Predicting the future can be exciting. It can help us plan for what’s ahead and feel better prepared — if we’re right, that is.
That’s the problem with predictions right there.
We’re all mostly terrible at making them, especially in a dynamic field like marketing. So, what’s the point?
Does thinking about the future really help us to be better marketers? Is it really that useful? Or is it just a bunch of smart people showing off what they know and creating more anxiety and worry for other marketers?
A quick Google search for 'marketing predictions for 2020' returned over 1 billion results in less than a second.
With all this noise, do we really need more people guessing what the future looks like? I don't think so.
A few years ago, I heard Kevin Kelly (Futurist, author of The Inevitable) say that "the future happens slowly, then all at once."
In other words, the future that we need to focus on the most is today. The future is already here. Our future is shaped by the choices and the decisions we make today.
So when the marketing team at IMPACT asked me to curate a prediction article for 2020, I considered an alternative approach.
Arguably, the marketing industry is one of the fastest-changing landscapes in business, and therefore, more than ever, we need to take a moment to slow down, to stop, reflect, and remind ourselves what it means to be a great marketer.
There's no better time to do that then at the start of a new year and a new decade.
I reached out to a few people you probably know to get their perspectives on what marketers are forgetting that is not only stopping us from navigating the future but also holding us back from being the best marketers we can be.
Let's read about what they have to say...
1. People make decisions with their guts - Doug Kessler, Creative Director and Co-founder of Velocity
“B2B marketers have missed the memo about how people actually make decisions. A tidal wave of behavioral economics research has proven that we make decisions with our guts (or our hearts for you romantics) and then use our brains to justify our decisions.
We all know this, but B2B marketers still ignore the opportunity to make prospects actually feel something. Instead, we spend all our energy parsing out our rational 'value props' and 'support points' — and then get disappointed when none of it resonates.
Everyone SAYS that we're marketing to 'people first' but everyone still really targets imaginary, decision-making bots.
B2B marketing can be great. It can leap out, grab our prospects by the lapels, and shake them into action.
Or it can just sit there and blather on about value props.
Let's make 2020 the year B2B discovered how to move people.”
2. Understand the why behind the buy - Nancy Harhut, Chief Creative Officer at HBT Marketing
“We forget that we’re dealing with people. That at the other end of our marketing messages are people. Not segments. Not targets. People. And people are messy.
People usually don’t make well thought out, rational decisions. Or run constant if-then algorithms.
No, people default to hardwired behaviors that have been part of us since we became human. And that means marketers need to use emotion, self-interest, a sense of fairness, and other triggers of human behavior in order to get the response we seek.
It’s not enough to surgically serve up the right message at the right time in the right place; we need to remember how to craft that message; how to phrase it and frame it so it has the best chance of connecting with the human it’s intended for.
We need to dig into the why behind the buy, and embrace the fact that very often that ‘why’ is a reflexive response rather than a deliberate decision.”
3. Customers grow your business - Jay Baer, Founder of Convince and Convert and New York Times best-selling author of “Talk Triggers”
“Word of mouth is the oldest form of marketing, and still the most impactful.
If anything, it's more effective than at any other time, because we trust people more than ever, and trust brands and organizations less.
Thus, WHATEVER you're doing in the realm of marketing and CX, find a way to make it differentiated and TALKABLE.
The best way to grow any business is for your customers to grow it for you.
But that only happens if you give them a story to tell.
Customers and prospects discuss different and ignore average. So do something different!”
4. You need a unique and inclusive story - Chris Brogan, New York Times best-selling author and business advisor
“In a world where everyone already owns everything, and where we can buy from anyone, why should they buy from you?
That’s the challenge I work to solve with clients of all sizes.
My answer varies from time to time.
Lately, I feel that the answer involves having a unique and inclusive story that tells the customer “Hey, you’re part of this, too. We’re your people here.” And then delivering that story in ways that people can see it and connect with it.
That’s what I feel we need most in 2020.”
5. Be niche or broad, but not in the middle - Ryan Hanley, Sales & Marketing Strategist and author of “Content Warfare”
“You either have to be the best at one thing or the best at being everywhere; there is no middle ground.
You either focus on absolutely positively just crushing one aspect of marketing, one media. This means you’re killing video, you’re crushing a podcast, you have the best written content, or you’re the best at LinkedIn, Twitter, or whatever.
