I love this question and as the CEO of Systems & Marketing Solutions I try to make it a major part of our company culture. We define the marketing cycle of our clients as a constant cycle of “What Just Happened?” and “What’s Next?” Let’s take a look at what is likely to impact our what’s next thinking in the future.
Don’t sell to me!
Old practices die slowly but this generation of buyers clearly do not want to be sold anything. This generation believes that it is the most marketed to generation in history and this is probably true. The audiences in the market are becoming more and more reactive to marketing messages with filters that remove most of what comes their way. What does this mean? If you want to market a product in the future you will need to change to an educational model. You will be driven by the following statement:
“People do business with those they trust; they trust those that help them understand.’
This means that your marketing mission becomes one of educating the market on the value your business creates and communicating that with people who care about what you do. This is a long drawn out process of continual conversation with the market enabling sales to happen when a demand pops up. Now it is still possible, in some cases, to create demand but that is mostly in the domain of large businesses with big budgets. Smaller businesses will be more like a cork in the ocean in that they follow the currents, not create them. Smart business plans for small businesses will utilize social media in a conversational manner, speaking not only to the audience but with them in addition to some basic well targeted digital advertising to specified audiences.
Marketing Ecosystems will change the way we think about Marketing
Smart businesses already think about marketing as an ecosystem with process flows as opposed to projects. This means that forward thinkers will look at the entire system and make marketing investments based on a strategy rather than the tactical thinking that is so prevalent in today’s direct marketing model. When businesses start to understand the entire marketing cycle and the independencies it will change the way they invest in their business.
It’s a Mobile World
There is no doubt that the market has become highly influenced by the mobile consumer. This has changed many things, especially the way we approach content, web and user experience design. While many advocate the use of responsive design that reuses web content across multiple devices, I believe this is a mistake. We must cater to desktop and mobile interactions differently. Not doing so is the design and technology sectors trying to avoid the hard work of redesigning content and user experience simply because, in many cases, they do not understand the problem. Make no mistake, responsive design is a great technology and it should be utilized in every website today but it will not serve us well in the long term. Why? Mobile devices change the way individuals interact with information and even how they choose to consume information. For example, when I look up a company on my mobile device I usually want to contact or go to that business. This means I’m likely looking for the phone number or address. On the other hand, when I search on my desktop I am commonly doing in-depth research and I want all the details. Although I love my phone, I hate reading details on my mobile device.
Google Glasses, the Apple Watch, Fitbit, and all their cousins are the beginning of “The Internet of Things” that will connect us as a society; this will have a profound impact on marketing. These devices will know our patterns and allow providers to better serve us. On the other hand they could be a complete invasion of our privacy that we will hate. The differences between these two outcomes will be how we position our businesses to serve the market. If we start out trying to sell something to the person rather than focusing on how to serve them the results could be devastating. In the last few decades we have seen the impact of the Internet as it has woven itself into our lives and wearables hold the potential of another revolution of the same scope.
Websites as a Conversation
The majority of websites today are designed as a speech or a presentation; they simply display information. Soon, websites will morph to be more of a conversational experience radically changing the way that sites are designed and how the population will interact with them. In a conversational model we have a hello – dialog – and a good bye. The challenge will be the dialog/the evolution of the conversation and the AI tools needed to manage this. Websites in the future will need to adapt to be a presentation when we just want reference materials and a conversation when we are trying to make a decision. If you think the challenge of mobile design was tough you have not seen anything yet. Conversations require a model of thinking that adapts to clues from the other party in the conversation. While simple enough to understand in a one-on-one model doing this at scale will be incredibly complex and will likely create a new field of engineering.
If you think differently
Anytime you address the What’s next question it is fair for fair minded individuals to disagree. Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts and comments, I would love to hear how others tackle this very important question.