Marketing has progressed more over the last 5 years than in the last 5 decades. Technology has fuelled innovation that has moved customer experiences and built new expectations, which in turn have driven further technological advances and innovation. The IoT era will result in even more sweeping changes to our lives, our work, and our communities than those brought about by the eras of the PC, Internet and smartphones. As technology becomes more open, this precipitates a new era for how companies and brands communicate, engage and relate to audiences and customers – the era of Open Marketing.
Open Marketing is defined as the transparent and adaptive engagement betweens brands and their audiences for the mutual creation, exchange, communication and realisation of value. In this era, we’re moving to a future characterised by fluidity; of customers, channels, and climate. To create impact, resonance and adoption going forward marketers must therefore recognise and embrace the following trends:
1. Customers are transient
Customers have more freedom and choice than ever before. The barrier to change is now negligible in most cases, creating a transient relationship between customers and the products, services and brands that they choose to adopt. Customers can, and do, move at will. Relationships are hard to establish, and even harder to maintain.
2. The customer has control
The rules of these relationships are now governed by the customer, rather than the brand. They have the power to demand; their voice is the loudest and most resonant, potentially affecting hundreds, thousands or even millions of others with a single comment.
3. Transparency is expected
Customers expect more information from the brands they adopt and use. They want to know who they are and what they stand for; gravitating towards and rewarding companies with mutually compatible values. Brand citizenship has moved from a defensive strategy to become a key driver of adoption and growth.
4. People care more about experience than product
Customers are looking for overall experiences. Brand value is generated beyond the product or service, encompassing all aspects of the customer’s interface with brands – through social, marketing, support, and beyond. The winners will be those who focus on the culture surrounding their brands.
5. Data is free
Data is everywhere and readily available. Technology is harnessing that data to drive very specific, relevant and resonant communications and experiences for customers. Brands need to see data as an asset to be used, not protected in a bubble. It’s the fuel of their customer experience engine.
6. Segments of One
Marketing to a collective no longer cuts it. Customers expect a tailored, personalised experience where the messages are specific to their interests, wants and needs. Data and technology enable us to have 1:1 conversations at scale; however, this level of personalisation will only succeed by also being personable – being human – rather than a robotic slave to technological marketing.
7. Context led, rather than customer led
Customers change from one moment to the next, depending on their environment and stimuli. Their perspectives and sensibilities depend on context; increasingly our ability to monitor and react to this will drive deeper connections.
8. Listening predicates communication
Before customers will give you their attention, you need to have shown that you’ve listened. They expect conversation, rather than dialogue, and listening is therefore a requisite. Only by listening, paying attention and responding accordingly with relevant communication will you gain customers’ trust, buy-in and eventually endorsement.
9. Engagement isn’t enough, you must contribute
In the new participation economy, it isn’t enough for brands to seek to merely connect or engage with customers, they need to actively contribute to the discussion. A brand’s value will be determined by that contribution, beyond the function that they fulfil. This doesn’t mean pumping out endless scheduled posts or dropping constant pieces of content; it means to be present, have a true dialogue, and add real value. Contributing is about answering people’s questions, helping to solve their problems, and giving them insights and advice that will make their lives easier.
Crucially, it doesn’t mean selling. Relationships are built on trust and to achieve this you have to demonstrate credibility and value up-front. Today’s customers are looking for more from the brands that they engage with than a mere transaction; they want deeper meaning. Contributing creates value and builds confidence in your brand that you can deliver what you say you’re going to. It’s also a crucial part of the experience that the customer receives, creating recognition, association and empathy with your brand.
10. Marketing is always-on
Customers eschew brands who pursue on / off relationships. They expect the brands that they engage with to be present and accessible, wherever and whenever they seek to be part of that brand’s experience. Marketing can no longer be campaign-based, but must re-gear itself around maintaining the customer’s always-on experience.
11. The perception of ‘ownership’ has changed
Customers are no longer looking to, or in fact needing to own the products and services that they use. Sharing resources is moving from a lifestyle choice to the norm; ownership is ephemeral and participation rules over possession. It’s no longer a material world and now an experiential one; one in which your customers are open and prepared to dip in and out, sharing resources to achieve those experiences.
12. You need to be better, not different
Differentiation is dead. It’s no longer enough for brands to merely be different than their competitors. Being different means that you’re an alternative, and customers aren’t prepared to move to alternatives without major incentives. Brands must strive to be better in a meaningful way to win customers over.
13. APIs are opening marketing channels
Marketing channels are increasingly becoming accessible via APIs so that assets and content can be received programmatically. This technology is still nascent and to date has been used more to drive marketing efficiencies, rather than improve the overall customer experience. This must change to meet the demands of the open customer. Programmatic approaches have taken hold in social channels, and increasingly the rest of digital marketing; but over coming years we’ll also see traditional channels like television and radio open themselves to programmatic delivery.
14. Growth is coming from outside
Growth is found outside of core distribution channels and business models. New start-up businesses are harnessing the power of data, cloud and mobile technologies to redefine entire industries at lightning speed. These businesses are more nimble, innovative, and in tune with the needs of customers than their established competitors. Incumbent players have to react or die, and therefore new, ancillary methods of connecting with customers, facilitating transactions, and generating revenue must be embraced and executed by all businesses.
Let me know how these trends are impacting your business and what marketing tactics you’re using to optimise them.