Although marketing technology is evolving at breakneck speed, the ability for some marketers to shift from tactical order taker to strategic market maker continues to move at a snail’s pace. This painful reality surfaced recently while I attended a marketing conference.
A trainer had just finished sharing the merits of developing a written marketing operations plan. When the speaker opened up the floor for audience questions, a frustrated marketer asked, “This plans looks interesting in theory–but how do we get our leadership to actually listen to us?” The room fell silent.
While many marketing leaders don the latest predictive analytics, lead scoring, and customer relationship management magic wands, they can barely get their foot in the door of the C-suite. Instead, they are relegated to fulfilling time-sensitive requests to deliver better content, leads, and events.
How do you know whether you are an order taker or a market maker? First, explore whether your peers perceive you as a market maker. Try this exercise. Create a time log and track how you spend your time over an entire week. Work-related activities fall into one of three categories:
- Fixing yesterday’s chronic issues and problems
- Addressing requests in today’s meetings and inbox
- Creating and inventing the future
Once you have tallied a week’s worth of activity, calculate what percentage of your time is spent on creating and inventing the future. If you are like many marketers, you are probably spending less than 5% on that activity. You fall squarely in the order-taker marketing model.
Tracking your time is a tedious and sobering process. It’s akin to the first insufferable weigh-in on your fitness journey. But you must start somewhere and be honest about your current state.
Let me suggest one step that could shift the leadership team’s perspective of your value forever: act and think like a trend spotter.
Marketing leaders who are trend spotters look in the strangest places for inspiration and insights–seldom within their office walls. Consider these areas:
How are younger buyers making purchase decisions, versus the seasoned 45-year-old executive? What are their lifestyle preferences? How do they socialize? What are they passionate about?
In light of the recent U.S. midterm elections, what are the prevailing attitudes and social mores? How does that affect your hiring practices, customer events, and cultural norms?
What are other countries saying about your brand? How will various “power centers” (such as Western Europe or China) impact how you design your marketing programs?
What will be the impact of high unemployment and labor unrest in other countries on your global marketing strategy? What currencies are in greatest peril? Where can you hire and recruit great marketing talent at a potentially lower cost?
What industries have been disrupted by technology? (Hint: look at hospitality, banking, transportation, booksellers, and streaming entertainment). Who might be the next disruptor in your industry? Most of your competitors will resist or deny disruption is happening. How about you–how might you partner with them?
With a little effort and some quiet reflection time, you would be amazed at what you might discover. While pondering these five categories, I uncovered three significant trends. Each will impact how marketers operate in 2015:
1. The demand for entrepreneurship education within the U.S. economy will grow.
Seasoned professionals who work for corporations are aging. Baby boomers are not yet ready to formally retire. They are branching out beyond their 9 to 5s for a self-directed career, either as moonlighters or full-fledged entrepreneurs. They are freelancing on Odesk, buying franchises, and filling the ranks of direct selling. How can your organization tap into this opportunity?
2. Marketing leaders will, out of necessity, forge alliances with more recruiters and universities.
As marketers take a bigger role in funding, designing, and leading digital engagement programs, they struggle to find data scientists and marketing technologists. According to an April 2014 Gartner study, CEOs said that they believe that the most important technology-enabled investment over the next 5 years is digital marketing. Kimberly-Clark, LinkedIn, and Symantec now have “VPs of Marketing Technology.” What mutually favorable alliances can you create?
3. A backlash against big data is coming.
The farm to table, slow food, and slow reading movements demonstrate that many people are craving information equilibrium. People are tired of being instant messaged, distracted and overwhelmed. Multitasking is destroying our ability to deeply comprehend and reflect.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year “studies are showing that reading text online that is punctuated with links leads to weaker comprehension than reading plain text . . . slow readers list numerous benefits, saying it improves their ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels and deepens their ability to think, analyze, listen and empathize. . . Groups in Seattle, Brooklyn, Boston, and Minneapolis have hosted so-called silent reading parties.”
What internal rituals and customer programs and events can you create that will foster thoughtful reflection and contemplation–not just busy work?
Your ability to imagine the future depends on looking beyond the four walls of your office. This is a first step towards getting customers and peers to really listen to you.