Marketing involves a variety of interconnected activities and functions: researching what consumers want; creating products that satisfy consumer desires; communicating how products fulfill those desires; figuring out how much those products should cost; and packaging, distributing and selling those products.
Thanks to technological innovation, beginning with the Internet and e-commerce and continuing with the latest mobile gizmo, consumers have more choice, more access and more selectivity.
Marketing has had to change as well.
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As Smart Insights observes:
Many marketers, particularly those in small businesses, don’t recognize just how much and how often technology is changing…they have a difficult time keeping up, which could be their biggest marketing mistake…In a blink of an eye, the marketing strategy you’ve been using could become outdated. That’s why it’s important to know exactly what changes are happening now and how those changes are affecting you and your company.
Let’s take a look at some of those.
The Internet and Mobile Computing
A recent KPCB study of Internet trends found 2.8 billion internet users worldwide (or 39 percent of the global population) and, perhaps more significantly, 5.2 billion mobile phone users, representing 73 percent of the global population. This is not news. Technology has made it easier than ever for marketing to reach consumers.
Plus it’s less expensive and more measurable than ever. The good news for small- and medium-sized businesses: the ability to cost-effectively tap into markets that once required big-company physical assets, distribution channels and budget to reach.
The challenge is that when just about almost anything is instantly and conveniently accessible, getting and maintaining consumer attention is harder and harder.
What’s a marketing department to do? VentureBeat foresees an unbundling of traditional marketing functions that focus primarily on gaining consumer attention and, most vitally, long-term loyalty.
The old thinking was that you needed a range of products at various price points to appeal to the broadest range of consumers. Today, companies hone in more on a “best-in-class” product. For example, Apple has two kinds of smartphones.
It uses earlier, “outdated” iPhones at a lower price point as a way to entice more consumers into the Apple ecosystem, but it doesn’t develop products per se to accomplish that. (Indeed, so far attempts to do that have failed—see the iPhone 5c.) The simpler, more specialized product line not only provides tighter marketing focus, but it also simplifies supply chain and distribution issues, so there are literally fewer moving parts in play. Notes Venture Beat:
Why dedicate time, capital, and effort to a second product that may unfocus and damage the brand? Many of today’s best-in-class companies focus on a single-purpose approach for a very specific customer, building ancillary tools/services instead as a way to drive traffic and sales to the main product, sometimes even giving these ‘add-ons’ away for free, strengthening their position as a result.
There’s No Reason for You to Do It All
There are plenty of third-party vendors that can run your email marketing, social media outreach and loyalty programs and mobile websites. They have the technology and expertise, plus scale to reduce operating costs, so it makes little sense to try to develop them on your own.
Speed-to-market is essential in the Internet Age—the best way to lose speed and momentum is to divert limited resources away from anything that isn’t integral to developing your best-in-class product(s). Your marketing department isn’t about implementing programs; it’s about managing programs others are running for you.
Related Article: Top Marketing Trends From 2015 and What They Mean for the Future
Don’t Put All Your Marketing Eggs in One Basket
Again it wasn’t so long ago that you’d buy your marketing technology from a big company (e.g., Oracle or Salesforce) because they offered an integrated, end-to-end solution. Sure, you usually had commit to a long-term contract, but at least, you could put all your worries in one bucket.
We just talked about how companies are focusing on a narrow set of best-in-class products. The same holds true for your customer relationship marketing (CRM) technologies. Better to develop a suite of multiple players, all of whom offer one specialized service extremely well, instead of one big company that does an okay job of everything.
Again, it’s a question of what gets fast results in a way that best captures your target audience. When you mix and match, it’s much easier to uncouple and replace parts that didn’t turn out to match as well as you thought. As Capterra points out, “CRM software has been helping sales teams manage their contacts and communications since the 1980s.
However, most sales people use a fraction of the capabilities of their CRM, and many still hate using it altogether.” Simpler, less expensive tools from multiple sources that are used to their fullest capabilities are preferable to one big expensive tool that most people don’t know how to use or don’t like to use.
Tell Your Brand Story
This is all “behind-the-scenes” stuff that’s necessary to deliver your message. But you can have all the best-in-class back-office operations and distribution systems in place, and it won’t matter a whit if you don’t have an effective marketing message.
As Angela Stringfellow of CODA Concepts puts it, all the technology aside, there’s still a simply formula for success: “Define your audience, find out where they spend their time and craft powerful stories that resonate and build connections. Once you’ve discovered the right combination, you’ve struck brand marketing gold.” Then let the wonders of marketing technologies do the rest of the work for you.