What should Marketing Directors focus on in 2017?

What will 2017 bring for marketing directors

I wish I had a crystal ball! I wish I knew, in advance, what is going to happen in the near future. I would love to know what directions to take, to be ahead of my clients, so I can prepare and match their needs when they need it most.

The truth is — I don’t have that sixth sense. So I try and prepare for the future in any other way I can.

“Luck” happens when preparation meets opportunity – Seneca

For the past decade or so, the constant obsession with new technologies and tools has lead to the loss of focus within the marketing department, with marketers trying to “keep up” with trending tactics and forgetting marketing basics. It was all too exciting to chase the new shiny object — so we did. But we found that the shine dimmed really quickly, and we kept chasing a new, short term shiny object.

This year instead, I’ll be focusing on preparation. I’ll be going back to basics. And from conversations I’ve been having with fellow marketers lately, I’m not the only one.

Long term shimmers

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not suggesting we should all be going back to the ‘good old days’. The shift in global communication trends and ongoing digitisation has already happened, and continues to affect the way we understand and interact with data and customer behaviour — the way we create and tailor products and services, understand and assign value, and distribute our products and services. We can’t ignore the entire MarTech industry which provides us with so many tools to be more efficient, and generally be better at our job.

We certainly can’t ignore social channels. The way mobile phones and other mobile devices have changed the way we communicate, consume, behave and think. These are the long-term shimmers.

These are all important factors we should find ways to include in our everyday marketing activities.

However, brands who focus on the Gig Economy — for example Uber, AirBnB, AirTasker — should be concerned about the legislative trends trying to abolish the foundations of their business. Last last year, an employment tribunal in the UK ruled that Uber can no longer classify its drivers as self-employed and must pay them the national minimum wage, as well as providing statutory workers’ rights. Although Uber has said it will appeal against the ruling, it comes amid mounting scrutiny and opposition towards services that use self-employed labour models.

Home sharing service AirBnB is already facing legal challenges in cities around the world, particularly with regard to laws governing short-term rentals. In November, riders for food delivery service Deliveroo announced they were taking legal action to gain union recognition and workers’ rights.

Keep an eye on how the gig economy behemoths respond to their troubles this year.

Experimental marketing

Some of the latest and greatest experimental marketing tools only have a temporary shine. It’s perfectly ok to play around with augmented and virtual realities. But only when we have time, and when we’re fully aware of the underlying ‘experimental’ title. I’m all for experiments, trying new ways to engage and delight customers and prospects. I’m also conscious that as marketers, we have a reputation of having a “less commercial” outlook. I’m sure it’s not true for every marketer, but as we know — perception is reality.

2017 — The year of commercial focus

For the past few years, employers have expressed their frustration in attracting and retaining talent. A couple of years ago, I attended a LinkedIn conference in San Francisco which was HR focused. One of the common themes repeated throughout the conference was the transformation of HR people into marketers, having to think and act as a brand to attract talent. This year, marketing and HR should work together to build a sustainable brand which attract customers, employees and service providers. One coherent brand.

Quality, not quantity

Last year we became disillusioned with the quality of data some of the networks were providing. Mark Ritson analysed some video data from Facebook, which proved to be wrong, and not only by a little. Losing our trust in the analytics tools will likely lead to marketers finding their own data analysis tools. They’ll work closer together with data and business analysts, making sure the data is clean, accurate and can generate valuable business insights.

Vanity metrics are finally losing their charm too (thankfully!).

2017 will be the year of conversion, not engagement.

As we become more and more wary of “click farms”, fabricated and automated “likes” and views, budgets to increase those metrics are harder to justify, and rightfully so. Snap(chat), Messenger and Instagram Stories are cool to have, but without a clear path to conversion and sales — building a funnel, moving prospects through the funnel all the way to the sweet spot where the consumer parts with their money — it will be hard to justify investment (time or money) in those platforms.

Expanding Marketing Vista

Recently I got involved with a client in a dying industry. The company had been around for over three decades, employing over 100 people and had a relatively steady revenue stream. Everyone involved in the business knew that this wasn’t sustainable as their industry has been badly disrupted by technology players and changes in consumer behaviour, especially with the growing usage of mobile devices.

Due to my client’s solid financial footing, they were lucky enough to see their competition fade away. Now the industry is largely owned by two or three mega-players. Our company was brought in to analyse the existing client base, and find opportunities beyond current offering.

This scenario isn’t unique, and will be a common occurrence in the coming years.

As marketers, we need to keep our eyes open, understand our industry’s trends and forecasts, and plan ahead.

Develop a deep and meaningful relationship with our clients, so if and when the time comes and our services are no longer needed, we will be in a position to provide alternative value, and make sure our companies are sustainable, and future proof.


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