- Posted by Erin O'Bannon
Marketing today is much different than 50, 20, 10, even 5 years ago. You can’t just put an ad in the paper and on the radio anymore.
As digital becomes more pervasive and integrated, everything will be connected to the internet to the point that it becomes taken for granted and ingrained in our behavior. “Once we start to accept that digital will be everywhere we will start to understand why it is not relevant to have a digital strategy,” Sofie Loras notes in Seven Ways to Future Proof Your Digital Strategy. The technological advancements and introduction of new channels of communication show no signs of slowing.
So how do brands and marketers keep up or, better yet, stay ahead of the game?
The best way to future proof your marketing is to be flexible in every aspect, including strategy, process and tools.
Content is still the core of all marketing efforts. Safeguarding your marketing from the future requires that you continue to generate the BEST content and make sure that it shows up in the right context.
There are a couple hurdles to accomplishing that goal:
- There is a LOT of content out there
- It’s unsustainable to create content for each marketing channel today, let alone those that don’t exist yet
The content problem
If you’re anything like me, you currently have 10+ tabs open on your browser with different article that you want to read “later.” The problem is, later never comes, and I just keep finding more articles and opening up new windows. There are only so many hours in the day, and you can only spend so many of them reading.
Mark Schaefer describes the problem of too much content and too little time to consume it as “Content Shock.” Not only are brands and publications disseminating content, but they have to compete with anyone with a blog or social media profile.
Compounding the content shock issue is the prevalence of platforms and channels in which your audience consumes that content. Consumers have exponentially more options to get their news and information. Originally, it was a local newspaper or radio station; then came TV, followed by the internet. Just in the past 10 years, brands started using Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, and so many more.
Yet, you still need to be in every place at once to defend market share. If you have incredible content, but don’t post it on Facebook, will your customers see it? Will they find it if you don’t publish to WeChat? Your customers are spread out across many different platforms. The increasing amount of content and platforms for it to be ingested leaves major brands vulnerable to smaller, more nimble disruptors who have their fingers on the pulse.
Just look at Dollar Shave Club:
They were an unheard of company with an unremarkable product. And yet, they cost Unilever $1 billion. “The deal anecdotally shows that no company is safe from the creative destruction brought by technological change,” the NY Times said at the time in $1 Billion for Dollar Shave Club: Why Every Company Should Worry. All because they created an entertaining video and shared it on Youtube rather than traditional commercials.
Competition is fierce, workload is unsustainable – and it will only get worse as time goes on.
What is the best strategy for overcoming those challenges?
Primarily, you need to continue to make the best content possible.
Seems easy, right?
Everyone says “create better content than everyone else,” as though you haven’t been aiming to do that all along. And even if you’re successful, there is no guarantee your audience will see it. You have to consistently educate, entertain, and inspire with your content.
The content that will appeal to your audience is the type that focuses on their needs.
Focus on adding value to them and solving their problems. Find ways to include your audience in the writing process, so you know you’re producing something they find valuable.
Another important factor is consistency. Take Cassio Politi’s advice and “stand out by producing great content on a regular basis.”
Take a data-backed approach
What constitutes “better content”? How will you know what is better? How do you ensure yours is better than your competition’s and that it gets found, read and shared?
The silver lining of digital media being so pervasive is the availability of data we didn’t have before. Now, practically every action a consumer takes is stored in a database. You can use that information to find out what the best content is for your target audience. If you are already including your customers in the creation process, why not use their interactions with existing content guide future content as well? With each like, share, or click, you can make adjustments to your content strategy.
The engagement data and consumer activity data can help you decide when and where to publish your content as well, which will be as important, if not more so, than what you create.
The leading marketers of the future will spend less time producing content and use data to determine how to spend more resources distributing and amplifying content.
Instead of churning out a new blog post, video, podcast, you name it, every day, focus more time on developing one piece of great long form content. Daniel Jacobson calls this the COPE method – create once, publish everywhere.
The idea is to use data to write something your audience will find very valuable, and then split it up into smaller pieces (like a series of blog posts, a slideshare presentation, or email campaign). Thereby you extend the life of the topic as well as give followers options for how and where they consume it.
Following this process, you will collect data that shows the best context for your posts: which channels and formats are the most engaging and have the biggest ROI. You can then invest more resources in promoting your great content, giving it a longer life, and reducing your workload.
Invest in processes and tools that will foster flexibility and agility.
In the past, marketers have developed and executed large, complex campaigns and only measured their performance after they were complete. Now, teams need to be more agile and use feedback to pivot early and often.
By using data and customer feedback to guide content creation, distribution, and amplification, you’ll already be more flexible. Just make sure you take the pulse of your efforts at regular intervals and be prepared to change course.
Evaluating tools to empower agile marketing
The right tools will endure the tests of time: changing consumer behaviors and technology advances. Future-proof marketing software and tools will be adaptable, provide data analysis, and integrate together to augment your marketing strategy.
Find tools and partners to grow with.
When evaluating tools, ask about their long-term plans. Like you, they should also be anticipating change and see a future that’s different from the present. Ideally, tools should be flexible enough to easily add and change functionality. Lindsay McEwan recommends “an extensible modular framework where components can be replaced or added without restructuring the entire system” in Five tips for how to future proof your marketing technology.
Look for those that don’t try to solve every problem, but rather work together with other software to get a more complete picture. Without the instant communication available via API, you won’t be able to react in real time and operate on the latest information.
“The use of AI and automation will also become vital,” according to Jeff Bullas, because it uses current data from multiple sources to update predictions, recommendations and strategy, enabling your team to create more meaningful, direct connections with customers by giving them individualized, personalized messages.
An enduring marketing strategy is still centered around content. But marketers need a nimble content strategy and supporting toolset to keep up with and adapt to technological changes. Those that want to stand out from the crowd, not just survive, will embrace agile, durable methodologies and software.
With an uncertain future, how are you deciding which tools and tactics to invest will best support your business?