So, it is again New Years Day. January 1, 2016.
Another year gone, but where?
I hope 2015 was a good one for you, and that 2016 is better.
For my part, I will keep on offering up my musings on the challenges facing small businesses in the hope that along the way some of them serve to help some way to make the path easier.
A fundamental part of the way I believe things should be done is that we learn from our mistakes, so as not to repeat them. To do that we must be able to see the effects of our choices, while understanding the reasons and motivations underlying them at the time, and reflect with clarity and objectivity.
Therefore, it is only fair that my predictions made at this time last year come under scrutiny, before I venture into rubbing my crystal balls for 2016.
Following is my “predictions” post in January 2015, with some commentary added this morning.
You be the judge, score me, comment and point out what I missed, and what I may have called right.
Small business is at a crossroads as we move into 2015.
Either they embrace the opportunities and tools presented by the disruption of the “old ways” by digital technology, or they slowly, and in some cases, quickly, become irrelevant, obsolete and broke as customers move elsewhere.
Your choice, as much of the technology can now be relatively easily outsourced, and at a very reasonable cost, certainly less than most would expect. The two major challenges in outsourcing, snake oil salesmen and not knowing what you want and need, are little different to any other category of purchased service.
So, to the trends that will influence your business in 2015 that you need to be at the very least aware of, and in most cases take some sort of pre-emptive action.
- Marketing technology will continue its rise and rise. The thousands of small marketing technology players who are currently emerging will be forcibly integrated, as the big guys buy “Martec” real estate. Adobe, Microsoft, et al will spend money, and the little guys will be swallowed as the gorillas fill the holes in their offerings, and new segments emerge. At the other end of the scale, there will remain plenty of options for smaller businesses to step into the automated marketing space. The current rash of innovations to make life easier for small businesses will continue and as those smaller single purpose tools gain traction, and more are launched to fill the niches that exist to service small businesses.
Comment January 2016. Martec, has become more of a board table topic over the year as investment increases, more options open up, and the “make or break” of marketing has become increasingly recognised. There has been some takeover and merger activity, and it will only increase in number and scale as the thousands of services merge, Bruce Henderson’s classic rule of three and Four will continue to apply itself. IBM has also entered the fray launching “Watson” as an integrated Martec product package.However, despite the inevitable move towards scale, Martech will remain a fertile field for innovation as technologists and marketers collaborate on the best ways to identify, engage and lead to a transaction the individual customer.
Comment January 2016. Absolutely right. In December the NSW government legislated to enable ride sharing services like Uber to compete without legislative interference beyond some basic passenger safety directed rules. This is in despite of the entrenched political position of the Taxi industry and an aggressive campaign including civil actions brought against Uber drivers. During the latter part of the year, a technically challenged mate of mine spend 3 months in Europe with his wife. Nothing pre-booked, but they easily found accommodation every night using Airbnb and several similar services. When the over 60’s whose device until a few moths ago ‘was just a phone’, is hooked, the hook is set deep and permanent across demographics. Anecdotal but powerful evidence of the penetration of the power of peer to peer markets.
- Content creation as a process. The next evolution in marketing, the move that I think “content” will start to make from being individual pieces of information produced in an ad hoc manner to being a process that is highly individualised, responsive to the specific context, and informed by the behaviour of the individual recipient scraped from the digital ecosystem. It means that content creation needs to be come an integrated process, more than a “campaign” . The term “content” will become redundant, it is just “marketing”, focussing on the individual customer.
Comment January 2016. The evolution continues, evidenced by the number of blog posts and templates for “content calendars” that have appeared in the last few months.Over the course of the year I have instituted editorial calendars of one sort or another with several clients, and all are now seeing returns from the efforts that ensure continuation. I am sure I am not the only consultant from the one man operations as I am to the ‘brand’ consulting services seeing this happening around them, and this trend will certainly (in my mind) continue in 2016
- Marketing will evolve even more strongly as the path to the top corporate job. Functional expertise is becoming less important, what is important is the ability to connect the dots in flattened organisations that work on collaborative projects rather than to a functional tune. This trend is as true for small businesses as it is for major corporations. There will still be challenges as many marketers are really just mothers of clichés, but those relying on the cliché and appearances for credibility are becoming more obvious as the marketing expertise in the boardroom increases, and the availability of analytics quickly uncovers the charlatans. This will make the marketing landscape increasingly competitive on bases other than price.
Comment January 2016 . Anecdotally from what I have seen, this appears to be correct, but I do not have the data to be sure. It certainly makes sense as a way of putting the customer at the ‘pointy end’ of a businesses activities and priorities.As an aside, I have commented repeatedly on the qualities required for success, the primary one these days beyond the necessary functional experience and education being curiosity. Good marketing people are curious, they tend to be less likely than many others to accept the status quo, so make good all round leaders. Pity there are so few good marketing people around, ‘doing marketing’ at university these days is often a choice made in the absence of options.
- Recognition that marketing is the driving force of any successful enterprise will become accepted, even by the “beanies”. Seth Godin has been banging on for years about the end of the industrial/advertising model, the old school of interruption, but many enterprises have continued to deploy the old model, but I sense that the time has come. 2015 will be the year that sees marketing finally takes over.
Comment January 2016. I am still waiting.
