What does the future of marketing look like?

What does the future of marketing look like?

OK, so that’s a pretty big question for Tuesday night when I’ve on the go since 6.15am.
But in my quest to answer it, I’m going to be assisted by some useful material sent through to me from Steven Van Belleghem – author of The Conversation Manager – who gets marketing, social, technology and how it all mashes together.
It’s worth checking out his presentation on Slideshare about Marketing 2020 – it’s a biggy at 111 slides but worth the time investment to see how his thesis hangs together towards the end and for some great thought-provoking examples too.

I won’t rehash the reasons behind the fact that marketing’s changing, but Steven’s analysis is that there are three dimenions that will affect marketing in the future:

Extreme customer-centricity: customers will no longer be satisfied with an average treatment. Those companies with a policy of extreme customer-centricity will be the most successful.

Technology: marketing and technology will be two sides of the same coin. IT budgets will continue to shift toward marketing. For marketing departments all over the world, data and technological know-how will be prerequisites to success.

Selling without selling: convince customers through expertise instead of commercial messages. Win them over by bringing added value to their lives.

The customer-centricity argument is about a focus on customer experience – and identifying the bits that make a difference. It reminds me of work I did years ago at Egg when we looked at the emotion-driven “moments of truth” in a customer experience that represented the opportunity to differentiate a fairly standard financial product on the basis of experience. But the need for this is magnified by the faster-moving digital world we all now inhabit.
The technology dimension is about a migration of control of technology from IT departments to marketers. Some of this is about better sales through use of data to drive the pricing and promotional parts of the marketing mix, while it also focusses on how technology can be used to enhance customer experiences through self-service, customisation and automated targetting.
But what’s most interesting to me is the selling without selling angle. This is one that comms people will probably get more easily than traditional marketers, as it recognises the value of networked people and content in influencing decision-making among customers.
According to Steven, it’s all about the story – the narrative that weaves together added value for customers, a touch of inspiration and the right customer context – get those three factors right and that’s the key to getting people to talk about your story. That’s something I agree with wholeheartedly – although the trick is to operationalise this and get it off the fancy Powerpoint decks and into the cultural DNA of service-based organisations.
I also quite like Steven’s take on what leadership looks like in this new marketing world he foresees:
The new leader’s main objective is managing the ‘why’. Primarily, he manages the company’s reason for being as well as its long-term vision. In addition, there are three aspects that characterize the conversational leader:

Empathy: the new leader is a good listener. He is available both for staff and customers. His job is to provide support and counsel wherever possible.

Connecting: the conversational leader is a bridge builder; he connects people. He believes in the power of networks and helping other people, even when there’s no short-term gain involved.

Decisive: the conversational leader is capable of making decisions and executing his vision. It’s not just about listening; in the end it’s also about taking action.

Plenty of sensible thinking there on how leaders need to operate and some practical stuff that reinforces what I try to make sure I do, but sometimes struggle to actually make happen in the day to day busy-ness of the working day.
So what’s your take on Steven’s view of future marketing?
Image credit: David Silver on Flickr


I work with technology-centric businesses as an interim Chief Operating Officer (COO), consultant and advisor. I created the B3 framework® for scaling technology businesses and I write a newsletter called Build for leaders who are building brilliant companies.