Eight Marketing Changes You Can't Ignore

June 29, 2010

By Loren McDonald

The marketing world is experiencing a revolution like never in its history, with new channels emerging before marketers can grasp and implement successful programs in the previous hot new channel.

Are you feeling a little overwhelmed by all the changes or nervously scanning the horizon to see what lies just beyond it? The following list of eight assertions is intended to help you put some of these larger marketing trends into context.

1. Customer service is the new marketing

In a world gone social and with hyper-transparency, the No. 1 priority today for companies is creating and delivering great products and services.

Responding quickly and honestly to issues, or better yet, enabling your other customers and community to respond for you, has become paramount to your ability to acquire new customers.

Customers who get slow or poor responses from customer support or whose experiences don’t fulfill marketing’s promises will air their complaints quickly on Twitter, Yelp, Facebook pages, or community and review sites.

In this paradigm, your customer service and marketing departments must learn to work seamlessly to avoid inadvertent disconnects or bad customer experiences. Historically, these departments had very different missions; today, they must be aligned to create great experiences for customers.

2. Customers become your marketing department

Social media has changed marketing’s job description. Your ability to grow your business and acquire new customers begins with your ability not just to satisfy your current customers but also to “wow” them.

Marketing is more about actions that ensure a great customer experience and encourage your most highly engaged customers—your fans and fanatics—to share their loyalty with non-customers.

While marketing will continue to create and deliver push and pull marketing programs, its most critical role will be identifying your fanatics and influencers and enabling and encouraging them to, in essence, do your marketing for you.

3. Social media as Swiss Army Knife

You might have heard these common refrains about social media: “Where is the ROI?” “Twitter isn’t a marketing channel,” or “Social media is about a conversation, not advertising.” The fact is, you can’t pigeonhole social media

Like e-mail, it’s becoming a “Swiss Army Knife” not just of marketing but also customer service, product innovation, and more. Yet, so many people are trying to bring their existing marketing paradigms and budget, resource, and staffing approaches to social media as if the channel only did one thing.

Social media—again, like email—can be sorted into buckets for communications, customer service, community, engagement, entertainment, advertising, marketing, public relations, and e-commerce. Some buckets will be huge and others tiny, depending on a company’s culture, brand, industry, marketing approach and, most importantly, how customers prefer to engage with your brand.

Social media is not a one-size-fits-all tool. Don’t treat it like one.

4. The iPad changes everything

Not just the iPad, of course, but also the coming explosion in tablet-size portable devices (40-plus tablets or e-readers are reportedly in development), all bigger than a smart phone but smaller than a desktop or laptop computer.

The iPad’s mobility, combined with the touch-screen interface and screen size, will create an explosion in publishing, gaming, entertainment, marketing, customer service and other applications. None of these provides a compelling experience on a one-inch smart phone screen.

The iPad/tablet platform will provide tremendous opportunities for companies to create amazing brand experiences that are richer, more engaging and more valuable to consumers than the current PC/laptop or smart phone experience.

(Note: I wrote this mostly on my iPad using both virtual and Bluetooth keyboards.)

5. ‘Mobile marketing’ simply becomes ‘marketing’

As more consumers spend more time connected to the Internet and to each other via portable devices, mobile’s distinction as a unique, specialized communications channel dissipates. It simply becomes the dominant way we interact with brands beyond the physical world.

More consumers will interact with your brand on a smaller screen, not at a desktop or even on a laptop computer. “Marketing” will concentrate on reaching people where they are and optimizing the experience for whatever screen size the consumer is using.

Mobile is less about being a channel and more about when, where, and how people experience and communicate with your brand.

6. Marketers become software developers

Consumers increasingly experience brands through technology—whether your Web site, mobile application, social network, kiosk, e-mail interface, or interactive vending machine.

Having experienced a number of cool apps on my iPad the last few months, I’ve become convinced that the tablet’s larger screen will transform apps into one of the predominant channels that consumers will use to engage with brands.

I’m not suggesting that marketers will be writing code. They will, however, evolve into “product developer/managers,” scoping out potential marketing-centric applications and managing their development, launch, and lifecycles.

7. The chief marketing technology officer emerges

More companies will grasp the technology challenges and opportunities I mentioned above and hire a senior-level manager (the “CMTO”) to oversee all technology-related aspects of marketing and help marketing, e-commerce and IT/MIS work together more effectively. (I suspect this position will not be C-level, but more commonly vice president or director level.)

As new channels emerge and the pace of change picks up, companies that don’t invest significantly in dedicated marketing-technology resources risk getting out-maneuvered by their competitors.

8. E-mail marketing: The killer app

With a seemingly never-ending flow of new marketing channels, and social media and mobile getting all the buzz these days, e-mail sometimes feels like the forgotten stepchild. In fact, e-mail is only getting stronger and more vital in its role as marketing workhorse.

Maybe e-mail isn’t sexy anymore, but it continues to deliver consumer value, brand engagement, cost savings, and revenue. However, a major shift is occurring, albeit quietly.

Consumers are using e-mail less for personal communications, relying instead on texting, tweeting, posting on Facebook, etc. But because e-mail has a strong permission foundation and gives users control over the in-box, it has become consumers’ preferred channel for communications with companies and brands.

Additionally, devices like the iPhone and iPad are actually enabling a better e-mail experience for consumers and making reading and engaging with e-mail fun again.

Finally, I believe we have reached the point where more companies simply do e-mail marketing better by moving to lifecycle and trigger-based messages that truly deliver on the promise of “right message, right time.”

Loren McDonald is vice president of industry relations for Silverpop in Atlanta. Contact him at 866-745-8767. This article is reprinted with permission.