t’s been over forty years since futurist Alvin Toffler wrote his ground breaking best seller, Future Shock. The book described the psychology of “too much change in too short of time,” caused by the rapid change of technology. Since then, it may be true that some people never partook of the computer, or even cell phone, but most are in the twilight of their years by now. For the most part we seem to have embraced most of the technology, and in fact, a close look at technology implementation shows that the implementation of great new changes typically take a couple of decades to catch on. I think this may be a symptom of us preventing future shock from overtaking us, and altering the markets until we are ready to adopt the next thing.
Right now, I think we may be in a kind of “Marketing Future Shock”, brought on by the collision of the Internet and great software that can direct and automate marketing communication tasks. Some of us adopted the Internet quickly, but easy browsers and Google had converted most of us to enthusiasts by 2000. Email was easily and quickly adopted by many. After all, it was nothing different than writing a letter or note. Most businesses even got on-board when they understood that a website was a cheap and easy way to spread the basic company message.
But the latest wave of social media, combined with inbound lead generation and the technical ability to accumulate data and order it into actionable activities, is really a mind bender for many business people. The response of many is to put their head in the sand, and justify inaction due to ignorance, meanwhile the marketing landscape is shifting. Have we finally gotten to a real “Future Shock” moment?
My younger colleagues see these new tools (Google Analytics, Hub Spot and others) as new innovations; but I remember when we called them “executive dash boards” in the late 1980’s. The promise of providing every important metric to the desk top of the CEO in real time, has always been a desire of executives; but until recently, this has been more of a promise un-kept than reality.
Online tracking was also an early possibility through tracking cookies, even fifteen years ago. But the truth is that the convergence of computing technology, cheap data storage and the common protocol to collect vast data across nearly the entire population (via the Internet) is just recently available.
Add social networking and behavioral changes from TV to the Internet (I include all devices here), with the above and we have the realization of the executive dash board of decades ago. . . . but in marketing not necessarily internal management data. Integrated marketing is not just the future, it is now.
A very large part of our marketing professionals are not ready for this. Sure, we have the cutting edge zonks who have found themselves in the middle of this new future, but most marketing types have no idea how to grasp or implement a deep data driven communication program. Why? Because, marketing education is notoriously not data driven. The business marketing educators get the students who hate accounting and finance, and the soft Marketing Communications educators have always thought that words are all that matter. (Yes I know I oversimplify to make the point!)
The point here is that marketers will have to adapt to a better understanding of the data, even as they learn to write to much narrower groups of prospects. This obviously takes more than a single skill, as marketing has always demanded. But the Chief Marketing Officer better understand the world of data and the world of communications, because the new Online marketing strategy and integrated marketing, that takes advantage of more robust websites, social media, email marketing and all the visual media, carefully targeted to smaller and smaller audiences, requires complete understanding to implement well.
Some have Marketing Future Shock.
The ones that don’t however, are realizing that few of them have ever built and implemented such complex systems to develop business before. (Production engineers are more at home with the kind of planning this requires.) With good tools, this is doable today; but the development of new content and repurposing old content for complex product mixes is a job that can take years to integrate into marketing.
I have always said that marketing is an art and a science. It may be much more science in ten years than art. I expect our profession to attract many more technical types in the future, and they will construct these systems: the creatives will fall victim to inexpensive AB testing, open rates and close ratios.
But, what about the smaller businesses who have been able to rely on graphic designers and advertising agencies? Opportunity for some, and Future Shock immobilization for the rest. Business owners must first understand that what is about to happen online will again revolutionize what has already happened. They have to learn the principals of direct marketing, response marketing, inbound marketing, relationship marketing and more, all at once, in a unified system of real communication with all customers. This seems daunting, and perhaps it is, but we already have lots of startups who grasp what is happening and are knitting together online reporting, with communication tracks, landing pages, response mechanisms and analysis for the next campaign.
Just like the wild west of the early Internet, where websites competed for the top search rankings, the new wild west will work using all the Internet tools to bring more qualified prospects to hundreds of different pages (vying for long tail search term ranking) on each site. They will hype events through social and create referrals through advocate customers.
Integrated marketing automation via the Internet is starting to be a reality now, and promises to be a huge new wave in the industry, even though it has taken a long time to get here. Those who allow themselves Marketing Future Shock, will probably not be here to grasp the wave following whatever in the world that could be.