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Marketing trends are always changing, and it's so important to stay relevant. What are the latest trends, and how does one stay abreast of them? Is it better to be an early adopter or to see which trends stick? To address these questions, we’re asking experienced CMOs and marketing executives to share their “Top 5 Marketing Trends That Leaders Need To Know.” As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikki Corbett.

Nikki Corbett

Nikki Corbett

Nikki Corbett is owner of Precise Creative, a full-service marketing agency based out of Greensboro, NC, for 11 years. She has earned degrees in communications (journalism, business/marketing, creative writing). Nikki has previously worked as a news and features reporter as well as with a children’s publisher in the editorial department. In her spare time, Nikki enjoys reading, traveling, paddleboarding, kayaking, and surfing.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! To start, can you tell us a bit about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been a writer and reader. It’s in my blood, and so I’ve always looked for ways to either work in these fields or at a job where I could put my skills to work. In 2008‒2011, a lot of changes took place in my life. I was at a turning point. Toward the middle of 2011, I started to piece together the idea of starting a marketing agency that focused not on big businesses, but the small business owners who really need help the most… the business owners who are the backbone of our local economies. In January 2012, I opened the doors to Precise Creative and never looked back.

Our mistakes can sometimes be our greatest teachers. Can you share a funny mistake you made when you were first starting?

I suppose this may not be truly funny, but some people may find it so… In the early days, when it was just me, I remember turning down work for social media management and not taking a rush job because I had a casual meeting scheduled. I regretted saying no to taking on work that could have very well been in my wheelhouse, and saying no to a potential client that needed a rush job. That potential client found someone else, and I never heard from them again. It was then that I started living by the mantra that I still do today: Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity. Although, I can’t take credit for it; the quoted person here is author H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you’re grateful for?

Without trying to be cliché, I have my mom to be grateful to for many things. My mother reinvented her career at several points in her life. She started as a schoolteacher and when she retired, she had been working as a corporate property manager, overseeing the management as well as construction of many retail, office, and residential spaces. Thanks, mom, for your inspiration!

Are you able to identify a ‘tipping point’  in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different?

I can definitely think of a few. There was the time early on when I was working 40+ hours per week and had to decide how big I wanted to go. Was I happy with the amount of work I was doing, or did I want more? I decided on more. And, so, I began hiring subcontractors.

Later, I faced the same question when it came to growing the company even more. To do that, I’d need to hire full-time employees. It’s important not to spend too much time in that decision mode. If you take too much time, you end up second guessing and holding off on the decision. Be decisive, make a plan, and go for it—with the right people, process, and systems in place.

What do you think makes your company stand out?

While most marketing agencies are fighting over the big fish, the heart and soul of our business is working with small to mid-size businesses, smaller nonprofits, and startups. Now, don’t get me wrong, we do get a big client from time to time—and even a handful or regular big clients. But we really get excited to help the business owner who never thought they could afford high-level marketing. That’s our jam!

Are you working on any exciting projects now? Tell us about it!

Without saying too much, we are working on adding some even higher-level services to our client offerings. We have the right people on board in the right seats now, so we’re getting ready to roll.

Being at the forefront of the marketing space and leading diverse teams, what resources or tools do you use to stay abreast of the ever-changing landscape?

In marketing, it seems that things can turn on a dime sometimes. We keep our fingers on the pulse of the marketing and digital spaces by following leading blogs and listening to industry podcasts. In addition, we take the time as a team to continually educate ourselves and ensure that we are certified in the areas where it matters most.

In your experience, is it possible to forecast upcoming trends?

You can prepare for changes, such as upcoming Google algorithm updates, and you can instill best practices when working for clients. I don’t put heavy weight in forecasting, though, because that’s difficult to do with any accuracy in the marketing space. It’s best to pay attention, make light predictions or guesstimates, weigh options, and test and measure.

A good example of this right now might be the TikTok situation. We really don’t know what’s going to happen with this platform in the coming weeks and months. I have a few clients that may want to get into the space, but we’re telling them to hold off for now.

In marketing, would you say it’s better to be an early adopter of trends or wait to see if they stick before allocating resources?

As a con, if you put too many resources into something that seems new and hot, you could end up wasting your time, energy, and money. From the pro column, there can be a big advantage of being an early adopter. For example, when Instagram first came to the scene, there weren’t a lot of voices—and it wasn’t pay to play. So, your posts could be seen by lots of eyeballs. Of course, that isn’t the case anymore unless you put some dollars behind your posts. But you can see that early adoption can pay off until everyone else jumps on the bandwagon.

