> SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE! 

The following Modern Marketing column by Evanne Schmarder, principle of Roadabode Productions, appears in January’s Woodall’s Campground Management.

Call them resolutions, goals or roadmaps, as is tradition, the New Year prompts us to start fresh, conjure ideas, and make plans for the upcoming 12 months. It’s a time to reflect on what did and did not work in the previous year and lay the groundwork for how we will conduct our business (and our lives) as the year unfolds. Because of its ever-changing nature, digital marketing is a great fit for forward thinking.

As I’ve observed from studying the data from the soon-to-be-released second “Digital Marketing Benchmark Study for Outdoor Hospitality,” many smart modern marketers have already laid the groundwork for a successful online 2017 by incorporating tools such as Facebook, visuals, and responsive websites into their marketing mix. However, as you might imagine, there are always tweaks, updates, and new information to help you improve upon your past efforts.

In that spirit, I’d like to share with you my six (in no particular order of importance) Modern Marketing Trends for 2017:

1. Organic is great for fruits and vegetables, not so much for social media. Use paid advertising to amplify your message.

In the past, consistent, relevant social media posting equaled organically earned fans and followers seeing your message and ultimately, booking a stay at your property. That’s all changed. Today it’s pay-to-play. That’s in part because of the overwhelming amount of content being posted as well as the ad revenue opportunities afforded the platforms.

Tackle this tool by targeting your audience, testing your ads, alternating ad content to keep it fresh, measuring your results, fine tuning as needed, and doing it all over again.

2. Show and tell continues to sell. Beautiful images and engaging (live) video continue to gain strength in today’s visual world.

With the rising popularity of Instagram, the new kid on the block, Snap (formerly Snapchat), and the competition between YouTube and Facebook, visuals — especially videos — are the rising superstars of content marketing.

This couldn’t be more important for an industry whose stock in trade is outdoor experiences and adventures. Avoid aiming for virility and instead produce inspiring images and relevant videos. Using a smartphone, start exploring Facebook Live. This up-and-coming video tool allows you to invite viewers, broadcast live, interact with comments while filming, and post to your newsfeed once completed.

3. Meet your customers and measure ROI. Social analytics are a gold mine, so get digging.

In order to understand where to spend your marketing dollars, determine which campaigns work and which don’t, and to get in-depth insight on your customers you must begin taking social analytics seriously.

You can use data-driven decision making to shape your message, your pricing models, your facilities, the decisions you make about purchasing digital advertising and tally your ad campaigns’ ROI. It will also help you develop a strong image of exactly who your customer is without guessing or assumptions.

4. It’s harder to be heard. “Niche” your content and deliver information that matters to your audience.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by having to post something new and captivating every day or two. I get it. However, chances are the only success you are seeing is checking off the “post to social” item on your to-do list.

Rather than trying to be everything to the camping/RV world, identify your specific customer, the one you are trying to reach online, and develop content that interests them, that will prompt them to pause, read, and take action. Entertain, educate, offer a take away or a chuckle. Create better not more.

5. Know it or blow it. Digital marketing requires an educated, professional approach.

Between creating social media strategy, content plans, digital ads, and combing through and applying valued metrics (not just tracking page likes and shares) business owners who don’t have the time or expertise to do digital well are wise to seek professional help.

Utilizing trained and experienced online marketers — be they on staff, freelancers, or consultants — can be the difference between a successful program that contributes to the bottom line or a well-meaning but ineffective program that wastes money, time, and perhaps even damages your business’ reputation.

While certainly not a “trend” or new concept to Modern Marketing readers, one of my top ever-trending tips is specifically for business owners that are serious about smart marketing spending, real results, and engaged, happy campers:

6. Unless it’s in writing, it’s just wishful thinking. Develop and live by a detailed written marketing plan.

A written marketing plan helps — even forces — you to drill down and answer tough questions. Exactly who is your customer? I mean exactly. Where they live, their family structure, how much money they make, the style of living they are accustomed to, how they spend their free time, their favorite social media networks, where they get their news and information, etc. Each of these points, wrapped up into a revealing package, will allow you to make smart marketing decisions.

Use this information to plot out where you’ll spend money to reach your market, what messages and actions on the ground that they find most valuable, and who will be responsible for advancing your plan. Identify benchmarks and regularly measure your results in writing.

As the world (wide web) turns, social media platforms continue to consolidate and new and exciting marketing opportunities come to the forefront (hello Pokémon Go). The very best advice I can give you is to move forward, eyes wide open. Not everything will be appropriate for your business today but the future is an open book.

Whether you are new to digital marketing or an old hand, you very likely have an idea of the direction you’d like your business to take. Be a smart modern marketer by considering these six top digital trends and how they fit into your 2017 goals. Take what you wish, tuck the rest into a “tomorrow” file then create a marketing plan to guide you through this year. It’s a clean slate, ready for you to make your mark. Here’s to a well-planned and profitable New Year. Cheers!