Digital and mobile are givens, but the medium is nearly irrelevant

The beginning of the year – any year – is filled with reviews and forecasts: what worked, what didn’t, what will, and what’s next. It’s all bloviation.
Despite Marshall McLuhan, the medium isn’t the culture for the viral spread of our marketing messages. Not anymore. There are no longer exclusive platforms for particular forms of communication – images, audio, video, text – because, thanks to microscopic computer chips, they’ve all been combined. Email can incorporate more than text, print can accommodate audio, mobile can be anything (and connect prospective buyers to anywhere), and the convergence of computing and television, which began with videotext in Columbus, Ohio, in the mid-1970s, has been taken for granted for years, though interactivity is relatively new.
Yet marketers still need to adapt. They need to understand what each medium does best, what their customers and prospects expect from each, and how they use it.
Beyond that, they need to think bi-cranially – about their company’s objectives (subordinately) and about their customers’ (predominantly) because marketing is all about you (the customer) and not all about you (the marketer). Confused? Don’t be.
As a marketer, you’re not the one who buys your products or services, so your marketing efforts shouldn’t be designed to make you or your CEO comfortable. As a marketer, you shouldn’t sell your products and services, either. You should create the desire to buy them and, to do that, you need to think about your offerings from inside your customers’ brains – to see those offerings as they see them, imagine how they’d apply them to solve their current problems, and realize how they’ll compare them to the “other guys” all vying for the customers’ business.
You need to tell a story – a story with multiple twists, surprises, facts, and revelations – that’s delivered in stages and that works from many perspectives. It needs to present details as the buying process moves from research to evaluation and recommendation to decision, and as concerns change among the people involved at each stage: operations, finance, IT, departmental end users, etc.
In other words, the story has to captivate by being all about you (the customer) and how their problems are solved – how a mobile app that connects to the enterprise boosts the buyer’s productivity or how bearings with embedded sensors prevent costly shutdowns of equipment or how global service centers ensure 24-hour availability to maintain multinational operations.
The story might begin with email, then travel to the web, pause for a download that generates requests for more information, such as podcasts, video, graphics or, ultimately, contact with Sales. It could start in print or on TV just as easily, piquing prospects’ curiosity and getting them to take a next step, even if that step is indirect – a tweet, a social link, or a message to a colleague. But the story has to hold their interest because, in 2014, they’ll base their purchasing decisions on the value of the content they receive and request.
So what’s the point? It’s that, in the coming year, content matters more than form. As marketers plan their strategies and tactics, they can’t focus exclusively on brand awareness, preference, lead volume and qualification, and whether they should budget for a Super Bowl spot. They need to set their objectives by first determining “What is the story that will generate the kind of interest that makes our objectives achievable?” If they can perceive themselves the way their customers do, they can communicate in ways that reinforce (or modify) those perceptions and, in the process, create that desire to buy.


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