Keeping up: The first two steps for time-poor marketers


To look five years into the future, you have to look ten years into the past.
Tim Longhurst, Futurist

I am constantly asked about the future. What’s coming down the track? What do we need to look for 1, 2, or even 5 years ahead? What is important and how do we tell the important from the merely interesting? It’s a classic challenge that all marketers face, after all, we want to be skating to where the puck is going to be, right?

There are two challenges here – gaining a perspective and creating a point of view. Let’s look at how you can do both.

Step 1: Look back to look forward

The reality of “skating to the puck” is far harder than famous Canadian hockey player, Wayne Gretzky, might suggest. When I asked futurist, Tim Longhurst, how to peer into that undiscovered country, he explained that because change accelerates, to understand what we will face in five years’ time, we need to look ten years into the past. So to even cast our eyes forward one year we have to look back two.

Let’s think about this a moment – and let’s pause halfway. In September 2013, Mumbrella noted:

  • Twitter opened its first office in Australia and announces its IPO
  • Figures reveal that the Liberal Party dominated the media spend in the last two weeks of the election, outspending all other parties combined 3-to-1
  • Vodafone relaunched their brand
  • Buzzfeed announces Simon Crerar as editor of its new Australian office

So, we have hardly moved the needle back in time and there are significant events to consider and evaluate:

  • The establishment of local offices for disruptive leaders in technology and media is an expensive exercise for the company. How has this changed your understanding and use of technology, social and media? How has it changed the efforts of your competitors? Is there a competitive advantage that you are missing?
  • The need to re-launch a brand is also costly. Consider the work that needed to be done on the product before launch. Think about customer experience. Has it made a difference? What can you learn from the success or otherwise?
  • Is there an election in your state or local area coming up? How will media saturation affect your efforts?
Step 2: Build a point of view

Now that we have a perspective on events and activities from the past, we now need to create a framework for our thinking and action. In doing so there are three main dimensions to consider:

Event: what is planned, what have we heard, and what has happened
Timeframe: when will the event take place
Impact: what is the impact it will have on us

I like to put these into a POV Table. Then if we give each event a score, it helps us decide what we pay attention to and what we act on. Here is a simple example:

POV Table

On the brand front, I may know that a new acquisition is due to close in nine months. It will have a relatively large impact, so with a Point of View (POV) score of 27, I need to prioritise it.

And I just heard that ABC Co, my competitor, has announced a review of its agencies. After a three month review, we can expect a fresh campaign to emerge in the following quarter. I will need to have a counter plan in place ahead of time.

It just so happens that we have a new product launch coming up in the same time frame. Unfortunately, we know there is also a NSW State Election happening in March 2015. So if we want to cut through the clutter, we should go earlier or later.

So now, in two relatively quick steps, I have a way to prioritise what’s going on within my business and beyond it. I have gone from not knowing what’s ahead to having a plan and a focus around key outcomes.

Reviewing the POV Table on a monthly basis keeps the information up-to-date – and keeps your finger on the pulse.

More reading:

Marketing is about to invent a new kind of expert: the Data Storyteller
4 reasons why CEOs still don’t invest in digital marketing
From digital marketing executive to CMO: 10 tips to get to the top
Our digital future & what it means for businesses


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