Marketers will need a new agenda for 2013, as will technology suppliers and service providers wishing to provide value to marketing organizations. This year will see several technologies move from enticing new options worthy of experimentation, to necessary components of the marketing arsenal. Marketers and those who serve the marketing industry will need to keep these ten items top of mind in 2013.
- Lead information technology. Partnering with information technology will no longer be sufficient for marketing, they will need to lead IT, at least were marketing apps and advertising are concerned. For years, the first touch-point between customer and technology was a back-end system, in retail, that was the point-of-sale system. The first touch-point now moves to apps and interactive ads, a new domain for IT, and one that marketing is better equipped to drive as the technology must be timely, engaging and competitive differentiated—not a way to lower costs or automate a process. It should be seen as a key technical partner for the delivery, receipt and analysis of data coming from new marketing experiences, but they should also recognize when markets evolve faster than capabilities and help facilitate, rather than hinder, the use of external agencies to drive marketing campaigns and the technology that supports them.
- Mastering data and analytics. New opportunities for customer insight lie in the massive amounts of customer data collected over the last several years, and every second that ticks by. Marketers must learn how to organization this data, ask it good questions and to question its short comings and those of algorithms applied to it. As the era of "big data" continues to evolve, those who use big data, including marketers, must be vigilant in understanding the source of their information, be it the source data or the queries used to draw conclusions.
- Ownership of brand management. Brand management will need to be elevated and infused throughout the organization. Marketing must move beyond defining brand to defining the brand experience, internally and externally. If the brand represents the values and promise of the organization, those values and promises must be diligently curated and reflected in every aspect of the organization. It isn’t enough to market an organization or market a product, the amount of information available blurs all lines and eliminates any artificial partitions that once existed between subsidiaries, market segments or customer groups. Marketing must weave together credible and authentic messages and experiences that tell the company’s story in a consistent manner.
- Holistic marketing. Marketing is no longer just about paid, owned and earned media. As much as the brand must infuse all of the experience, marketing must go out of its way to represent itself consistently across channels, from experiences to apps, from print pages to digital pages to digital storefronts and kiosks, to customer service and point-of-sale. Every customer touch-point represents an opportunity to succeed or fail in meeting the brand promise or reinforcing organizational values. The uniqueness of various channels will keep of specialization in play, but it is important that marketing drive toward common principles that influence execution across channels.
- Becoming the voice of the customer in enterprise social networking. If marketing is the voice of the customer, then the voice needs a channel people listen to, a platform to shout from. E-mail wasn’t and isn’t the platform. Internal websites or marketing portals aren’t the platform either. Enterprise social networking may be the platform. Enterprise social networking acts like selective hearing in a room full of people. But unlike a brains focused on those directly attached to a conversation, enterprise social networking helps people filter relevant conversations out the cacophony at any point in time. People interested in hearing the #voiceofthecustomer can filter conversations via a hashtag or other metadata while category feeds can be pushed into other appropriate channels. With e-mail, if you weren’t included, you don’t know the information exists, nor who to ask about it. Social media allows for more serendipitous discovery, as well as more active listening. For enterprise social networking to provide value, however, marketing must actively share insights and feedback that will prove valuable to engineering, operations and finance—and they must do so in a way that connects to those internal audiences. Marketing must market their interpretation of "the voice of the customer" as a meaningful source of insight.
- Listen to the customer in-person and through social media. Marketing cannot represent the voice of the customer if they aren’t listening. Listening remains the penultimate skill of the marketer and technology that assists them in better understanding market needs and sentiments will become a valuable resource. Automated listening posts, however, are no match for the visceral experience of meeting a customer face-to-face, for hearing praise or complaints in-person, for activating the cilia of the inner ear as a person speaks. If marketing wants to be the voice of the customer, they must engage customers in active listening—and through role as stewards of the brand and its promises, display leadership not just by listening, but acting on what they hear.
- Rediscover art, design, and writing. Art, design and good writing live at the the heart of apps and experiences. If marketers fail to create a meaningful emotional connection to customers, nothing else matter—not platform reach, not coolness, not keeping on message. Marketing leadership needs to encourage marketing staff to master the roots of their disciplines or run the risk of spending huge amounts of money apps and experiences that don’t deliver.
- Nurture curiosity, creativity, and science. In a world of rapid change, in world that demands evidence, in a world that envies innovation, marketing must encourage those who create and execute marketing programs to avoid the rut of productivity, linear execution and shallow insight. For organizations to truly differentiate themselves, people must be curious and engaged with customers, markets and competitors—they must see the world through multiple lenses and seek synthesis from internal variety and use good scientific methods that avoid the risks of intellectual bias by the challenging underlying assumptions that shore up the status quo. Any one of these attributes alone creates anarchy, in balance, they create feedback loops that drive ideas forward.
- Run marketing as a revenue generating operation. It used to be that marketing was the first touch point for new customers, but the relationship between those customers and sales proved rather ambiguous. At convenient or prescribed times, marketing would conduct a study to share with the organization the fruits of its investments—how the organization was perceived, how effective its marketing was in moving people from ignorance to awareness and from awareness to advocacy. But with the web, and even more so with apps, marketing now touches customers in a more direct and measureable way. Technology can track forwards and likes, and eyeballs to action. For the same reason that marketing needs to take a strong leadership role in IT, it also needs to step up and actively report and record its contribution to revenue. Perception may be important, but with apps and active ads technology transforms the perception makers into the order initiators.
- Accept uncertainty. It does no organization any good to ignore uncertainty, to pretend it away or plan it into seeming irrelevance. Marketers must not only accept uncertainty, but to some degree wallow in it. As uncomfortable as some conclusions can be about the ways particular uncertainties may play out, the act of confronting uncertainty prepares the mind, and if that prepared mind is then applied to the business, the organization navigates change rather than ignoring it or hoping it will stop. By accepting uncertainty, by putting a name on it and by using techniques like scenario planning to explore possible futures, to relish change as an inevitable energy that forces the organization to constantly reinvent itself.
Marketing has changed and will continue to change. If marketers adopt these 10 principles they will be better prepared to leverage opportunities, minimize risks—and most importantly, positioned to build an environment where customers with an active interest can be effectively and respectfully transferred to sales or operations or some other function that will build or maintain the relationship. As leaders in the organization, marketing needs to ensure that internal parties are receptive and knowledgeable about what to do when a new customer arrives, and they need to ensure that customer arrive still willing to continue their journey.
[Image: Flickr user Pedro Vera]