A new year approaches. Let’s resolve right now to build on the tried and true, while also incorporating new channels and tactics. By capitalizing on the many opportunities now at our disposal, we can make our marketing efforts smarter and more quantifiable. We can put information in the hands of the right people at the right time. We can build brand preference and loyalty. And we can improve the health of our company’s bottom line.

As I consider the strongest marketing trends for the coming year, here are the key ones I suggest you build into your 2018 marketing plan. These are in no particular order. You should do them all.

1. Boost Performance with Bots

Leverage artificial intelligence (AI) on everything you can. Increase your sales leads by targeting lookalikes, people resembling current customers. Geofence to send contextual, promotional messages to customers that enter a desired virtual perimeter.

Big data and machine learning can help broaden your net, finding and connecting with prospective customers. AI can do what a human never could: processing and managing millions of interactions and keywords, testing and modifying customized performance-boosting content variations based on personas and lifestyles, and more accurately predicting outcomes. Salesforce predicts AI usage will more than double over the next two years.

Integrate chatbots to improve the customer experience, speeding up transactions and offering anytime, anywhere support. In two years, chatbots will likely dominate 85 percent of online interactions.

Use social data to better understand and connect with people. AI can search visuals shared as well as text and voice. At Big Boulder this past summer, Netra CEO Richard Lee said our eyes used to be the window to our soul, but now it’s what we choose to photograph and share on social media. As a result, the camera’s replacing the keyboard for communication. Use this social data to refine and improve both strategy and tactics.

2. Stream Live Video

Seventy-five percent of all 2017 internet traffic came from video streaming. And viewers watched live streams three times longer than regular video content. Think about how you might build live streams into your tradeshow presence, new product launches, CEO announcements and more.

Feed quality and enhancements like interactive features just keep getting better and better. One of our favorite platforms is Vimeo Live. It broadcasts your content without ads, offers live audience chat and calls to action to engage viewers real-time.

You can customize the live player with your branded colors and logo on your website or elsewhere. And live and post-event analytics let you know just how well your strategy worked – and helps you make strategic adjustments next time.

3. Build for Mobile Video

The small screen delivers big impact. Smartphone and tablet video viewing deliver in-the-moment experiences and a broad reach. 2018 should see mobile video viewing jump 25 percent with viewers watching 36 minutes on a mobile device compared to only 19 minutes on a desktop or laptop computer. Not surprisingly, mobile ad buys should reach almost $18 billion, a 49 percent increase.

Short, to-the-point videos that explain your product or service are four times more likely to be read than text on the page. Aviation’s highly mobile target audience will spend time with your explainer videos on everything from a pilot upset-and-prevention tutorial to a step-by-step avionics installation.

4. Attract with SEO

Help the right people find you. The value of search engine optimization (SEO) continues to grow because we’re all conditioned to allow search engines to lead us to what we’re looking for. Marketing in 2018 will be more pull than push. Consumers’ increasing sophistication demands relevance, timeliness and speed. Don’t waste consumers’ time. Present real solutions to real challenges. And quickly show – through online tutorials, blog posts, case studies and more – why you’re the option they’re seeking. Joel Lunenfeld, Twitter vice president of global brand and creative strategy, said it best: “People used to hunt for content. Content is hunting us right now.”

5. Tell Your Story

Publish your own content through web blogs and social content. This doesn’t replace a strong, consistent media-relations strategy, but you cannot be solely reliant on others to tell your story. For one, no one knows it as well as you. For another, you have more motivation to get it right, to tell it completely and to see the news value. Another plus for aviation influencers, you have a loyal, ardent and trusting audience. Whereas only 33 percent of people have faith in ad content, 90 percent of consumers believe peer recommendations. So, tell your customer stories. Share company updates. Introduce new team members. Reveal upcoming plans. Build loyalty by helping your customers feel part of your brand.

6. Make Your Website Work Harder

I keep preaching this point: websites cannot simply be online brochures. It’s good if they’re beautiful, but they have to be more than a pretty face. 2018 sites need to deploy clean, simple designs that help people on the go quickly navigate to content and through transaction. Skinny down files that load sluggishly and frustrate users. Shed clutter. Prioritize content. Guide the visitor. Create white space. Let your site breathe.

Use movement and scroll-triggered animations to create interest and guide the user. As mentioned earlier, add more video for greater engagement. Expect to connect more with the Internet of Things (IoT). Website integration with smart devices will require more complex coding on the backend, but you can still present a simple-to-use visitor interface.

Tap into AI, chatbots and machine learning for more seamless interactions. These tools keep getting better and better and can take your online customer experience to an ever-higher level. You know how good it feels when you walk into a restaurant and the staff remembers your name. Your site can similarly respond to visitors, remembering past interactions and preferences. Give security priority. People will only engage if they trust the site. Ensure to update your security certificate before you close out the year.

7. Use Creative to Cut Through

Marshall McLuhan famously coined the phrase, “The medium is the message.” In 2018, experiential creative strategies offer new ways of creating brand connections. An example might be brand promotion that lets users take a virtual-reality tour through your new FBO. A simpler, but still powerful, example could be using head-turning visuals and humorous copy to cause a consumer to pause, absorb your messaging, then share it with their social circle. David Ogilvy once said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” I’ll buy that.

Marketing today is very much in flux. Everyone’s working to provide a strong value proposition for their products and services. To deliver faster responses and improved efficiencies. To show strong return on investment through clear, concise, indisputable analytics. To leverage technology to mimic human interaction while seamlessly communicating with other systems. In short, it’s never been a better time to be a marketer.

This column originally appeared in the December 7, 2017 issue of BlueSky News