Three Things Marketing Needs To Learn To Do In 2010

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The end of the year is when the pundits make their predictions for the upcoming year. I’m terrible at making predictions, so I’m going to stick with prescription, instead. Here are three things marketers need to learn to do (better) in 2010:

1. Learn how to have a conversation. The popularity of social media has helped to highlight one of marketing’s big shortcomings: Marketing doesn’t know how to have a conversation with a customer. News of the latest deals or new branch/store openings aren’t part of the “conversations” I typically have, are they part of yours? Reality is that marketing doesn’t really know how to conversation with customers and prospects, because they’ve never done it before. For 2010, I’m hoping marketing will learn how to have a conversation instead of just talking about how important conversations are.

2. Learn how to sense and respond. Listening platforms have evolved, but marketers still lack a broader capability in which those tools are used: The ability to sense where a customer or prospect is in the customer lifecycle, and how to respond with the most appropriate offer, message, or guidance. Simply recognizing that the most appropriate response to a customer/prospect isn’t an offer would be a major step for many firms. Marketing has focused on “inbound marketing” over the past few years, but so much of that focus has simply been linking outbound marketing efforts to inbound contacts. A good step, but not enough. [Update: Here’s an example of what I’m talking about]

3. Learn how to become a magnet. Deliver magazine recently published a list of  marketing trends for 2010, two of which were targeting and prospecting. These marketing tactics are basically about finding needles in haystacks. They characterize the old world of marketing: Go out and find people who might become customers, hit them upside the head with the “right message at the right time” and drag them back to your cave and sell them more stuff. A few months ago I was having coffee with one of the top innovators in banking — William Azaroff —  talking about marketing stuff, and we agreed that marketing’s goal should be to become a magnet. Rather than spending its time hunting to find people who might want to become customers, marketing should help make the firm a magnet that draws people in. I’m not saying that marketers should stop targeting and prospecting — I’m saying that there’s something else it needs to do.

I imagine that there will be marketers who will read this, scoff, and think “marketing needs to grow the business and improve the return on its marketing dollars.” Sorry for the sports analogy, but that’s like the head coach of a sports team saying “we need to win more games.” That’s not what they need to “do” — that’s the desired outcome.

It’s not sexy, but marketing needs to start thinking (and doing) more about its competencies, capabilities, and processes. Those that do will be rewarded with a higher marketing ROI. (I hope).

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