The Future of Marketing

Kids and a rocket ship - the future of marketingThe most important thing you need to remember about marketing is: it’s constantly changing. Not only are there new marketing tactics and techniques tested all the time, there are changes due to technology constantly occurring as well.

It’s not just money or technology that motivates businesses to push the boundaries and constantly change their messages, channels, campaigns and tactics. It’s also the consumers  (no matter what you call them: customers, clients, patients) proclivity to move common, regularly repeated, everyday occurrences into the background and ignore them.

In order to keep your business growing, you will constantly need to change what you are doing in your messages, campaigns, channels, and the technologies you use. That means you will need to understand marketing techniques of the past, and present and those that are coming in the future of marketing. We will discuss the marketing methods, channels and techniques of the past and present in the next article. In this article, however, we will discuss the marketing technologies and techniques that are presently coming of age. While the case could be made for these being currently available and in use, the truth is, they are not widely adopted.

Marketing Automation

As email marketing took off, businesses realized superior results could be achieved if those emails could be automated and sent in a sequence. Silverpop, Marketo, and Infusionsoft were the early innovators of this technology. Businesses have been slow to adopt this technology due to the fact that they don’t understand it’s benefits, and it seems like it is expensive.

Actually, marketing automation pays for itself very quickly. The reason? It’s actually more than automated emails – it’s business, marketing, and salesforce automation.

Here’s what I mean:
Marketing, for new customers, consists of lead generation campaigns which consist of advertisements that lead a prospect to a contact information gathering device. Once the prospect has given their information and requests more information, a salesperson typically speaks with them, answers their questions, follows up with them, presents a solution to them, and closes the deal. This is an example of a typical marketing funnel.

At every point along this path from creating interest to making the sale, the process can be automated and enhanced. For instance, an advertisement can lead a prospect to a special website page, called a landing page. On the landing page, the prospect can learn more about the product or service and take advantage of a free ebook, free video, free report, or some other form of information. The prospect will trade their information for the free information. That contact information will allow the business to send more marketing information in the form of emails, direct mail, and follow-up with phone calls. The business can have a salesperson “invent” or “create” these marketing touches ad hoc, or they can plan them out so that the prospect receives the information they need and are persuaded and influenced as effectively as possible all the way through the process to purchase and beyond.

Not only is marketing automation easier on the sales people because it delivers the information and follow-up automatically without their input and ensures the sales people are on top of every lead, every prospect also receives the exact same information and participates in the exact same process as all other prospects. This means that the process can be changed and optimized in order to increase, or maximize the ROI.

Marketing automation systematizes marketing. That means you reap all of the benefits of systems: increased efficiency; increased productivity; higher quality; the ability to spot constraints or bottlenecks; the ability to track and measure input, throughput, and output, And more.

By the end of 2015, marketing automation will begin to explode as half of the businesses will have adopted it. When you consider the message of my last article, which talks about the pressures of competition due to the disruption the Internet caused and globalization, you can predict that an easy way to stand apart from your competition now is to adopt marketing automation. However, if you don’t adopt marketing automation now, you will be forced to within the next 2 to 5 years anyway because marketing automation makes your business stand out, and stand apart from your competition.

I know that seems like a general statement. So you may be wondering how marketing automation helps your business stand apart from your competition. Here’s how: your competition is lazy. They will create marketing campaigns ad hoc (spur of the moment) when they happen to notice that sales are declining. When sales are level and they are comfortable, they will do nothing. Marketing automation builds and solidifies a marketing funnel through which every prospect will pass. If you preplanned 100 marketing touches with five offers over the course of a year and programmed them into your marketing automation software – your prospects would automatically be converted to leads and then to sales. When those prospects compare your company to your competition, your company will appear to be much more professional, knowledgeable, and in touch with their needs.

Mobile Marketing

Mobile phone sales dwarf PC, laptop, and tablet sales. Almost every person on the planet carries a cell phone now – including the poorest in Africa and India.

The only problem is, marketers haven’t figured out a good way to tap into this market yet. QR codes died almost as quickly as they were born – not even ABC’s “Shark Tank” could build enough awareness to keep them viable.

Yes, you can send SMS messages in bulk – if you have the mobile phone numbers of your clients. Yes, you can have someone text a message to a number to join an SMS list. Yes, you can have a prospect install an app on their phone, like foursquare, to be notified when they are in proximity of your store, or to subscribe to updates.

But… The prospects themselves haven’t adopted that behavior en masse yet.

That doesn’t mean marketers like myself are not working on the solution. We are constantly running tests that help us understand, and manipulate consumer behavior. Some things we already know. Soon, we will crack the code.

This is important because the average smartphone already contains multiple methods of contacting the owner of the mobile phone – phone number, email, SMS text message, and installed apps (like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, foursquare, etc.). Soon, you will be able to pay for goods and services using your cell phone (i.e. Apple pay).

I foresee that within the next three years mobile marketing will come into its own as technology evolves and gives consumers and businesses more, easier ways to engage with each other through mobile devices. It will likely be the upcoming payment features that make this possible.

That said, there may be a public outcry, just as there was for fax marketing, because there is a cost for the consumer associated with SMS text messages unless they have an unlimited data plan. If that happens, then apps will be the only way to sneak ads and marketing messages onto a mobile phone.

Omni-Channel Marketing

Today’s consumers don’t buy the way they used to. 10 to 12 years ago, when they wanted to buy something, consumers typically sought advice from salespeople, or asked people in their network for referrals. As the Internet became more popular, consumers began to research their intended purchases online before they visited the store and spoke with a salesperson.