Or, you have to invest in and over index on being everywhere; chopping your content up, going long form, cutting down the vignettes, like following Gary Vee’s content strategy.
I really think success comes from the extremes — super niche, super focused and being that person for that one thing, or you have to go big, broad and create systems and processes to be everywhere. Tiptoeing in the middle ground is where everyone flounders and ultimately fails.”
6. Your homepage is the front of your house - Andy Crestodina, Co-founder of Orbit Media and author of "Content Chemistry"
“I've got a reminder for you. Instead of going to the garage and tinkering with some fancy gizmo, look at the front of your house.
I think people are forgetting what their homepage looks like. Go to your homepage, search for your brand, click around.
Are you clearly saying what you do? Is it specific? Is it out of date? Is it confusing? Is it answering the top question for your visitor, like what are you in business to do? Is it highlighting your value proposition?
Go back, work hard, and write that eight word version of what your company does and make sure that's at the top of your homepage.
It's going to have higher value than the fanciest chat bot you can build. I really think that's one of the greatest things that people are missing.”
7. Define what success means for you - Mari Smith, Premier Facebook Marketing Expert, Social Media Thought Leader, Author “The New Relationship Marketing”
“Only YOU get to define what success means for your business.
You set your own goals and milestones. You decide what metrics are important to measure. Do like counts really move the needle for you? Or, are DMs and email signups a better metric for you?
Do not allow pressure from social channels and peers to sway you from your own success markers.
Social media platforms can push us to compare and compete on a regular basis. Scrolling through posts in our news feeds published by our friends, peers, customers, and competitors can make us feel like we’re not accomplishing enough.
We can feel off track with our business (and life) goals. Most social channels are actually intentionally created to psychologically trigger us to push harder, post more, and spend as much time on their platforms as possible.
We’ve all seen the constant notifications from Facebook, “This post is performing better than 95% of all your other posts. Give us some money and we’ll get you even more reach.”
Before you knee-jerk react, check back in with your own definition of success and stay on course.”
8. It’s not about you - Ian Altman, best-selling author of “Same Side Selling”
“The greatest thing that marketers and sellers both can easily forget is that what we offer is not about our features and definitely is never about ‘us.’
Rather, we need to focus on what challenges we solve for our clients and why they might need our help.
When we have a mutual understanding of the client's problem we are trying to solve together and what success looks like, then we build trust, remove friction, and shift the focus from price to value.”
9. Collaboration is key - Brian Fanzo, Digital futurist and Keynote Speaker
“When I look at marketers today, I think we're forgetting about the art of collaboration.
Collaboration within our marketing is what makes influencer marketing successful. It's what makes employee advocacy successful. It's what makes great sales teams.
If you look at great creators and great leaders today, collaboration has been the reason they've become successful, even though some might not admit that.
It's our job as marketers to make marketing not a ‘department job,’ but rather something everyone in the company, even those outside of the company, our customers, want to be a part of....
How can we collaborate with other brands? Better yet, how can we collaborate with other departments on what they're doing?
Why not work with the product team? Why not work with the sales team? Why not work with human resources and collaborate on content?
We need to collaborate on ways that you can shrink that distance between ourselves and our consumers.”
10. Go above and beyond -Kerry O'Shea Gorgone, Learning Designer and host of the Marketing Smarts podcast at MarketingProfs
“In the search for revenue attribution and ROI, we’ve taken our focus off serving our customers. The question I hear echoing anytime a business does something amazing for a customer is “but is that sustainable?”
Not everything you do has to be sustainable. Blowing someone’s mind every once in a while is completely worthwhile, even if you can’t do that specific thing for every customer.
If you see an opportunity to go above and beyond for someone, do it, sustainability be damned.
"As marketers we focus heavily on all of the new shiny objects that get thrown at us on a daily basis.
In the process, I think the biggest thing we leave by the wayside is personal relationships — the networking aspect of it all.
I think that's the fundamental thread of marketing — that human interrelationship, and we don't do that often enough.
We live too much in that virtual world.
We are still human beings, and we need to go ‘analog’ sometimes and say, "I'm here for you. I understand your problems. I not only empathize, but I'm compassionate towards them so I can take action and help you."
Say "Hey, let's just have a cup of coffee."
Building a relationship with a client or our teammates is crucial and building a long-term relationship is much more important than perhaps chasing that conversion ratio — increasing 1 to 2% on the CTR.
The results get lost if we don't build those important relationships.
