The future of marketing is search
Amazon has raised consumer expectations. Through delivering better customer experience, other brands are expected to deliver the same sort of friction-free, consistent, personalised experiences, and most need to catch up.
Of course, marketing isn’t solely responsible for customer experience, after all the product/service itself needs to be good, the sales process should be slick and the customer service that we receive better be top notch too. But it is fair to say that marketing does have a significant role to play.
Namely to deliver personalised experiences that keep the brand in people’s minds – treating different customers differently and delivering meaningful, consistent experiences. Something the marketing function has been pursuing for the last 30 odd years.
In most cases though, marketing never seems to get that nailed. Instead, it suffers from a disconnected team who compete for budgets, chase narrow objectives and are structured in a way that doesn’t recognise the customer. Saying that marketing needs to change isn’t new, but I am not going to let that stop the point from ringing true.
Building a new team structure
For starters, marketing needs to refocus on the customer journey and build teams, ways of working and objectives that reinforce this focus and break down barriers that exist.
It also needs to learn how to balance being experimental with being able to operationalise ways of working, in this regard it could learn well from modern Agile software development. For anyone looking to rethink marketing; Scott Brinkers book “Hacking Marketing” is a good place to start. Marketing Insider also provides a free resource that is a pretty thorough introduction of how Agile can help marketing balance the bi-modal nature of innovation and operational efficiency.
Finally; and most importantly; marketing needs to develop more comb-shaped / M shaped people. These people have solid foundational skills across a broad spectrum of marketing specific domains, but compliment that with a range of deeper areas of expertise ideally straddling the left brain (analytical and methodical skills) and right-brain (creative and artistic).
Whilst such people will never match the depths of knowledge held by a person who focuses exclusively in one area of specialism, their ability to look broadly across activities and join the dots to unify marketing execution around the customer journey will be essential.
Especially given the increasing consumer expectations and the demand this places on marketing to unify experiences, despite operating in an increasingly complex, interconnected and interdependent environment.
It’s for this reason alone, search marketing professionals have a bit of a leg up in helping marketing do better. Good search professionals are already behaving like comb-shaped people, blending the left brain aspects of technical SEO, data analysis/modelling with the right brain aspects of creative design, content production and storytelling.
All the while considering how the activities need to come together to hit the goal. It’s this joined-up thinking that I believe acts as a great foundation for search professionals to own the future of marketing.
Building on your existing foundation
Here are a few simple steps to exploit the leg up you already have:
- Build out your softer skills
Focus on developing the 4 C’s of Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking and Curiosity. These skills will help you to become a high performing member of any team.
- Go back to basics.
Develop a high-level understanding of psychology, data/analytics, branding, research, finances, marketing technology and Agile principles. These will give you the foundations upon which to build deeper marketing specific skills.
- Don’t just learn. Do.
Essentially try to get direct experience of multiple aspects of marketing. Perhaps request a rotation programme or secondment, or spend time shadowing colleagues or arranging job-swaps. Alternatively, work in a small business and operate as a one-stop shop for all things marketing. Try whatever it takes to experience the areas you read about in books.
- Build connections and ask questions.
It’s easy to sit in a silo and focus on getting the job done, but this can leave you in a rut. Instead, make sure you look to build relationships across functions and if you see barriers impacting marketing execution, be the person to try and bring them down, even if that’s not your remit. Also, make sure you ask questions outside the brief, try putting yourself in the shoes of your customer and thinking about how they will experience the marketing you are executing.
If you start to take these steps then you will be well on the path to building upon the advantage you have working in search marketing and well positioned to lead marketing as it continues to evolve to meet consumer expectations.