To every time there is a purpose, and in a similar way of looking at things there isn’t a huge market for plague doctors, phrenologists or town criers in the year 2018. 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’ (by which we mean all of them)?
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 Lucia Moses, 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 browsers, users (people, in other words) to spend their hard earned money. What exactly they spent that 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 of them have remained unchanged since “Ye five principles of clofing the deale” rolled off Gutenburg’s press sometime around 1450. But despite that incontrovertible fact, 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, I would argue that far from being just one more technology, mobile has fundamentally changed the way consumers and brands interact, in two broad ways:
1. Fundamentally, 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.
2. 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 happen to be within at any given moment in time.
Together these two factors mean some of our old approaches (and old skills) are no longer relevant. Let’s explore that in a little more detail.
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. To give one example, “I believe that married women with children, in a particular social class, and aged 26-44, are most likely to buy my product. I believe that a large percentage of this particular audience read 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 information we have available to us as marketers becomes larger and larger, the size of the target audience that we must operate against becomes smaller and smaller. At a certain point, it approaches 1. Fundamentally that changes the nature of the challenge entirely.
The active nature of mobile also changes things. Taking the historical view again, it isn’t unreasonable to argue that to date an awful lot of marketing consists of finding things our target audience liked to do and getting the brand in between them and it. What else is a commercial break during a popular television show? That approach no longer works either on mobile.
So 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:
1. An ability to handle (and think about) data at the granular level. As mentioned above, it is deeply ingrained in many marketing professionals to think in terms of segments and audiences. But that is 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 in amongst a lot of noise.
2. A commitment to ‘moments’ rather than ‘campaigns’. Context is everything in modern marketing. Everyone wants an umbrella when they are caught in the rain, 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 want to sell today. The latter approach just irritates and alienates potential customers, the former helps build relationships based on being there to help at the right time.
3. A focus on the user, not the channel. To date marketers have tended to think channel first and customer 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 each 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.