Think You’re Done Rethinking? Think Again
As you think about the year ahead, consider two broad guidelines. And fasten your seatbelts.
You’ve spent the past couple of years recalibrating and retooling, bringing in new capabilities, new talent, and new technology to advance the shift of marketing from a creative enclave to a center of corporate strategy. Once simply the “owner of the brand,” now your team sits in the middle of the enterprise itself, owner of the customer experience from end to end. It’s been a cycle of learning, investing, and adjusting.
Take a deep breath and get ready to press on. This year more than ever, marketing is charged with serving the customer in ways that foster lasting relationships and feed your company’s intelligence. To thrive, you need to engage with consumers as equals. You must develop innovative content platforms from which to tell your story, and put both the emerging and the time-honored tools of creative marketing to work. You must listen to the data but not be a slave to it. You must be smart about technology without losing your humanity.
No small task, especially in an uncertain global economy.
As you think about the year ahead, consider two broad guidelines:
- Don’t get comfortable. The disruption is not over.
- Focus on building trust. It’s your greatest asset and greatest area of risk.
Don’t Get Comfortable
The disruption is not over–it may never be. And this means new opportunities, new ways of working, new partners–both internal and external–and new competition coming from unexpected places. A recent article from McKinsey & Co. underscores the point: “In a digital world, threats often do not come from established competitors but rather from innovative technologies that enable new businesses, start-ups that undermine established business models, or new developments outside the way the company defined its competitive space.”
Clearly you are not done reinventing yourself or the role marketing plays in your organization. And, while perhaps your biggest strategic challenge is in continuing to rethink business models, it is a two-front war–again, both internal and external. Those who can connect, influence, and help other parts of the business that interact with customers–and that should be everybody–while understanding and quickly reacting to changes in the market will be best-positioned to lead their competitors.
You cannot do this alone. Collaboration with colleagues and partners–and even rivals, at times–is the way forward. More than deploying predictive analytics or cognitive computing, more than embracing mobile or the cloud or the Internet of Things, the ability to think strategically about partnerships will define your reach.
Focus On Building Trust
You are in the engagement business, and you have a choice. You can shout and use any number of tricks to grab a bit of short-term attention, or you can do the hard work of building a trusted relationship with the people who truly matter to you. The former path is tempting. After all, how do you get heard in a world where 500 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute, where Facebook generates 8 billion video views per day, where Snapchat has 6 billion views a day?
And those are just the numbers for video. Watch the numbers game escalate as even more (low-quality and suspect) content floods into Facebook now that it is opening Instant Articles to everybody. The bigger the audience, the better, right? Certainly not if the numbers are empty or don’t synch up with your business model.
Know that engagement is a long-term play and that trust sits at the center of the relationship. It is built by showing your audience that you understand them–and by putting their interests before your own. This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer shows exactly what is at stake: A trusted relationship can change the way your customers behave. When they trust a company, people are more likely to buy its products (68%), recommend it (59%), share positive opinions online (41%), and even defend the company against criticism (38%) and pay more for a product (37%).
Trusted companies navigate a tricky balance between focusing intensely on the areas where they can uniquely be of help to their audience while still innovating. Trusted companies understand who they are and who they are not.
Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night. __