Marketing is becoming a highly powerful and resource-rich function of business. In today’s digital world, marketing is the function responsible for creating and sustaining a long-lasting relationship with the most important asset of any business – the customer.
In an always-on world, consumer expectations are changing. As a result, the nature of marketing itself is also changing – data, digital, social, mobile, analytics, real-time agility – these have all become part of the vocabulary of numerous business articles and conversation. Thus companies are going to have to walk away from a method that got them where they are today and marketers need to shift their focus from pushing messages at people to engaging them in an ongoing conversation and relationship. Here are some of the tactics to be followed to be a great marketer in five years.
To see five years ahead, look ten years behind
The biggest and most progressive marketers will be those who will successfully use backward-looking analytics with forward-looking test-and-learn. Plan a campaign, execute it, see how it runs, analyse it, learn something and use those lessons to influence the coming year’s campaigns. In the next five years test-and-learn will become embedded in marketing work. You need to create a bit of content, put it out there, get real-time feedback from customers and put out the next little bit. People are calling this agile marketing. The idea comes from the software world. Google does it and so do other companies where agile software development is in their DNA: put out some stuff, test it and improve it in a continuous test-and-learn process.
Start at the beginning
Marketers have always been treated as the last and fastest runner in the relay, brought in for the final leg to sprint for the finish. The problem is that most races are already won or lost before the last runner gets the baton. Any marketer who has run a campaign knows that marketers can sprint. But the best marketers are five-minute-mile marathoners who combine speed and stamina. They take the customer on a journey. Hence, they need to show up at the starting line, when the people who run the business are saying, “What should we make? Who should we make it for? How do we make it in such a way that the story of our product is true?”
There are so many different channels marketers can use today and so many different forms of content they can produce for those channels. While that’s empowering, it also requires marketers to be even more strategic on where they spend their time and resources. Successful marketers have always been strategic business leaders. While channels have evolved and the pace of business has accelerated, the need to be strategic and understand the market remains constant.
“Marketing is no longer just about advertising – it’s also about driving business growth. Critical attributes to be a successful marketing leader include making sure you ask the right questions and then being able to take those answers to solve problems quickly.” – Shannon Brayton.
Engage or die
Consumer behaviour changes faster than behaviour within the organisation. Technology is a key catalyst for these changes, so marketers are going to have to become more and more focused on the Internet to connect and build relationships. In the world at large, Facebook and Twitter enable communities to spontaneously form, sync up and take action. Marketers have a responsibility to modify the organisation’s outreach based on changes in the outside world. At the same time, those external shifts need to be brought into the corporation. Marketing bridges the gap between the lives of consumers and those of people in the organisation. Marketers will have to figure out how to co-ordinate activity across a large number of participants to build relationships with the customer and ensure that they’re getting the value at the appropriate time.
Integrate the old with the new
Consumers now rely more on peer-to-peer connections and less on messages directly from the companies. Marketers are creating journeys to guide consumers and customers towards a mutually desired outcome. But at the same time, marketing does run the ad budget and those traditional expenditures have not gone away. Bain’s Aditya Joshi points out that in many industries analog media like TV may decline in the next three to five years, but won’t fall by much. In the consumer products industry, for example, TV’s share of the marketing mix in 2020 should still be north of 40%. Marketers should not think in terms of discarding traditional and embracing digital. Instead, they should think about how to get both to work together in an integrated and consistent way. If marketers do it right, window-shoppers become buyers and buyers become advocates and fans.
Focus on limited best products
Many marketers fail by being unwilling to make tough decisions about which customers to seek and products to offer. Apple, on the other hand, made these tough decisions and adopted a strategy that focused on a limited number of product lines and limited offerings within each line. Steve Jobs brought this strategy to Apple when he returned in 1997 at which point he slashed Apple’s 15 product lines to just four. This strategy holds today. A few years ago, then COO Tim Cook described Apple’s philosophy as, “One traditional management philosophy that’s taught in many business schools is diversification. Well, that’s not us.” With a laser-like focus, Apple makes a few big bets that deliver customer value and stand out in the crowd. The result is that customers know what to expect from Apple and they usually get it.
Marketing processes, skills and technology will continue to evolve over the next five years. Not every marketer is ready for every change. But at the end of the day, those who want to adapt and win have the power to do so.
“If you have a passionate commitment to make an impact on the customer by being more and more helpful to them, you will either develop the skills yourself or you will find ways to connect to the skills wherever they reside,” – John Hagel.
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