- Video will become bigger part of marketing, particularly advantaging the small businesses that have the drive to deploy it and the capability to manage the outsourcing of the bits that they either cannot do, or cannot do economically. The old adage of a picture telling a thousand words is coming to life in twitter streams, instagram shares, and all social media platforms. The video trend will be supported by increasing use of graphics in all forms, but particularly data visualisations as a means to communicate meaning from the mountains of data that we can now generate. The density of data on the web is now such that new ways to cut though, communicate and engage need to be found, and I suspect those will all employ visuals in some form, perhaps interactive?
Comment January 2016. It seems the big marketers poured money into made for the web video over 2015, spending not just on the creative and production, but on the marketing of the material. While video might be a it of the newest shiny thing, we are visual animals, and there is little doubt the growth will continue.Many of the SME’s I deal with are recognising the opportunities and building their video capabilities either in house or more usually by finding someone outside with the skills, and tit is paying off.
- Pay to go ad free is a trend that will evolve suddenly, to some degree it is an evolution of subscription marketing. Free to date platforms will charge to be ad free, whilst new platforms and models such as the Dollar Shave Club will probably evolve.
Comment January 2016. Advertising has been the engine of growth for media companies over 100 years, then came the web, and the indiscriminate bombarding of any mouse click with ads, many of them malicious, so evolved ad blockers. Ironically, looking for data to support this contention, I googled the phrase and up came an article on Forbes magazine, but since I went there last, they have put in a requirement that you disable your adblocker to get to the article. It may not be with money, but we all recognise the value of an email address these days. Rest my case.
- The death of mass and the power of triibes will become more evident. The “cat pictures ” nature of content of social media platforms will reduce as marketers discover smart ways to package and deliver messages that resonate and motivate action. The agility of digitally capable small businesses will open up opportunities for them their bigger rivals will not see, or not be compatible with their existing business models.
Comment January 2016. There still seems to me as much if not more of the cat photo rubbish floating around, but mixed in is the increasingly targeted messages that resonate with customers and consumers in some pretty obscure niches. A small client of mine was persuaded to really “niche-down’ in 2015, and reaped significant benefits as a result. Niche marketing will continue to grow.
- Local, provenance, and “real”. Marketing is about stories, so here is a trend made for marketers, and you do not have too be a multinational, just have a good story, rooted in truth and humanity. ‘Hyper-local” will become a significant force. Marketing aimed at small geographies, such as is possible by estate agents, and “local” produce, such as the increasing success of “Hawkesbury Harvest” in Sydney, and the “Sydney Harvest” value chain initiative.
Comment January 2016. Little doubt this trend is alive and well. Following on from the examples from last year, the local farmers markets around Sydney have continued to grow both in number and visitors, and you cannot move at Flemington on a Friday or Saturday for the retail produce sales. The major retailers have both introduced programs that deliver produce to their shelves that just a year ago would have been scrapped because it failed the visual test. Now however, following the success of the “ugli fruit” campaign in the US being ugly is a marketing benefit. (perhaps there is hope for me yet)
- Paid social media will evolve more quickly than any of us anticipate, or would be forecast by a simple extrapolation. Twitter will go paid, travelling the route Facebook took to commercialize their vast reach. Some will hate it as it filters their feeds, others will welcome the reduction of the stream coming at them from which they try and drink. Anyway, twitter et al will set out to make money by capitalising on their reach.
Comment January 2016. This had better remain a forecast as I have seen no evidence that it has evolved much from a year ago beyond the continuing squeeze being exerted on organic reach by Facebook and others. Twitter remains an uncurated torrent of posts, where use of the management tools is in the hands of the user.
- Social will grab more of the market in 2015 than it has had, even though the growth has been huge over the last few years. Small businesses will either embrace social and content marketing, in which case their agility and flexibility will put them in a competitively strong position, or if they fail to do so, they will fall further behind, and become casualties.
Comment January 2016. Again, plenty of anecdotal evidence, but little objective evidence I have seen, although plenty of the sort published by those with an interest in the success of social media trumpeting their own success.
- The customer should always be the focal point of any organisation, but often they fail to get a mention. It is becoming more important than ever that you have a “360 degree” view of your customers, as the rapid evolution of social media and data generation and mining is enabling an ever more detailed understanding of the behaviour drivers of consumers. The density of highly targeted marketing, both organic and paid is increasing almost exponentially, so if you do not have this 360 degree view, your marketing will miss the mark.
Comment 2016. Wise thoughts from a year ago, but hardly original. There would not be a management book anywhere that did not somewhere suggest that customers are what keep you in business, not the beauty of your product, and not the efficiency of your processes, but the value you deliver.
- Treat with caution all the predictions you read, keep an absolutely open mind, as the only thing we know for sure about them is that they will be wrong, as with this ripper from Bloomberg who predicted the failure of the iphone. However, as with statistical models, quoting George E.P. Box who said “Essentially, all models are wrong, it is just that some are useful” perhaps some of the predictions you find around this time of the year will be useful, by adding perspective and an alternative view to your deliberations for 2015.
Comment January 2016 Still good advice.
As a final thought, if you think your kid may be good at marketing, be sure they learn maths and statistics. “Maths & Stats” will increasingly be the basis of marketing, and the source of highly paid jobs and service business start-ups.
Have a great 2015.
Comment January 2016. I still think this is a great idea.