Editor's note: The following is a guest post from Christopher Dean, CEO of consumer engagement platform Swrve.
In 2018, there clearly isn't a huge market for plague doctors, phrenologists or town criers. But what are the skills and roles that are in demand right now? And what are the skills particularly suited to those organizations playing in what we might call a "mobile-first world?"
These thoughts were initially prompted by this piece in noting the trend in publishing to recruit from e-commerce businesses. The reasons for that are obvious enough. As the author notes: "Competing for consumer dollars today requires skills that are different from those of the traditional circulation department of the past." And the people who have those skills have been putting them to good use encouraging digital users to spend their hard-earned money. What exactly they spent their dollars on wasn't the point: the skills are transferable.
So far, so simple. But then along came mobile, and things changed all over again. That isn't to say that the core tenets of marketing or selling are now redundant. Far from it. Most have remained unchanged since "Ye five principles of clofing the deale" rolled off Gutenberg's press sometime around 1450. But despite that, it also remains true that some of the skills and attitudes that have served marketers well in recent years are no longer so helpful.
Why is that? Well, you could argue that aside from being just another device, mobile has fundamentally changed the way consumers and brands interact in two broad ways:
- Mobile is an active technology. I pick up my phone when I want to do something. On that basis, I am less tolerant of interruption or of brands interposing themselves with irrelevant messages between myself and my end goal.
- Mobile brings significant new amounts of data to the party. The digital revolution gave us unprecedented insight into individual users. Mobile provides location data, and as a result, helps us know not just the individual but also the environment they're in at any given time.
Together these two factors mean some of our old approaches and skills are no longer relevant.
What the mobile marketer looks like (and doesn't look like)
Until now, all marketing (and in a broader sense, all interactions with customers or potential customers) has fundamentally relied on a series of approximations. For example: "Married women with children, in a particular social class, and aged 26-44, are most likely to buy my product. A large percentage of this audience reads a particular newspaper, so I will buy print advertising in that newspaper."
Brand marketing worked like that for a long time. In fact, it still does. But as the amount of available information grows, the size of the target audience that we must operate against becomes smaller and smaller. At a certain point, it approaches one. Fundamentally that changes the entire nature of the challenge.
The active nature of mobile also changes the game. Historically, it's not unreasonable to argue that much of marketing consisted of finding things a target audience liked to do and getting the brand in between them and it. What else is a commercial break during a popular TV show? That approach no longer works either on mobile.
Given all that, what skills — or perhaps more accurately, what attitudes — should a mobile marketer have in 2018 and beyond? Here's three that spring to mind:
- An ability to consider and handle data at the granular level. As mentioned above, it's deeply ingrained in many marketing professionals to think in terms of segments and audiences. But that's no longer necessary. Making the most of the vast amount of data available to us means a commitment to understanding each individual as an individual and constructing our activity accordingly. It also means, of course, being comfortable working with data from multiple channels and seeing the signal amid a lot of noise.
- A commitment to "moments" rather than "campaigns." Context is everything in modern marketing. Everyone wants an umbrella when they are caught in the rain, but nobody wants one on a sunny day. Success means thinking in terms of what can be done for each individual in the moment and in terms of their environment, rather than what I feel like selling today. The latter approach just irritates and alienates potential customers, and the former can help to build relationships based on being there to help at the right time.
- A focus on the user, not the channel. To date, marketers have tended to think about channels first and customers second. How many times have we met someone who introduced themselves as "an email marketer" or "a media buyer?" Today, those channels are breaking down as the multiple devices that an individual uses each day become more closely related. What is a TV in 2018, for example? Defining ourselves by channel inevitably leads to the "I have a hammer, therefore, every problem is a nail" issue. Or to put it another way, what do you think a self-defined email marketer does when they need to talk to a customer? Instead, understand what interaction is required first, and only then consider what channel is appropriate to use.