As the years went by we experienced a proliferation of media and channels. Consumers branched out, researched products in many more ways, sought opinions of others through reviews and forum boards, became more knowledgeable than salespeople in many ways, made decisions about their intended purchases, and in many cases purchased it without the need for any intervention from a salesperson.

In this way, business has moved from product centricity to customer centricity. The customer is in control of the buying cycle now. They have always had a buying cycle, it’s just that in order to purchase the products and services they wanted to buy, they had to work with and adapt to the sellers cycle. That’s all changed.

Now, consumers can realize a need, search Google and find out information about a product that serves their needs instantly. Instead of buying then, they can research the product by visiting the social media channels of the business, they can ask social media at large about the products the business sells, they can go on forum boards and ask others their opinions, they can look at reviews for the products on Amazon, they can read the blog of the business, they can search for competitors and read their information … they can research and find more information about your business and your products than you likely know. They can do that at home, in the car, at the office, and in the store. They can purchase anywhere they like using almost any form of payment they choose.

The customer is in control now. Because of this control, and their ability to find and research products anywhere, their behavior is not Channel, or media dependent. Therefore, a new school of marketing has emerged called Omni-Channel Marketing.

What this all means to you, as a business owner, is that it is becoming more and more necessary for you to control the conversation about your business and products on a wide variety of media and channels. That means, you will have to post content and information to a wide variety of channels, and you will have to be in tune with and in touch with a wide variety of channels so that you can be aware of a conversation taking place about your business or your products.

Currently we have a good understanding of content marketing and inbound marketing. That covers the information you need to write and publish about your business and products. However, other than on social media, there’s no good way to tune in to the conversation taking place about your business and products across the web. It has to be done manually.

No one has invented an inexpensive way to track all these conversations yet. Regardless of whether they do or not, you have to understand that we live in a customer centric marketplace now. Marketers of the past only had to worry about putting out an enticing message. Marketers of today need to do that and control the conversation about their business and products that is taking place all over the web.

Predictive Analytics

If you are familiar with Amazon, you are familiar with predictive analytics. But Amazon isn’t the only company using it. What is it? It’s a way to predict the future with Big Data and increase the top and bottom-line for a business.

Ok, I admit, I just threw jargon at you. So, I bet some explanation is in order. Quickly, let me start at the beginning.

When businesses moved online they realized there was suddenly the ability to capture data about the person visiting their site. They also realized they could place cookies on that persons computer and watch their behavior as they interact with the website. They now know where they come from, who they are, how many times they come back, what they buy, how often they buy, and a whole lot more. It’s called Big Data.

I want to stop here a minute and reinforce how revolutionary this is. No marketer, or business owner in the history of commerce was ever able to know everything that we can know now. That’s why John Wanamaker said “I know half of the money I spend on advertising is a waste of money, I just don’t know which half.

Suddenly, now, we know exactly what we are spending on advertising and marketing, and we know exactly what is profitable and what isn’t. We can slice it like a surgeon wields a scalpel.

The data we have has enabled businesses to predict, with amazing certainty, when a person will buy, and what a person will buy. This has helped business analysts create models that control everything from inventory to cash-flow, marketing and more. It’s this information that helped Amazon realize that there was a business in their prime shipping service. Amazon has taken it to the extreme and is now actually mailing packages of products to customers before they even order anything. Imagine it. Amazon knows what you are going to buy before you buy it and preemptively sends it to you.

The problem is, there is so much data being created every day that we can’t make meaning of it all. We don’t even know what the data contains, or what is important. We need to create computer algorithms to sift the data for us, and that skill set is limited and in-demand at the moment.

That doesn’t mean it will be for long however. The companies who employ predictive analytics currently are large Enterprise level companies such as Vodafone, ebay, and AAA. Even though the information we can glean from the Big Data is limited, every company using predictive analysis is seeing amazing results and growth.

While companies like IBM and SAP are currently selling their integration products to large enterprises, if the past is any indication, it won’t be long before a start-up backed by venture capitalists in Silicon Valley create a Software as a Service (SaaS) tool that integrates with major shopping carts and levels the playing field for small businesses.

Which is an important point. This is actually the reason I spent so much time talking about the disruption caused by the Internet. It has reduced the time and money required for a small business to compete with a large one. It has leveled the playing field. Actually, since smaller businesses are more agile than larger ones, it has almost handicapped enterprise level corporations. They have to be on their toes and use their money and scale to gain an advantage, even if the advantage will be undermined in a year to eighteen months.

How long do I predict it will take for predictive analytics to become mainstream? 2-3 years for large businesses; then another 2 years to reach every shopping cart so small businesses can make use of it.

In many ways, the data is available now. Even Google analytics captures a lot of data about what is happening on your site. The problem is, no one really knows how to use that data to it’s fullest yet.

If you are interested in learning more about predictive analytics, here’s a link to a webinar from Direct Marketing and SAP: Fueling the Intelligence Behind Next Best Products

Other Emails in This Series:

The Internet: The Great Disruptor
How to Market Your Business Now

About Michael Miller

Michael Miller is the owner of Mindwhirl.com, a sales and marketing coaching and training company in Atlanta, Georgia.

Michael’s mission is helping small business owners understand, and organize their marketing so they can make money and grow.

Mindwhirl helps business owners plan and implement effective, profitable marketing campaigns and sales programs.

If you need more sales, we know how to get leads and grow businesses. Call us today at (404) 858-3105, or email me at mmiller@mindwhirl.com.

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