What are some of the past trends that you embraced, and what results did you see?

This one may seem like an obvious no brainer, but when Google My Business debuted, we highly encouraged our clients to have a presence in that space. After all, searchers would see their profile before they even got to the website. Of course, not everything Google does is a winner, but it’s smart to be a fast adopter when it comes to Google, then test and measure.

Can you share a time when a strategy didn’t deliver the results you expected and what you learned from the experience? 

When it comes to social media, we pay attention to what’s trending and see if we can apply those trends to our clients’ social platforms. On occasion, we’ve slipped something trending into a client’s feed and their audience didn’t really respond—no matter how on-brand we tried to make it. The lesson being, if it feels forced or the audience may not identify with it, then skip it altogether.

What factors should leaders consider before jumping on a trend?

Well, as an extension from the previous question, consider each client’s audience, brand, and voice before stepping out too far on a limb. You don’t want to abandon their fans or seem like the company is off in left field somewhere.

Based on your experience and success, what are the top five marketing trends leaders should know about in 2023?

1 . Organically build your brand and maximize your reach.

  • Niche speaking opportunities
  • Lunch & Learns
  • Virtual/live events
  • Webinars
  • Interactive opportunities
  • Cornerstone content

2 . Get to know your customers.

Google has delayed the upcoming demise of third-party cookies to the end of 2024. So, how will you target your customers afterward? The answer lies in depending less on AI and focusing more on who your customers are—starting now. It’s time to find creative ways to discover more information about your customers, so that you can market to them on a personal or tailored level.

Perhaps give away a freebie if they answer a few key demographic or preference questions about themselves. If you’re providing something of value for just a sliver of information, it may feel like more than a fair trade to your existing or potential customers. You can also create an annual survey to get to know your clients better as well.

3 . Take a stand. 

People do business with people—and they want a meaningful reason to do business with you. Today’s young and up-and-coming consumers want to align themselves with a brand that is doing good in the world and is serving a greater cause than just padding their own pockets. Even more established consumers are leaning in this direction.

So, take some real time to think about your brand, what it stands for, and what causes you’d like to align with. Then take action by donating a portion of sales, donating time or money, or participating in other fundraising and support efforts. And don’t forget to highlight your efforts front and center on your website, social media, and any other sales collateral.

4 . Engage in a multi-pronged approach to marketing.

Gone are the days when you could do one or two things to move the needle in terms of sales, customer growth, and wallet share. Today, it’s essential to take a multi-pronged approach. That means doubling down on your SEO, Google Business Profile (GBP), social media presence, and email marketing to stay top of mind, share consistent brand messaging, and be shown in organic SERPs.

5 . Adopt an unrelenting interest in your customer’s experience with your brand. 

What is your customer’s experience? Is there a cohesive feeling from beginning to end? From before they discover you to the decision process and from making a purchase to after the sale, you should know every step of your customer’s journey—as well as their sentiment at each step.

Are you missing any opportunities to show your customers that you care about them along the way? Where could they be dropping off to buy from your competitor? It’s important to uncover your customer experience inside and out in order to become—or remain—a leader in your industry.

BONUS: Wow and delight your customers at every turn.

This is an extension to number five above. Once you know your customer journey, look for opportunities to wow and delight them at every step of their journey. Once you take the time to understand their needs, hopes, desires, problems, stresses, worries, and fears, you’ll be able to insert big and small ways to create wonder, delight, surprise, and wows along their journey. When done right, you create loyal brand fans that will come back again and again.

Lastly, if you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the most people, what would that be?

As wordsmiths and lovers of communication, we think reading is everything. We’d like to work to encourage and inspire reading for all kids. Anything that gets them interested in reading is a good thing. Putting books in all kids’ hands is something we’d love to be a part of.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

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Stephanie Hood
By Stephanie Hood

Stephanie Hood is an experienced marketing professional and Editor of The CMO. With nearly a decade spent as Marketing Manager at Discover Holidays and Executive Editor at VIVA Lifestyle & Travel, she built her career leading editorial and marketing teams and strategies that turn six-figure budgets into seven-figure profits. She now enjoys connecting with the world's top executives to learn their secrets to business success, and shares those insights right here with her community of like-minded professionals. Curious what she’s uncovered? Be sure to sign up for The CMO newsletter.