When my marketing communications career began in the ’80s there were few of the channels, means, and methods of communicating available today. In those early years preparedness for mobile communications meant having quarters for pay phones. When it was raining, and you needed to communicate you probably got wet. The library was in town, not on your phone. Snail mail was the default letter distribution standard. Databases were static lists that couldn’t “talk back”. Consumers were perfectly willing to buy and try rather than gathering opinion from the crowd before they purchased. An unhappy client had little influence over the behavior of future clientele. In today’s terms, it was a life led offline. Disconnected. By today’s standard, sad.
As a business developer in the professional services arena early-on, I can clearly recall many long days spent on the road traveling long distances between meetings and presentations. No opportunity for communicating for much of the day. It was a largely unproductive journey – and just plain boring. The concept of something that would break that monotony would have been an easy sell. Group discussions presented yet another challenge. These were nearly always logistically difficult and very expensive. A lot of valuable time was wasted. Until technology enabled a solution, we just accepted these inefficiencies as part of the cost of doing business.
Enter the integrated circuit...and BANG!
In the years that followed communications began to change. Slowly at first and then accelerating. Soon we discovered technology impacts could grow faster and influence more than we ever imagined. What began with conveniences like remote controls and mobile computers soon became a race to do more at twice the speed in half the space. These impacts on the world order have indeed been far-reaching and dramatic.
We are no longer accepting of a world made up of silos. We have now connected communities with constant streams of information. Our public, even in the most remote and disadvantaged communities have an insatiable appetite for knowing what is popular well beyond where they live. It seems there is a new hierarchy of needs: air, water, internet, and shelter. Consumers have new power. Organizations have new power too. Clever entrepreneurs are “leveling the playing field” with communications that can reach millions on a shoestring budget. We’ve entered the age of Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube. Do you need to understand something obscure? The answer is a Google search away. Do you want to fix or assemble something? Watch it done first on YouTube. Did you miss that talked-about performance last night? It’s waiting for you now online. Perhaps you need an attitude boost or have an opinion to shout about? Social media choices abound for you. This new normal provides free un-edited and often re-tweeted opinionating that can quickly gain more attention than a 60 second Super Bowl spot.
And that’s not all.
Today’s conversations are data-rich. Smart marketers are digging deep into that data to see what it reveals. Every internet search, instant message, online game, and map paints a picture of opportunity for marketers. It’s become nearly impossible to keep from sharing personal information savvy marketers now use to influence your choices. Common data algorithms are amazingly efficient at identifying what you will want and when you’ll want it. This is possible because nearly everything we do can be tracked and measured. All this capability is accelerated by a consumer culture now very comfortable with sharing even the most intimate details of daily lives with businesses and complete strangers. It’s not only the well-meaning taking advantage of this opportunity so caution is certainly for legitimate buyers and sellers.
Understanding these trends and tools is now central to building brands, anticipating demand and growing market share. It requires diligent awareness and smart choices. It requires creativity and innovation that may set aside traditional methods that once produced reliably. It requires listening more carefully and responding more quickly. Growing pains aside, there is tremendous opportunity in what technology has enabled. That opportunity extends to both businesses and consumers as communications inform decision-making in real time.
Leveraging this power demands relevance and understanding.
Technology now enables us to position messages where they will most likely be found. There are key questions to ask as we develop strategies and tactics. Who is our audience? What are their challenges and attitudes? Where will they look for solutions? What will motivate their selection at the moment of truth? It’s more than keywords and search engine optimization. It’s a puzzle built on detailed and reliable information. It's the ability to focus on the best prospects. We now rely on technology to better understand our audience and to communicate with them effectively. Fortunately, in this new connected community, there are many resources for learning and many tools for improving results. A team commitment to continuing education and continuous improvement is essential.
As this new age of disruption grows and evolves, we must grow and evolve with it. The pace of change will entice us to accept and adapt impulsively. If we are cautious and well-informed, we will likely avoid poor marketing and communications investments. Clearly, not every new technological venture will succeed. We can take lessons from understanding both successes and failures. We are no longer operating in relative isolation. We now have the opportunity build better outcomes as persuasive communicators in a connected community.
Today's technology is amazing, enabling, inspiring...and on the move!