4 marketing predictions for 2019

/ 6 December 2018

(Originally published on LinkedIn on 6th December 2018)

If column inches were an indicator of impact then GDPR was 2018’s biggest transformative event in marketing since the emergence of digital for any business in Europe, or engaging with European customers. The shift in how we manage and use customer data has seen a huge amount of marketing resource dedicated to ensuring businesses adhere to these comprehensive legislative guidelines. But that was 2018 – how about 2019?

We’ve emerged from a period of internal focus forced on us by GDPR and now we are going to see the pendulum swing rapidly in 2019 to the outside world again as marketers will be re-doubling their efforts around creating engagement with their audiences and stakeholders and driving sales performance.

But the challenge is this: the way we did things before just won’t work. And you can’t just blame that on GDPR.  

Customers have been disengaging from our marketing for some time now. Too many marketing messages and channels, and too little time to pay attention, leading to declining response rates or engagement. Growing cynicism about the motivations and actions of corporations and their brands leading to a desire to engage with those that show clear (and credible) alignment with our own values.  A rapidly growing awareness of the value of our data, money and attention in highly competitive times.

The old style of push marketing to closely defined target groups won’t yield the results we need as the segments are just too small now people are opting out, or not opting in, and response rates are in decline.

We looked at this in detail recently with engagement expert Rusty Warner of Forrester Research – we asked him to give us his 8 top tips for audience engagement in 2019.  Rusty hits the nail on the head in my view when he said:

“We’re living in what Forrester calls the Age of the Customer and we see that as a 20 year business cycle where customers are really in control of their relationships with the brands with which they do business….that means that those customers get to decide when and where to interact…”

So that’s why I say that 2019 (and a few after that) is the Year of Invitational Marketing.

With that in mind these are my four predictions for what will increasingly occupy our minds as marketers during the year.

  1. We need to create compelling reasons for customers to invite us into their lives

People are simply resistant (even antagonistic) to push marketing and if you want success you need to engage in meaningful two way conversations, defined on the customer’s own terms with a very clear, compelling, relevant and useful value exchange between you and them. An exchange defined by the customer not the brand. You will need to stop talking at people and start listening to them – you need to work hard to get an invitation to engage with them in a conversation when and where the customer wants it to happen.

Marketing guru Seth Godin is characteristically forthright on this in British Airways Business Life magazine this month,

“…marketers generally, the big ones, are selfish, short-term, egomaniacal narcissists…On the other hand there are people now coming along who are taking their time and who are marketing with and for people instead of marketing at them. Given the fact that attention is such a scarce resource, the marketers who respect that attention and treat it gently will do better than the ones who are here to make a buck today and then disappear tomorrow.”

Expect to see the best marketers defining a broader audience and then providing compelling, valuable and attractive invitations to engage – using interactive rather than passive digital content which is rewarding, entertaining, brings to the fore their cause and purpose and is delivered where the audience is rather than via interruptive techniques like email etc.

Then once the initial engagement is achieved, powerful analytics, real time decisioning and personalisation will be deployed to continue the conversation in an increasingly relevant way based on behaviour and first party reported data as part of the engagement.

2. It’s time to look very critically at the effectiveness of your historic marketing technology investments

The chances are that all your effort to build a world-class tech stack isn’t hitting the mark you hoped. Joe Stanhope at Forrester made the point earlier in the year that as customer demands change, our approach to using tech needs to as well, “Marketers cannot continue to bolt on new tech silos with each new technology or channel.” So much of what marketers have been investing in is designed to make it easier, cheaper and faster to deliver push marketing. We’ve armed ourselves with the ability to execute more for less. But the game is up on this. Our response rates tell the story. We need to be investing in technology (and talent) that enables us to build engaging marketing and content that is interactive, immersive, fun even and gives us the flexibility to respond to customer interest and demands in real-time.

3. Be authentic, and clear on your values and purpose, customers demand it

To succeed and be a brand that consumers want to engage with, marketers must clearly demonstrate the cause and purpose of their organisation to their audiences – people want to engage with brands that are aligned to their values and their community’s.  We should expect to see even more brands defining themselves by their values and purpose and putting in place what is required to live and breathe this, along with the mechanisms to demonstrate this to their audiences. But learn from the bitter experience of others – it’s no good paying lip service to this. Just look at the change of heart over at Uber once the new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi took the reins and the positive response that received from employees, regulators and customers to his commitment that

“…we will show that Uber is not just a really great product, but a really great company that is meaningfully contributing to society, beyond its business and its bottom line.” Your marketing and content must be authentic or it will be seen straight through by today’s discerning and informed customer.”

4. Co-creating value with your audience is the new marketing

Much of this is based on inviting the audience into a conversation with your organisation and increasingly in fostering collaboration, bringing the activities of the audience and the brand together to benefit all.  We will see much more focus on creating value for all through joint efforts between brands and their audiences – whether this is by creating valuable new content or experiences, providing guidance for participants, or jointly working to deliver value for shared causes and purposes.

If you take this shift to invitational marketing seriously in 2019 you will attract people to your own channels for customer experience or marketing and the prize is improved customer retention and loyalty – along with valuable first party data from new customers, data that they have been delighted to give you as the starting point for a positive and long-term conversation.

David Eldridge is CEO at 3radical.

Using 3radical’s powerful software platform and built-in best practices, leading organisations can attract and keep individuals’ attention. This is achieved by inviting them into rewarding experience that combine fun mechanics with incentives to elicit initial engagement and motivate ongoing and highly valuable two-way conversations.

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