What is a marketer in 2013? It's a question that has started to perplex me more and more as we roll further into the hyper-connected world. The standard definition has us believe that it's someone that who promotes or exchanges goods or services for money. That promotion comes from ads or outreach that drives people through the sales funnel from consideration to evaluation to purchase. Even the most modern marketers then see the value in fostering advocacy beyond that to help them build brands and drive incremental sales.
There is a problem with this definition. The so-called modern marketer actually needs to be a combination of people in an organization rather than just one type of person. Often we're forgetting how to navigate in human society and starting to believe brand books rather than actual insight. If an insight conflicts with what you're doing then you need to change course and adapt to fight on the digital frontlines in new and creative ways. It'd like 'agile' development. Marketing needs to be iterative and reactive to consumers (and users' needs). For companies to survive, three types of people in your organization need to change to help 'market' what you do effectively today:
- Designers need to get savvy with the infrastructure of distribution. Great design is nothing with no one looking at it. Building a desirable product not only comes from great need-based design but also from knowing how a product will best attract through marketing communications, on distribution platforms and via influencers.
- Product Developers (software or otherwise) need to get in touch with their human side and not only deliver something that works but something that works for people. They also need to have the connective skills that both designers and marketers have as well.
- Marketers should learn to work more effectively with digital platforms, media and even have the ability to code to allow for better and faster integration. This knowledge will also act as a contribution to whatever product is being developed.
More importantly, everyone needs to master the art of storytelling. This is about the craft of connection with human needs and wants on all fronts. Organizations often silo functions and miss the holistic way that product needs to connect with people.
All three types of people need to meet and listen to each other thus leading to a better product as well. Siloed thinking needs to be eradicated. If anyone in the mix is not on board then they will be toxic for your organization so they either need to change or leave.
Easier said than done, right? To enable this change in approach and organizational culture then designers, developers and marketers need a common ground and a framework so that they can do the best jobs they can and they all need to be in the process from day one as well:
- Build from the power of family love and respect. Team togetherness will lead to greatness. Seems simple but organisations need to ensure that they hire the right people no matter what. This is where every organisation should be start.
- Rigorous Strategic planning. Good planning, using data and experience, and average execution will work better than gut feel or selective planning and a good execution. If you can find the space you can truly own then this is the first step for success. Everyone has a duty to ask the hard, serious and immovable questions -- will people care? Will society change for the better? A solid and evolving strategy will make for a solid product.
- Product fluidity. A product that works for people today may need to change over a 12-month period. Constant research that drives insight change, prototyping and incremental releases will result in a better user experience, more delivered values and a higher likelihood for advocacy. This is when we need to embrace 'short design' with a vision of what the product is fundamentally going to deliver (see the immovable questions above).
- Execute with compassion, empathy, truth, bravery and no compromise (even when the going gets tough). Be human, be scared and moreover everyone needs to be driven to deliver the vision of the company. We all know when something feels right. The trouble is that sometimes Designers, Developers and Marketers deliver something that just makes no sense and they say nothing. This has to change and honesty without fear must be the mantra,
Some of the most progressive and successful companies in the world follow similar principles. Just look at the continual successes of Virgin, Google, Apple, Amazon, Oracle, Twitter, Linkedin, Rovio, Ikea and others. They all follow a framework like this.
If you're a leader in business and you're reading this and you're thinking that this is easier said than done then you are right. However you didn't go into business expecting things to drop into your lap, you went in trying to make a difference. The world has changed and you need to help change people across your organisation to think and act differently and work together. Take a deep breath, jump in and never stop making the world a better place.