When It Comes to Marketing in 2014, the Only Thing You Can Predict Is Yourself

There is something lurking in 2014 that will change how we think about marketing campaigns. And that's pretty much the only thing I can predict with absolute certainty.

When I was asked to make marketing predictions for 2014, I realized the folly of trying to predict marketing’s future. No one predicted Snapchat would break out this year. And the same goes for Instagram, Twitter, or even Facebook in years past.

I can pretty much guarantee that there is something else lurking that will emerge in 2014 and change how we think about marketing campaigns. And that’s pretty much the only thing I can predict with absolute certainty.

But just because we know marketers will be surprised in 2014 doesn’t mean marketers have to be caught off guard. Here are some recommendations how.

Get In Shape (A Typical New Year’s Resolution)

In physical fitness, if you are in good shape and have good fundamentals -- strong core, balance, agility, reflexes -- then you will have an advantage in athletics, including new activities you’ve never done before. Similarly, being in “good marketing shape” will allow you to be prepared for new challenges in a rapidly changing environment.

This starts with developing a marketing system of record. It should be easy to know when a prospect opened an email, tweeted about your product, or visited your company’s website. Without knowing someone’s behavior over time, your marketing will have the memory of a goldfish, blasting from one unconnected campaign to the next. In addition to joining the League of Bad Marketers, without a system of record you will also be unable to see what works and what doesn’t. There’s no other way about it -; if your marketing doesn’t have a system of record, it doesn’t matter if you saw Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat coming, you would be unable to act on it.

Be Selfish

After years of being thought of as the arts and crafts department of business, marketing needs a pep talk. Marketing is something every business needs, from tiny startups to global enterprises.

It’s often responsible for the first several contacts of a relationship, and it nurtures the customer after the sale. This is a huge responsibility, and marketers shouldn’t just defer to what sales wants. Neither marketers nor marketing technology are appendages to sales and sales technology, and marketers need to stake their claim. It doesn’t matter if your sales technology offers something or not -- be selfish, get what you need. In the past this was easier.

Buy a few TV spots, buy some outdoor ads, buy a page in a magazine. Today marketing is about conversations instead of campaigns, and that means being able to communicate with prospects and customers where they are and when they want to hear from you. Consumers today are better at filtering out noise than ever before, and your business relies on your having the right tools.

This idea -- change is the only constant -- has been around a few thousand years. The philosopher Heraclitus famously wrote, “No man steps in the same river twice.”

Next year, we’ll step into many new rivers. We shouldn’t be surprised by change; instead we should be prepared for it.

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