A Marketing Strategy Won’t Help You Predict the Future

Marketing Strategy

Market well, market now. It still amazes me to see that most people treat marketing as some kind of academic set of rules and processes that have been laid out on a sacred document, never to be changed for all of eternity.

Enroll yourself on any online marketing course and you’ll quickly see what I’m saying.

SWOT analyses, the 7 Ps of marketing, content, SEO, social media, email, PPC.

Job done, that’s it. Spend the next fortnight studying each one of the above and you might as well have a major in business marketing.

But let’s be realistic here… that’s basic. If we want to be successful in marketing our beloved brain child then surely we have to go beyond the rookie stuff?

Too Many Variables to Think Long-Term

The truth is, the only reason people write so much about these things is because the majority of marketing is completely variable.

It’s so variable in fact, it’s tough for people to even define what marketing is these days, let alone tell others how to do it.

As human beings we love structure. We want to know what works and what doesn’t and so we set rules, or ‘industry standards’ for everything we do.

But here’s the trick, it’s the people who learn to break the rules that do something truly remarkable.

Things can change in the blink of an eye and the moment us marketers – yes, you are a marketer whether you like it or not – become complacent with what we are doing, we quickly begin to lose grip of it all.

The traditional approach to digital marketing: Perform a SWOT analysis, define your 7 Ps and implement a short-term, medium-term and long-term marketing plan using content, social media, PPC and email.

The right approach to digital marketing: Learn the traditional (basic) stuff as quickly as possible so that you can move beyond it to create a brand that people love engaging with – something unexpected that people want to tell their friends about.

This may sound scary to you. But it’s simple. Just change your approach and you’ll beat the majority.

This isn’t a marathon. It’s a boxing match and the rounds just keep coming. You’ve got to be light on your toes, and prepared to make fast decisions in order to maintain your remarkability.


Short, Medium or Long-Term Marketing Strategies

As marketing is growing and expanding, seemingly filling the gaps in everything we do, it has become a creature with a mind of its own.

Marketing is comparable to the survival instinct of any living, breathing animal on this planet. Its objective is not simply to follow what used to work for its ancestors. That’s the job of evolution. The survival instinct is there to allow the creature to avoid danger and thrive to the best of its ability in any environment. It is adaptable and always ready to help the animal make quick, important decisions for optimal survival.

Neither instinct nor marketing follow a structure. They can often be predictable, but they do not have set rules.

That analogy kind of worked right?

Look, the point is: There is no such thing as a long term marketing strategy!

They simply exist to give marketing agencies the excuse to charge large amounts of money to companies who feel as though it looks professional to have the next 36 months planned out.

But let me ask you:

Do you know what the latest marketing channels will be 36 months from now? Of course not!

Who knows what new social media platform people will be using? Who knows what app will be popular? Who even knows what the economy will look like?

Don’t Believe Anyone Who Tells You They Can Predict the Future

Anyone who tells you they do know all the answers to the future of marketing may seem very clever, but in reality all they’re doing is guessing. And guessing is a game of odds – heck, it might was well be called gambling.

A great example of this false illusion of people predicting the future is in investing. The fact is, thousands of hard working citizens of the world continue to use mutual investment funds to grow their wealth. They pay extremely high maintenance fees just to have their money managed by a professional fortune teller.

But funnily enough, 85% of all mutual funds fail to beat the market.

Therefore, the large majority of these so called ‘professionals’ cannot, in fact, predict the future.

So tell me – do you think it makes sense to plan the best way for your company to survive in a year or two-years time?

If you’ve understood anything from this blog post then clearly, it does not.

History Says it All

Look at the past 150 years of marketing. At first that might sound like a long time but in the grand scheme of things it’s really not that much at all.

– Before the 20th century, marketing was simple. All it really came down to was print advertising, billboards and sponsorships. Up until the 1900s, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that marketing was a synonym for advertising.

– Then came the birth of the radio. All of a sudden brands had a new media through which to reach their market. Marketers now had a new sense to play around with – sound. Jingles and catchphrases gave people something to remember a brand by.

– It was 50 years before marketers would have to adjust their practices to the next big change – the television. By the 1950s televisions were becoming common houshold items and advertising spend was in the millions.

