It’s an exciting time to be in both marketing and ministry. The level of sophistication that technology brings allows us to work more closely together and communicate more directly and personally. As we look into 2015, we predict six marketing technology trends that organizations must embrace to reach their audience.

1. MarTech Solidifies as a Discipline

The merge of marketing and technology, from two separate fields to a new disciple for the digital age, has been on the rise in 2014. The first “MarTech” conference was held in Boston this year, bringing professionals working in this unique landscape together. More and more companies are hiring “marketing technologist” positions, seeking leaders who can understand both strategy and coding.

In 2015, this new discipline will continue to solidify, becoming a requirement, not an option. With technology playing a role in almost all marketing tactics, marketing professionals will be expected to understand basic tech concepts and posses certain digital skills (social media, SEO, PPC ads). The marketing technology landscape will continue to grow as more audiences seek integrated online and offline experiences.

2. The Age of the Consumer

Look at an ad from the 1950s, and it was clear who was in power. Companies told consumers exactly what they needed (Fresher laundry! Better hair! Happier spouse!) and how to get it. Today, the tables have turned. With technology creating low barriers of entry to the market, resulting in an enormous amount of options, and the ability to use social networking and internet searches to vet good products from bad, consumers are more empowered than ever. The burden of proof is now on the business to anticipate consumer needs and meet them where they are.

This same principle applies to ministry.  Where people used to give to their local charity, they can now give to organizations all over the world through easy online giving. Accountability is stronger than ever as potential donors research online to determine where their money goes. Nonprofits must prove their impact as well as increase the value they offer the donor, such as regular stories of how their gift made a difference or the opportunity to get a hands-on look at your organization.

3. King Content

Content marketing has been all the rage for the last few years, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. However, the way people consume content will change, in turn changing the way we approach content strategy. Audiences will expect content to be highly relevant and delivered more often. This doesn’t mean that the hour-long webinar is gone for good, but it does mean you will need to be prepared to create daily bite-sized chunks of content, from blog posts to Facebook shareables. Content marketing will become less about individual pieces or campaigns and more about an overall way of communicating (thus creating the need for staff skilled in writing and editorial thinking).

4. Things Get Personal

It’s not just enough to create great content anymore. As we enter the Age of the Consumer, consumer expectations to be known and communicated with as such are getting higher and higher. Personalization of all content, whether it’s printing a first name on a mailer, sending a resource based on a consumer’s past behavior or tailoring email content by demographic, will be critical.

Take, for example, the Home Depot website, which delivers one of dozens of different home page designs based on your IP address and past browsing behavior. Or the incredible Target story where the retailer figured out a teenage girl was pregnant before her father did. With the data we have available today, customers are getting personal treatment like never before -- and how much more will this be expected from the organizations where they are investing their time, hearts, and dollars? It’s no longer enough to send a “Dear Friend” direct mail piece. In 2015, ministries and nonprofits must adopt this trend and start tailoring communications, asks, and appreciation to individuals.

5. Authentic Talk

As consumers become more savvy and companies talk more personally and directly to their audiences, corporate speak will no longer have a voice (nor will fluffy ministry speak). Audiences want to be talked to honestly, directly, and in an authentic tone. A little bit of humor, as well as some vulnerability and willingness to admit if you make a mistake (such as Arby’s response to the forgotten Pepsi ad) will go a long way.

6. Caring = Sharing

If you want your audience to embrace, engage and share your work, you must have a mission. Fast Company recently published an in-depth piece on how missions-minded organizations are thriving, seeing increased ROI driven by their sense of purpose.  This is good news for ministries and nonprofits, where mission is the core. Integrating this mission into every aspect of internal culture and then communicating it clearly through strategic branding and marketing is critical to greater reach.

Each of these trends comes down to one common thread: relationship, from how we work together and talk to our audience to how we care about others. For ministries and nonprofits, whose core purpose is to reach people, this is a good thing. Make 2015 the year you invest in building those relationships through strategic marketing and technology.

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