As marketers we lead with our hearts, and if we're doing the right job that should continue to prioritize human interaction."
12. Buyer fear is powerful - Marcus Sheridan, Author of They Ask, You Answer and Partner at IMPACT
“Most marketers still have not tapped into buyer “fear” nearly as well as they should have, and this continues to be a problem.
And when I say fear, I’m talking about the things buyers are very specifically afraid of during the buying and decision making process — their doubts, concerns, worries, etc.
Instead of ignoring these fears, great marketers, and businesses, should lean into them.
If you look at almost every industry that has been turned on its head in recent years—outside of new technology—it’s generally because someone figured out how to tap into the “fear” of the buyer, and either lessen it, or even eliminate it. (i.e. free returns, 100% money back guarantees, two-way reviews [Uber], etc.)”
13. Build the foundations for success - Ron Tite, Founder at Church+State, author of "Think Do Say"
“As a writer and creative director, I've seen it all.
I created work through the glory years of TV and print, the transition to digital, the first dot com boom, the world of social media, and now into mobile, AI, big data, and more.
Through all of it, the marketers who chase the latest and greatest tactics are usually the ones who are trying to game the system. They're trying to take a shortcut to success that is conveniently defined by the vanity metrics associated with new platforms.
Marketers need to build brands. Not temporary brands. Not tactic-exclusive brands. Not data-friendly brands.
If you're not building a brand for the long term, you're not marketing. You're perfecting tactics. Those brands don't survive and neither do you. Those marketers don't have careers, they have jobs.
Yes, explore. Yes, innovate. Yes, experiment. But let's not forget that brands are built on foundations.
As a marketer, so are you.”
14. Slow down and focus - Ann Handley, Head of Content at MarketingProfs, author of “Everybody Writes”
We have a tendency to overcomplicate marketing. I get it — marketing is increasingly crowded (new tools! more platforms!) and complex (data! data! more data!) and everyone thinks they can market better than the actual marketing department.
But in 2020, the most successful marketing programs (and marketers) are committed to slowing down and focusing:
What does our customer need that only we can provide consistently over time?
What story can only we tell that matters to our audience?
How do we share that narrative in a way that's relatable?
So stupid simple. So basic. So effective.
How are we consistently and slowly building trust and growing affinity with our prospects/customers?...
I've learned this lesson again and again throughout my career. I learned it again over the past two years, through growing my own personal newsletter from less than 3,000 subscribers in 2018 to 24,000 today. (A 700% increase.)
That newsletter has grown so steadily and so well in part because I focus on delivery every other week. I obsess on the quality to make sure:
It’s what the audience needs from me (trust) and
I’m delivering it a way that could only come from me (affinity)
If you're a marketer, be a maker. Make something that keeps you close to your audience, and the joy and nuanced learning you get from making something just for them.”
15. The most human content wins - Liz Moorehead, Director of Web and Interactive Content at IMPACT
"What does it really mean when we say we are in the business of building trust?
It doesn't matter what industry you're in, what size your company is, what you sell, what you don't sell, whether that's a service or a product — we are all in the business of building trust with our audiences and with our prospective buyers….
Unfortunately, while a lot of us marketers walk around and say, "We need to build trust, we need to do this, we need to answer all of the questions that our buyers are asking as thoroughly and honestly as possible,” we forget to do so in a way that's human.
It's not enough to answer questions as honestly and thoroughly as possible. You have to do so in a way that is undeniably you.
Imagine and think about the last time that you sat down to write a blog article for work.
I guarantee you there was this little moment where you sat down, you took a breath, and then you stiffened your whole body up as if you were putting on an invisible suit where like, well, now I need to be Liz the writer, not just Liz, the person who knows the answer.
Everything is so scripted and stiff and stale and robotic and inhuman.
My hope for 2020 is that people start injecting more of their personality and their thoughts and their idiosyncrasies and their quirks and their stories and their humanity into their videos, into their podcasts, into their blog articles, because that's the secret sauce that nobody ever talks about.
Of course, answer their questions, but do so in a way that makes them not forget what the answer was and who was the entity person or company who gave it to them.”
I think the biggest thing we need to be reminded of is that marketing must add value or get the hell out of the way. The best storytellers are often not in marketing or the c-suite.
The point is to elevate the best stories and storytellers wherever they are — even with partners and customers or other parts of the company.
Marketing must find and elevate important human stories, not control and stifle them. We need to remember this.
