marketing trendsIf one thing is certain, the world of marketing is constantly changing. The rise of social networks has put brands on the hunt for the next viral video. The Internet in general has changed the marketing landscape, giving consumers control over their buying cycle, rather than being at the mercy of a company’s sales cycle.

What if you had a glimpse into the future? What would you change today to plan for tomorrow? In reality, the future can be predicted and the best marketers already have their destination mapped out. Here are six of our marketing predictions for the year ahead.

Prediction 1: Campaigns are out. Real-time marketing is in.

The notion of marketing campaigns has been around since the golden age of advertising. Campaigns are a defined series of activities, tactics and channels that often revolve around a common theme. And yes, campaigns have been good to us. The problem is, their structure is often times rigid and can’t adapt to changing customer behaviors and rapidly changing technology. Campaigns are generally short-lived and not triggered by real-time actions or data, which can put the marketer at a disadvantage.

Today, buyers engage with brands in real time on their websites and talk back via social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The old model of marketing built on a company timeline doesn’t work so well. But after decades of “campaigns” planned way in advance, it’s difficult for marketers to change to a nimble, inbound marketing mindset.

Cutting edge marketers will use more real-time events and triggers based on inbound marketing activity, rather than push-marketing, or outbound campaigns.

Prediction 2: Know thy customer.

Smarter marketing means understanding our customers beyond demographic information. In the future, marketers will collect a unified view of customer behavior and be able to act on all sorts of web behavior data as well as data from other sources, such as accounting or order processing systems. As a result, customer analysis will become the hot new feature for marketing automation providers.

Prediction 3: Social and content impact SEO even more.

In the past, good search engine optimization (SEO) was all about knowing the tricks of the trade. The SEO of tomorrow will depend less on having the right H1 tag or the right keywords on the page and more about creating really good, original content that is consumed and shared on social networks. Overall, SEO will drift further and further away from on-page SEO, and instead focus on the various components of off-page SEO that come together for a holistic and powerful SEO strategy.

Prediction 4: Companies look to retain inbound marketing agencies.

Sure, marketing agencies are great at creative and have the awards to prove it. But smart companies recognize that a nice new website isn’t worth the pixels if it doesn’t convert leads and help drive sales. With the growing importance of content and data, businesses will look for agencies who effectively combine art plus science, and retain the one who can prove their ROI by offering inbound marketing skills, like content creation, lead generation, optimization and data analysis, in addition to great creative

Prediction 5: Marketing becomes more accountable for revenue generation.

A recent Fournaise Marketing Group study found that 73% of executives don’t believe that marketing drives demand and revenue. Ouch. But that perception is changing as marketing plays a more critical role in contributing to the company’s revenue.

Marketing activities will not only be measured by traffic and lead generation, but will further optimize processes that directly impact sales growth. And to do that, key performance indicators (KPIs) under the marketing department will change as marketers adopt inbound marketing practices and technologies in order to drive demand and meet aggressive revenue goals.

Prediction 6: Outbound marketing loses traction.

If you’re lucky, mass marketing gets about a 2% response rate. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, can produce conversion rates 10x higher or more. That’s because prospects respond to valuable content that is more helpful and educational. More so than ever before, budgets spent on outbound marketing (paid media) will shift to inbound marketing (earned media and original content).

In the year ahead, we can expect that businesses will experience growing complexity in managing and measuring an emergence of multiple marketing channels and technologies. To adapt, marketing will become more integrated, inbound and real-time. In the end, marketing will grow into a profit-center, rather than cost center, in the eyes of CEOs.