Photo By Hans Hillewaert [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons
Philip Kotler defined marketing as understanding and meeting the needs of customers. This definition of marketing still holds and is more relevant than ever since customers today are far more empowered than before due to enabling technology and services including mobile computing, social networks and assisted search. Marketers must now upgrade their marketing to meet the needs of the empowered age. It is time for empowered marketing for an empowered age. Empowered marketing is one that respects the new capabilities and tools that people have at their disposal and a marketing outlook that leverages these new tools and technologies in ways that transform the way marketing is done.
In an empowered age, people are exhibiting dramatically new habits in the way they become aware, consider, buy and advocate. These new habits supplement and do not necessarily in the near term replace the ways they traditionally evaluated and bought products and services. However, in time, we anticipate that these new behaviors are likely to become dominant.
The three biggest shifts are enhanced expectations, connected experiences and self marketing.
A simple example of a company that has both fueled and benefited from these shifts is Amazon. They both have created and responded to peoples expectations for speed, value and service, seamlessly connected all aspects of the “marketing funnel” and fed a habit of us marketing to ourselves as we search, evaluate and comment on products and services. Today 30% of all e-commerce searches start on Amazon versus only 13% on Google.
These trends of self marketing is fueled also by social networks, increased expectations by new companies like Uber, Warby Parker and others that fixate on delighting people and ensuring that every single experience pre, during and post experience is tightly linked and seamless.
It is this era that marketers must get prepared for rather than fixate on the buzzword bingo of “big data”, “cloud”, “programatic buying” or conference mumbo jumbo which sometimes are ingredients to delivery but not the recipe nor the meal itself.
To thrive in this era marketers must re-consider their partners, their organizations and even themselves. The future does not fit in the containers or mindsets of the past. Putting crap on a cloud and making it mobile and serving it with programatic technology still does not change the fact that it is crap.
The new era requires five key changes.
1. Invest in superior products and services since it is the best form of marketing.
Today in a connected age with social networks that allow word of mouth at scale, investing in great products and services is the best marketing investment. You do not want a viral buzz about your advertising. You want people to be advocates of your products and services. Think less about advertising and more about utilities, services, employee training and arming advocates while defanging detractors. Worry about the content and experience of your marketing interactions more than fixating on how cheaply you can distribute these interactions. One superior interaction is worth many many mediocre ones. Marketing is moving from wholesale spraying to custom hand holding. Focus on the poetry of the interaction and not just the plumbing of the delivery.
2. Recognize that everything is marketing.
In a mobile age your customer tweets, instagrams and posts about every aspect of the their service or product experience. If the hotel room is good but the gym sucks, the world will know it. If the product is good but the customer support is not, this will be telegraphed. Ensure that your digital presence and your analog reality are both world class and connected. Recognize that the phone in your customers pocket is really their key interaction in many ways with your products and services.
3. Make your Brand API Friendly.
Brands will matter more and more in an age of self marketing, fragmentation and change. Brands are the ultimate navigation devices. They are the beacons people will steer by. It is critical that your company and your brand are easy to access, connect and collaborate with in a connected age. Is it easy to find on search engines, is it easy to engage with on social networks, is the data and experiences on your website modular and distributed, are components of your product and service developed in ways that your customers and other distributors can incorporate them into their marketing. Can customers easily understand the authenticity, values and purpose of your company and its people?
4. Get real. The new stuff is difficult and requires new skills.
It has been 20 years since the Netscape Browser and the start of digital marketing. Consumers in many markets have so absorbed technology and devices into the way they shop and behave that some marketers have begun to believe that the “digital” era is over since it should now be all merged again. We hear “digital first” and “digital at the core” loudest from those who are the least digital. Digital is not just about technology. Digital is a mindset. It is about a whole new way of thinking abut marketing. It is a world where brands matter, insights matter and storytelling matters BUT the way Brands are built, Stories shared and insights extracted and leveraged are different!. Yes BRANDS. Yes STORYTELLING. Yes INSIGHTS. But NO to the same way of doing things in a connected, empowered, self-marketing, mobile age where commerce will be baked into more and more marketing interactions.
The new stuff is hard. Its difficult. It requires technology and coding and new organizations and measurement and partnerships as well as brands and insight and storytelling.
5. Marketing is a growth game not a share game.
For too long Marketers and agencies have defined themselves too narrowly in categories as product companies or service companies. As media agencies or creative agencies or promotion agencies or PR agencies. All these definitions were before we entered into an age of digital leakage where media and creative and technology blend, where barriers between industries leak, where service and product congeal. Where the world for marketers include the worlds of commerce, content and more. Where Google and Facebook and Twitter are not threats but great opportunities and stairways to new markets. Its an era to think with a fresh sheet of paper and with courage. To attract, retain and grow amazing talent.
Its an age of abundance where talent and time is short. So get learning, get partnering and get going.