2015: The year of the customer
Has any industry undergone as rapid and comprehensive an evolution as that seen by marketing in recent years? As recently as five years ago, marketers could rest easy in the knowledge that they were in control of the message, channel, timing and impact of a given campaign. In only a short period of time, all of that has changed forever, shifting the balance of power decisively from brands in favour of the customer. So what will marketers need to do in order to be successful in this new, customer-centric age of marketing?
There’s very little doubt that a new breed of customer is emerging, and that, as a direct result, marketers need to change the way they engage. Today’s ‘hyper-informed’ customers have, as a result of the increased prevalence of social and digital tools, greater access to more data than ever before and are also extremely tech-savvy. They also do their due diligence when it comes to brands, conducting their own primary research and engaging their friends, peers and colleagues long before they contact sales teams – assuming that they ever do. Most notably, customer expectations are also increasing; they require instant fulfillment with no questions asked. If these expectations are not met with your product, solution or service, they’ll take to their social networks to instantly broadcast their dissatisfaction to the world.
The upshot of this is that it has removed a key element of control from marketers and placed it firmly back into the hands of the end-users. Let’s not forget that today’s customer engages with brands on his or her own terms, when and how they choose. The implications for marketers – whether they are B2B, B2C or even B2B2C – are numerous and potentially game changing, and traditional marketing philosophy has been turned on its head as a result.
What’s clear is that as this evolution continues over the coming year, marketing will become an even more scientific, data driven and technology-centric process. Conversely, the art of marketing creative and authentic brands that are reflective of the customer experience will remain as important as ever! Here are five marketing trends that we’ll see in 2015 as a direct result of this new age of customer empowerment:
1. Greater brand authenticity and transparency – As customers have become savvier in terms of the way they interpret marketing messages, so it has become easier for them to differentiate an authentic marketing statement from one that lacks credibility. This increased level of customer ‘cynicism’ means that in 2015 brands will have to work harder than ever before to align their marketing messages with the culture of their brand. The days of communicating a message that does not directly, and authentically, relate to your own brand values and culture are long gone. Marketers will need to develop an intimate knowledge of technologies such as real-time analytics, social media and other digital tools and learn to use them in a way that emotionally, and transparently, connects their brand to customers and differentiates it in a ’sea of sameness'.
2. The rise of marketing-as-a-service – The operational backbone of effective marketing in 2015 and beyond will be a process that is technology-enabled, and interactive. As a result, we’ll see an evolution of marketing as we understand it today, and will see it expand beyond traditional realms into a new, digital environment. What this means is that we’ll see new cloud-based marketing tools such as content-as-a-service, analytics-as-a-service, and even community-as-a-service becoming an important part of a marketer’s arsenal.
3. B2B marketing will become B2i marketing – Over the next year, marketers will increasingly understand the need to create tailored and highly personalised campaigns for individual customers. Modern marketing is not, let’s not forget, about disseminating messages to buildings or lists. Successful marketers will be those who grasp this and who learn to understand that they are marketing to individual people. These people are decisions makers who are connected and interact, who look for information on-line, find it and tweet about it if they don’t like it. They demand personalised messages, and the role of the marketer in 2015 will be to deliver it to them as quickly and effectively as possible.
4. Embracing the ‘science of marketing’ – Performance-driven analytics tools will become an increasingly important part of the marketer’s toolkit in 2015. However, this technology will not be used as a means of tracking established marketing metrics. Instead, it will be used to demonstrate tangible business impact, specifically around top-line revenue growth. Gone are the days when the success of a marketing campaign was measured solely in terms of clicks to a website, or audience reach. This emphasis on exploring the ‘science of marketing’ to measure ROI will go beyond merely demonstrating that the marketing function is accountable for its actions. Put simply, those who fail to deliver and demonstrate results won’t survive long enough to tell the tale.
5. More Multi-disciplinary marketing – The three words marketers will need to hold dear in the coming twelve months will be: ‘Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate’. Where once the marketing function would sit in a separate silo from the rest of the business, in 2015 there will be more emphasis placed on it than ever before to integrate across multiple disciplines and functions. Integration with sales teams, the HR department and even the CIO will be critical, as the marketing function moves increasingly towards the centre of all company-wide efforts.
It’s crucial to remember that, as business evolves at an accelerating rate, marketing will no longer be considered as a linear process. In today’s competitive environment, we no longer have the luxury to test, perfect and hone strategies and campaigns before going to market. Savvy marketers today approach marketing challenges with intense curiosity, conducting multiple tests without being stymied by the fear of failure. They simultaneously measure and adjust their plans, taking corrective action as needed.
We live in an exciting time for marketers, and 2015 will be the most exciting yet. Meeting customer demand takes more creativity and collaboration than ever before. Consequently, marketers will be responsible for building bridges throughout an organisation and fostering engagement with the C-suite to ensure that the company is firmly focused on delivering an exceptional customer experience that leads to a cycle of perpetual winning.