THE BLOG
01/01/2014 09:38 pm ET | Updated Mar 01, 2014

5 Marketing Predictions for 2014

I'm no visionary savant, but I do feel like I've got a pretty good handle on most things related to marketing. The challenge of starting a company, any company, is that it forces you to balance your time between strategy and execution, which of course is one of the biggest challenges of any start-up CEO or founder. That being said, the time you spend executing provides incredibly valuable insights that also helps drive strategy. In that sense, I feel somewhat qualified to throw out a handful of my 2014 marketing predictions based on my experiences at Rivet & Sway in 2013. Take 'em with a grain of salt.

Customer Experience Focus: You hear it all the time and I even discussed it in The Huffington Post, but companies will need to continue providing the absolute best customer experience that they can. Happier customers drive word-of-mouth (WOM) and WOM drives more valuable customers that are more likely to convert and who are much cheaper to acquire. The problem is most tech CEO's don't know how to think of the customer experience outside of the product, so they'll need to rely on their marketing leads to define the end-to-end customer experience. I predict more marketers focusing on driving WOM and customer referrals and working across the organization to figure out how to delight and surprise customers at different lifecycle stages.

Content Marketing Growth: Google's Hummingbird changes are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Search changes coming in 2014. Content, both written (not the spammy kind) and visual, will become a HUGE focus for marketers as they try to take advantage of the reach inherent in both Search and Social. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing, random link-building, and 'spider food' projects. Instead, you'll see more marketers working to deliver content that actually serves the needs of their customers and/or causes their customers to want to share their content (I'll have more thoughts on this in a later post, but visual content is about to go through the roof). I predict that content strategist, copywriters and graphic designers will become the new 'SEO's' and that the cost of hiring these types of folks will skyrocket in 2014.

Social as a Conversion Channel: Social has primarily been thought of as an awareness channel and a relatively easy way of getting brand messaging in front of potential customers. I won't go into all the changes that Facebook is making, but let's just say that smart marketers will quickly realize that social marketing is becoming more and more about engagement. And as brands authentically engage with their customers, and build more trust with customers, they'll start to see that social isn't just an awareness builder, it's actually middle-of-the-funnel and purchase conversion channel. I predict that in 2014 more and more companies will start tying sales goals to their social channels rather than simply focusing on reach and engagement numbers.

Multi-Channel Attribution: If this were 2010, a deeper focus on multi-channel attribution would still be one of my predictions. And arguably, I haven't quite figured this one out yet. And yeah, I've played at length with all of the Google Analytics tools, researched the many companies to claim they've figured this out, talked to folks at the marketing automation companies and event tried to build my own model. But I still feel a bit exposed on this one. Given how tightly integrated a company's Paid, Owned and Earned channels are becoming and given the sheer number of potential touch points that exist for a customer to interact with a brand, I just don't see how this can't continue to be a focus. I predict (hope/pray/expect) that in 2014 somebody will develop a solution for small(er) brands to easily put an actual value to channel touch points throughout a customer's purchase funnel.

Truly Social Organizations: Everybody uses the term 'social' very loosely. Social can mean a number of different things to folks, but in this context I'm referring to companies who are not only active on social channels but whose employees are also 'socially' active. It doesn't take long to realize that a company's biggest evangelists are its employees and one of the most cost-effective and easiest ways to spread the word about a company's services and products is through its employees. And with social media providing so much reach, an employee evangelist can really do some damage. Multiply that by 2, 10, 100 and you start to get the picture. Not to mention that social links are links into your site and will help with your SEO. In 2014, I predict that companies will become more forceful...I mean encouraging...and will try to get their employees more involved socially. I wouldn't be surprised to see marketers tracking a social engagement metric internally.

Have your own thoughts or predictions or think I'm just blowing smoke? Please feel free to comment below. And feel free to forward.

This post originally appeared on John Lusk's Blog here.