“To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable, but to be certain is to be ridiculous.”
Seems like every time we see Mariah Carey trying to stay warm, it’s time to not just take stock in the year behind us, but to look toward the horizon to see what may lie ahead. As I contemplate what 2018 holds for Hodges, I see a predictable mix of certainty and uncertainty – from the uncomfortable to the ridiculous. Here’s what I’m sure we can anticipate…or not.
Certain. Our clients’ stories are what will propel us through the year.
No matter how we tell them – in media pitches or blogs, through social media posts or YouTube videos – our clients’ stories are the grist that powers our mill. Their expertise and insights, their success stories and client solutions will create the narrative of 2018, and there’s a lot to be excited about.
Uncertain. What kind of changes will social platforms make that will either help or hinder our ability to connect client stories to target audiences?
The past few years have seen tweaks by Facebook and LinkedIn that mostly enhanced our capacity to deliver the right content to the right audiences at the right time, and our expertise has grown with those changes. But we know that Facebook is a moving target. Last year, for example, responding to user complaints, Facebook began limiting the reach on “bait engagement posts,” basically spam that encourages wholesale voting on certain posts, which is a good thing as authentic posts (read: ours) need not worry. The platform also continues to make ongoing enhancements and introducing new features (e.g. Explore Feed), which marketers will be able to begin figuring out how to best leverage in the months ahead. No doubt there is more to come in 2018.
Certain. We will move our clients’ prospects along the continuum that is the buyer’s journey.
New customers typically do not go from never having heard of a company one day to becoming a customer the next. Most often, there is a continuum. The prospect first moves from being a stranger to the company to becoming aware of it. Then over time he learns more about the company’s expertise and solutions until he reaches the point where, based on his level of interest and engagement in your content, you would rightly call him a prospect. At that point, it’s time to get the sales team engaged. But it’s those first two phases – generating awareness and showcasing the client’s know-how and answers – where we effectively move them ever closer to becoming a qualified prospect. And to be clear, this is not marketing theory – it works as if it were an immutable law of physics.
Uncertain. Will the media landscape continue to shrink, or likely the real question: how much?
There’s a Richmond Times-Dispatch in my driveway every morning, and a Washington Post and USA Today waiting at my office door. But the fact is, newspaper fans like me are fading away. After World War II, there were 400 newspapers per 100 million people in this country, and by 2014 there were only one third as many. During the same time, circulation per capita shrank from 35 percent to 15 percent. Since the end of the recession, newspapers and magazines have lost some 113,000 jobs, and while the likes of digital-only pubs like BuzzFeed, Vox and HuffPo have hired just about as many, the focus of those outlets is almost exclusively digital news. And so local newspapers, where so many of our clients’ stories are best told, is feeling the most pressure. Here in Richmond, the paper’s business “section” (if you can still call it that) has been relegated to pretty much a single page of coverage. What will the year hold for such outlets?
Certain. We will continue to be involved in the Richmond community on many fronts.
Richmond is our home, and we take special pride in serving local clients, particularly those like the United Way, No Kid Hungry Virginia, Gateway Homes and other nonprofits. But I’m proud of how so many of our Hodges team have gotten involved in the community. Cameron is the new president of PRSA Richmond, and other Hodgers fill out its board as well as the local AMA board. Cam also is a board member at Side by Side, while Sean continues to serve on the Salvation Army board, Kelsey on the celebrate! RVA board, and Meg is the chair-elect of the Massey Alliance. Tony and Amanda are involved in Classical Revolution RVA while I look forward to assuming the two-year chairmanship of the Community Idea Stations as well as continuing on the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation board. So proud of how our team makes time to give back to the community!
Uncertain. What unexpected turns lie ahead for our clients?
We have had the longest period in our agency history of client stability, and we continue to enjoy client relationships that in many cases have lasted many years. But despite our productive track record, clients often experience unanticipated disruption – a new CMO wants a new team or a new agency, the CEO slashes the marketing budget in half, our client’s husband is moving the family to Seattle. These unpredicted events can and do have a profound impact on our ongoing relationship, but this uncertainty is nothing new.
Nate Silver, the stats guru from FiveThirtyEight, says that uncertainty is something that, more and more, we’ll have to get used.
That’s for sure.