Peering Into the Marketing Future

You’ve heard it many times before: The only constant is change. Not really. Sometimes, the only constant is stubborn resistance. This year we’ll see a mix of both.

With my curmudgeon hat firmly in place, here, my predictions for 2014:

Marketers will continue to obsess over data. But, hey, they need to. Big, small, first-party, third-party, integrated, high-quality or low. As the quantity and velocity of data continue to swell this year, marketers will seek strategies and technologies to transform that information, to use a cliché, into actionable insight. Data is a marketer’s biggest asset. Getting to the right data, transforming it to insight, and acting on it will be priority one.

Data science gets sexier. Marketers who not only know data, but also use it to tell stories will be in increasingly high demand. Enough said.

Mobile revs up. Nowhere is the customer relationship more intimate than when it’s in the palm of a consumer’s hand. You’ve all seen the stats; for example, according to Arbitron and Edison Research, 82% of mobile phone users keep their devices within reach or close by at all times. Most marketers want their brands to be at customers’ fingertips to deepen engagement and trigger sales, and this year those marketers will ramp up their mobile effort to achieve that. This includes improving email integration, increasing mobile opt-ins, and harnessing geo-location (which, by the way, isn’t just for retailers—savvy marketers in other industries know it).

Email performance will drop—among brands that haven’t gotten their mobile act together, neglecting to optimize their emails, landing pages, or websites for mobile. Email performance will increase—among brands that optimize for mobile, improve their personalization (messaging and timing), and use email as the workhorse that leads their multichannel marketing efforts (see “Email Jockeys for Relevance”).

Sales and marketing still won’t get along in most organizations. I’ve been writing about marketing and sales collaboration—or the lack thereof—since the mid-1980s, and I can tell you that little about it has changed. Until marketing and sales have a set of shared goals, senior leaders’ appeals for collaboration will go unheeded. It comes down to the adage, reward desired behaviors. Sure, marketing and sales each need their own objectives—after all, they perform different functions. But ultimately, their primary shared goal is to generate revenue. Chief marketers and their sales counterparts who want change in 2014 need to set shared variable compensation targets for such items as number of leads that meet a specific criteria, closed deals, and customer retention.

All marketing becomes direct. Direct marketing is all about using data to target the right customers at the right time and getting them to take action, and then using the data from that action (or inaction) to  inform future campaigns. In 2014 and onward marketers increasingly will “think direct” for all of their marketing efforts, including branding. A growing number of marketers will use data to inform everything from creative to customer engagement strategies. Art and science will become inextricably linked. No longer will there be Mad Men or Math Men; all marketers will move toward being Mad Math Men.

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