedback from your customers.

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