17. Pain is the enemy of long-term change - Tamsen Webster, Message Strategist, Idea Whisperer
“Marketing is all about changing thinking and behavior.
Good marketing is about making those changes permanent, or at least as long-lasting as possible. The problem is many, if not most, focus on division between what people currently have and what we, marketers, think they should have.
Worse still, we often frame their current choices and behavior in terms of being "wrong," or even stupid, even if only by implication.
People don't like to feel stupid. A fundamental human need is to be seen as smart, capable, and good.
In the short-term, people may act to alleviate that brief pain, but research shows that, over time, actions motivated by pain are short-lived.
People start to doubt them (buyer's remorse), and often start to blame the person or company that made them feel stupid or wrong in the first place... and thus we get customer churn, lack of loyalty, etc.
In other words, people's own belief that they are smart, capable, and good is stronger than any marketing message that says otherwise.
So, what to do instead? Instead of trying to change people's wants and beliefs, validate them.
We need to instill confidence in people's decisions, but not based on why we think they should act, but on the reasons they would, in both the short-and long term.
That means reinforcing why people's current actions make sense (even if they are misguided), presenting new behaviors through a frame that's consistent with their current one, and reinforcing those new frames with concepts that customers already agree are true.”
18. Know what your brand stands for - Katie Martell, creator of the forthcoming documentary and book “Pandermonium”
“Buyers don't want a relationship with you. How could they, when every corner of B2B is being commoditized with an impossible variety of vendors?
When they do want a relationship, a majority site shared values as the primary reason. (Like a good marriage.)
But, most B2B firms do not make their values clear.
In fact, in an age when we can reach anyone on any channel with a personalized offer, brands make the mistake of operating under the impression that maybe, if buyers keep seeing their brand, they won’t notice they have nothing new to add to the conversation.
We need to make our brand values and what we believe crystal clear.
It's not only the fastest way to connect with B2B buyers at a deeper level, it's the only way to earn their trust.
The timeless words of creative director Bill Bernbach reign truer than ever today: "If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you, and nobody for you."
What does your brand stand for?”
19. Align technology with business goals - Samantha Stone, author of "Unleash Possible"
“Over the years marketers have gained access to new forms of analytics, data repositories have become richer, and we have the ability to track incredible levels of detail about our interactions with buyers without requiring technical expertise.
While powerful, this new level of measurement capabilities can overwhelm us with details that make it difficult to see the big picture. One consequence of this has been the over-adoption of marketing technology leading to a dismal usage of what we have paid to license.
In fact, I spoke with a marketing operations leader recently who recently joined a new organization. Within a week, they surfaced more than $100,000 of technology spend that was heavily underutilized by the company.
It's a healthy reminder that instead of striving simply for ROI on the tools we purchase, we should be striving for maximum value, using it as much and as widely as possible.
I hope to see us return to a time when our technology investments were more closely aligned with our business goals."
20. Know your customer better - Heidi Cohen, Chief Content Officer at Actionable Marketing Guide
"Beyond giving lip service to being customer-centric, as marketers, we still forget that we must truly understand the behavior of our audience and customers.
And this isn’t just another marketing exercise. Rather, we need first-hand information to appreciate the “why” behind our customer’s buying decisions:
Talk to your audience and your customers directly. Use every opportunity to gather input and insights from readers and prospects.
Get leadership buy-in to integrate marketing across the organization to support improved customer on-boarding and community building.
Clean and improve organizational data to support the use of AI and to meet increased demand for data privacy and security. Where appropriate, create digital twins to support segmentation, personalization and advertising."
It’s all about the people
It’s difficult to not get distracted by the newest insight tools for understanding buyer behavior, and the latest tactics for building audiences and increasing reach.
And at a time when the largest marketing organizations (Facebook, Google, etc.) are in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, it’s even more difficult to stick to your values, do the right thing, and be an honest and honorable marketer — but it is possible.
After reading these insights from some of the best marketers in the world today, it’s clear that to be a great marketer now and into the future, it’s all about people.
From collaborating with the people we work with in our organizations to empathizing with our buyers, to developing deeper relationships with our peers.
Great marketers today work on getting close to their buyers, emotionally connecting with their buyers, and ultimately understanding their buyers better than anyone else in their industry.
My hope is that at least a few of the insights in this article resonated with you, helped you to see that you are doing the right thing and gave you permission to continue being a great marketer.