– It would be just 40 years before the next marketing medium – the Internet. It doesn’t need pointing out that this was the real game changer.

– Another 10 years and we had Google.

– Then blogs.

– Then social media.

– Then apps, podcasts, webinars.

You see where this is going right?

The change is evidently speeding up and it’s our job not only to realise that, but to take advantage of it.

Marketers have never had it easier with all the available tools we have these days. There’s no longer the need to have a multi-million dollar budget to market well.

But with so many options, it’s never been more important to sift through the crap to find exactly what works for each unique situation.

Time to Take it Personally

I strongly believe that all industries are slowly moving toward a more personalised approach in everything they do.

It’s not a concious decision we’re making. It’s actually something we’re being forced to do in order to be remarkable.

You see, the internet has broken down the barrier to entry for almost all industries. Now it’s anyones game.

The result? A saturated market of people doing fairly ‘normal’ things.

The people have already realised this are niching down their audience. This is somethng you read about all over the internet.

But there’s something else that people are doing to overcome this market saturation: Personalising.

We’re seeing it pop up all over the place. Companies offer their clients a custom product. Something that’s just right for them, not everyone else.

As consumers, we no longer have to settle for ‘okay’. We have a vast amount of choice and so we will always go for the option that’s most suited to us.

One of the industries where we can see this most clearly is in healthcare. Studies from recent years have shown that different people with the same illnesses need to be treated in different ways, depending on a whole array of factors.

The private health clinics that realise this are quietly making fortunes.

This same approach can be taken with the way we market. You can’t just follow a standard set of rules and expect to succeed.

I say this a lot, but no one gives a damn about a good product and fantastic customer service any more. It’s a given. You can even extend that to social media, content and PPC. It’s all basic. It’s expected, not remarkable.

Focus on More Important Things

From everything we’ve explored in this blog post, it seems clear that long-term planning doesn’t really make sense any more.

Yet as I search around on the internet, I countinuously find ridiculous articles telling people to sit down and plan on the next 5 years of their business.

Check out this opening paragraph from an article the business section on chron.com:

“A marketing plan establishes marketing goals and actions needed to meet those goals. An effective marketing plan lists short-term, medium-term and long-term goals and strategies. Traditionally, goals and actions three to five years in the future make up the long-term plan, while those for a year or less make up short-term plans. Thus, medium-term plans would include goals and actions from 12 to 36 months from now, depending upon your long-term plan. However, this varies depending upon your business and industry.”
– via smallbusiness.chron.com

What!? A long-term plan should cover the next five years! And probably more alarming, a short-term plan should aparently cover 12 whole months.

I don’t think this really needs pointing out at this stage, but how the hell can anyone know what will have happened to all of the thousands of marketing variables in five years time? Or more importantly, what new ones will have been created.

Heck, I don’t even know where I’ll be living in five years, let alone how to market my business.

Virtual reality anyone? I hope it’s in you 5-year plan.

Don’t Plan for the Long Term, Become a Visionary

There’s a difference between planning your future and having a vision for your future. The former is impossible to do [well] and the later is what drives all the short-term planning you do.

It’s important to realise this because often people expect rewards far sooner than they should. We’ve all been there.

We work our arses off (you must read that with a posh British accent) and invest all of our money in a big new idea that we expect to start paying off within just a few months. Six months down the line, we’re exhausted, completely broke, and wondering how on earth we can carry on. If you haven’t been there yet, it’s probably going to happen sooner or later.

Our greed causes us to lose sight of the bigger picture, that is life. Slow and steady wins the race as they say.

Hands up if this has happened to you at some point. You had an idea for a blog, a product or a service, but you knew it would probably take you about 3 years to reach success with it and so you decided not to do it or you gave up in the first few months. Then, 3 years down the line you’re kicking yourself for not having thought of the long-term vision, saying, “if only.”

We do this with investing as well. The wealthiest people tend to be those who saw the bigger picture and were willing to sacrifice short-term wins, for long-term success.

So many of us in our twenties and thirties avoid investing in a retirement fund because we want to make money now. All of a sudden, 50 will be sneaking up on us and we’ll have a mad dash for the finish line.



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