According to a recent report, the Marketing Profession is accelerating in status and furthermore it’s set to become the most important organisational function in this digital world. That’s good news right? I don’t know about you, but I’m always eager for new learning and growth. And marketing has, as a profession, continually transformed in agile precision and we have mastered technological advances, new methodologies and process that have changed our profession forever. We are a class of people who continually grow at a phenomenal speed. And according to the experts this trend isn’t set to change any time soon.
The report, commissioned by Marketo and produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit is, in my opinion, a great source of guidance for marketers. Gurus such as Seth Godin, John Hagel, Gavin Heaton, Aditya Joshi, Marc Mathieu and Jim Stengel participated. They were asked, “The world of marketers today has changed drastically from what it was ten years ago. What will it be like in 2020? And what do marketers need to forge a winning career path over the next five years?” In their responses, these experts have provided a key to the future, their insight and vision of the marketing function in the next 5 years is inspiring and their tips to stay on top should allow us to pick up our crown and take our rightful place at the helm of the organisation. This blog is my interpretation of that report.
The Internet has changed the landscape of customer communications. It is no longer enough to communicate to your customers, you need to communicate with them. You need to get to know them. Audiences today are totally internet savvy, they make use of communities, they consume content and they make up their own minds long before you can influence them in the buying decision. Organisations no longer have the power to determine the communications agenda. It’s the customer who sets the scene and you have to make sure you’re there in the right place at the right time, listening and responding.
Customer engagement is a long-term strategic operation, it is not a short-term sales activity. Accordingly you need to work with, nurture, and commune with your customers, listen to and understand their needs and then move them gently through the journey. This has the added advantage of procuring customer loyalty, advocacy and repeat business. And Forrester concur, in a study on The Business Impact of Customer Experience 2013, they found that customer experience correlates to loyalty and that customer experience can mean millions in revenue.
When it comes to eliciting investment for the engagement element, you must learn and understand what drives it. Although in theory an engaged customer could be seen as an asset, you will not convince any CFO without the ability to articulate and present your case that shows a return.
Be Involved – end to end
More often than not the marketing department is the last stop in the product development chain. This model, according to the report, is outdated and should be changed to one in which marketing is immersed in the process from the start; from idea, through concept to launch. The report suggests you have 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?’ This approach would charge the energy and provide the expertise and heart-felt commitment to better ‘engage’ with customers.
Additionally, you need to strengthen your links within other parts of the organisation, and form a network of stakeholders to build a robust cross-functional decision-making process throughout the organisation.
The idiosyncratic thing about marketing is that we have dozens of spinning plates and we can’t afford any to drop. Back in the day we would deliver a campaign, monitor it, look at the results (and I mean look – not study), take the learnings and deliver a rehashed version the next year. It was all so linear. Now we have to think from a systems point of view:
Understand the customer
Test and Learn
If you want to be on top of your game you must immerse yourself in analytics – fall in love with it. My opinion is that analytics will be the most important item in a marketer’s tool box before long, if it’s not already. Make sure you study and learn from what you see and adjust your approach accordingly. My own experience tells me we don’t make the best of analytics. We are so busy with our spinning plates and pushing out our message to the masses, that we don’t see, we miss opportunities to change direction and refine a customer experience.
The thing is, there is so much data out there that it’s quite overwhelming. The report outlines the process this way, “analytics comes up front, then there’s a big creative piece, the campaign is launched and more analytics at the back end”. These elements need to be joined, they need integrating with each other and within each part of the process.
It’s hard to hide these days. The internet and social media make it almost impossible. For example, we see individuals being exposed by other individuals for antisocial behaviour – a mobile phone, one click of the camera, upload to Twitter and bam! It’s viral. And this is how it is for organisations now, they can’t hide in a shroud of myth any longer and it’s the marketer’s responsibility to monitor and respond honestly to any negativity. Transparency then, is a must in all we do. Tell folks how it is, manage the negative, be on top of what’s being said and answer those people who are unsatisfied. The Gurus put it this way, “Companies confident enough to share the truth are choosing to participate in a web-enabled show-and-tell – and consumers appreciate it”.
Integrate the old with the new
The more things change, the more they stay the same. As much as digital and social are the A-listers in marketing at the moment we do need to consider a good balance of traditional along with the new. The integrated marketing methodology has been around for years and it’s still a viable model. People consume messages in different ways and the multi-media concept satisfies the full range of senses increasing our customer reach. Social media and digital give us the hands-on, interactive style which demands we listen and respond in real-time.
What’s more, organisations are not as fast as customers at changing with technology. This means we need to be aware of any shifts in the external world and be ready and prepared to bring the organisation into alignment with the changes. Marketers have the responsibility to lead the way and you will need to become ultra-aware of what’s happening externally in your customers’ universe.
This was to me the most notable message in the report – Passion. John Hagel says “Passion is the single element most critical to success in marketing”. And in our profession, we have so much to be passionate about!
You can access the full 50 page report here.