Some days it may seem like the weather forecast came from gazing into a crystal ball. In fact, being able to forecast the weather is the single most important reason for the existence of meteorology as a science. Forecasting is the process of making predictions of the future based on past and present data and analysis of trends. Despite being fraught with risk and uncertainty, forecasting is as important in business as it is in the weather. Business depends on forecasts for financial and staff planning and prioritizing investments and initiatives.
Forecasts have a logic to them and there are a variety of approaches to forecasting. The purpose of your forecast and the relationship between the variables guides your approach. There are three common forecast methods.
- Qualitative techniques (such as using expert opinions),
- Time series analysis and projection (primarily based on patterns and relies on historical data), and
- Causal models (takes relationships between systems into account and also relies on historical data).
As we head into the planning season, it might help to have a forecast on what is on the horizon that might affect how you allocate your Marketing budgets. With that in mind, we’ve identified categories of initiatives across three timelines to consider in your planning: now, new, and next.
The Current Forecast: Now
The near term, these current patterns will persist:
- Accountability continues to dominate. Marketing today is being expected to operate like any other part of the business, aligned to revenue targets and accountable for contributing the bottom line.
- Customer-centricity is in full force. You also know that customer experience is now part of marketing’s and the business’ daily vocabulary. If you haven’t yet, then it’s time to create a customer experience model. With the advent of new tools, every marketing organization can create and track the buyer’s journey and match relevant content, touchpoints and channels to this journey.
- Personalization and Relationship Marketing come together. Don Peppers and Martha Rogers Ph.D. started the customer revolution in the early 1990s with their book, The One to One Future, which focused on customer preferences, relationships and relevance in order to increase customer value. Despite it being 20 plus years later, the ability to deliver on relationship marketing continues to be elusive for many companies. The purpose of relationship marketing is to create long-term customer engagement and more loyalty. The end-to-end customer experience affects customer engagement and loyalty. Personalized, data-driven marketing is at the heart of customer engagement. To deliver personalized messages you will need context. Context requires data.
- Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) really is more than a buzz phrase. The American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) introduced the concept of IMC the early 1990s. Marketers are returning to this long established proven concept that channels (social, email, mobile, events and so on), content and medium (video, email, print) are all part of the mix in supporting customer engagement. This will require marketers to think more strategically and connect the activities of marketing to the outcomes of the business.
- Activation extends beyond automation. Marketing automation is a $5.5 Billion industry with its roots in lead generation and prospect nurturing. The marketing technology stack has expanded well beyond these. No marketing organization today can survive, let along thrive, without systems, tools, and processes to both do the work of marketing and run the business of marketing.
- Insights, not just data, is expected. CEOs, COOs, and every other influencer in the C-suite expects you to be able to use data and derive insights from the data to make both strategic and tactical investment decisions. Marketers need to know how to mine both structured and unstructured (big data) and employ analytics. With the new tools that make data mining and management easier, you will no longer be able to hide behind lack of money or skills.
- Account-based marketing (ABM) proves that renaming does work. As a long-time marketer, we applied the concept of Account-based Marketing as far back as the 80’s. Of course it wasn’t called that, it was called something like Strategic Account Marketing, where you had a plan of action (PIA) for engaging with different roles and levels of authority within an account. Without a doubt, ABM has been, and will continue to be, avidly embraced. It worked back then, why not now?
Your Near-Term Forecast: Next
The novelist William Gibson once observed: “The future’s already arrived. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.” Many forecasts, like the weather, rely on looking somewhat backwards in time to see the future. By looking at “Now” we can get a glimpse of what is right around the corner.
- High Pressure Moving In for Marketing Performance Management (MPM). The continued move for Marketing to be more scientific, to take a more quantifiable approach, to exploit data for better analysis and insight, to deliver on customer-centricity, and to demonstrate ROI, will require complete alignment between Marketing and the business. Not Sales and Marketing, but Marketing and the Business. The focus will move from output metrics such as views, comments, shares, to more outcome metrics such as brand preference, customer value, share of wallet to define and measure Marketing success. This will mean that every marketer from the CMO on will be held accountable for measuring their contribution, impact and value in terms of business results. Companies will begin to invest in MPM systems to planning, budgeting and measurement.
- It will be the Season of Omni-Chanel Marketing. Those marketers who excel at IMC will be able to more easily transition to Omni-Chanel Marketing in order to “provide a seamless experience, regardless of channel or device.”
- Interactive Marketing Moves into Prime Time. Static content is already giving way to more interactive and smart content designed to increase engagement. Interactive marketing goes hand in hand with real-time marketing. Improving engagement requires being able to interact at the point and time of engagement. Mobile and location-based technology will enable marketing to connect and engage with customers in the moment. And vice versa. With social media, individual customers are able to comment, share, rate, and reply in real time from anywhere, increasing opportunities for personalized interaction.
- Middleware Comes to the MarTech Stack. As Marketing increases its use of technology the need for middleware (that allows different marketing technologies to work together) will also increase.
- New Possibilities for Search: Advances in search capabilities will impact how you approach optimizing your content and your website.
- Past the Dawn of Predictive Marketing. Early adopters have already embraced predictive marketing systems. New tools and competitive pressure will strongly motivate more marketers to accelerate their predictive marketing capabilities.
- Security and Protection. Being immersed in customer data brings responsibility for that data. Marketers will need to become extremely versed in cyber security and data protection.
The Long-Range Forecast: Just Over the Rainbow
As we all know, weather is not 100% predictable. The further out, the higher the chances for a change in the long-term forecast. Keep that in mind as you explore these up and coming trends.
- Structures and skills around the customer. The focus on the customer experience and journey has ripples beyond content, channels, and touchpoints. It has the potential to affect organizational structure. Forward thinking companies will experiment and potentially even institutionalize the structure of the organization around the customer experience, creating hybrid organizations whose mission and charter is focused on a particular aspect of the customer experience.
- Cognitive technologies will help take companies to a new level of optimizing the marketing mix across the customer journey.
- Already potentially the “next shiny toy” Marketing jumps onto the Internet of Things (IoT) . IoT will become the next major play marketers will use to engage customers.
- The appetite for apps is unabated. Messaging apps, email apps, contact management apps, analytics apps, the potential for Marketing apps will be only limited by the imagination.
How to Prepare for Next and New
Weather forecasts help you decide whether to pack your umbrella, or your swim suit, or both. We hope this marketing forecast will help you plan effectively for personal and team development. Visit our Learning Center for a wealth of complimentary resources designed to help you prepare for the future. The Learning Center also includes resources designed to help you develop an agile marketing organization that is able to successfully adapt to the accelerated rate of customer expectations, and the explosion of marketing data and technology.