Keeping up with new developments in marketing can be hard and it’s always time-consuming. There is always constant pressure to make sure you are not missing out on a valuable new tactic, method or sales channel. Not knowing about the latest opportunity at best makes you look ill-informed and at worst, costs your company money as competitors gain an edge and you scramble to catch up.
Media outlets, marketing pundits and vendors don’t help by hyping every new product, service or technology that comes along. Bloggers love to write about the latest thing and tell you how it will change the face of marketing.
But with the marketing landscape changing and new channels launching and fading into obscurity on a regular basis, an essential skill for a marketer is knowing which technologies will be significant and which are a waste of time – for your business.
It’s important you always look at these developments in the context of your business and ask, “What will this do for me?”
One of the most valuable things I do is take a look at emerging technologies, products, and strategies and decide whether to spend my precious time on them- this can save me a lot of wasted time and effort.
Now I like to be generous and helpful – so here are three current ‘hot’ topics that you can safely ignore in a B2B context.
A new rival to Instagram, TikTok is currently the most talked about new social media app (nothing to do with the 80’s robotic duo Tik & Tok, once so big they were supported by Depeche Mode and had parts in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, nor is it related to Ke$sha’s song Tik Tok – trivia dept).
Initially the Chinese app Douyin – meaning vibrating sound – in 2017 it was rebranded as TikTok. In less than two years it has become the number one short video app in Asia, USA and many other parts of the world. Last October it became the most downloaded app in the US. It currently has around 500 million users.
Essentially it enables you to record videos of up to 15 seconds in length and string four together to make a story of up to a minute’s duration. On the surface, it’s an unremarkable competitor to Vine or any of the other short-form video apps – however, what makes it popular with users is the way it can be used, with unique features like the ability to duet.
Memes are acted out and backed by music and other sound clips, which then get endlessly copied and remixed. A lot of it is highly creative and very natural. There are lots of in-jokes and game culture references that appeal to its audience of mostly teenagers – worryingly there are a lot of younger users despite its terms stating that you have to be 13 years of age or older. But, in the words of Douglas Adams, it’s mostly harmless and currently a lot more friendly and fun than other social channels.
I’m not going to go into more detail – after all, I’m saying you should ignore this in a B2B context (if you want to know more try The clueless parent’s guide to understanding TikTok), and it shouldn’t be too difficult to work out why: its young audience, its cliquey in-crowd memes and etiquette (certain songs are reserved for certain memes for example), and its short form. Although TikTok is currently testing in-app advertising, it’s still hard to see how it could become relevant to B2B in the next 12 months… or maybe even ever.
Whilst you may, or may not, have heard of Blockchain, you will probably have heard of BitCoin – most probably from dozens of messages in your spam folder. BitCoin is heralded as a new form of cryptocurrency but it’s a bit of a Marmite subject – like many cryptocurrencies, it relies a lot on faith to make it successful. Just this week the main Canadian cryptocurrency exchange was unable to operate because its founder died without leaving anyone the password to his laptop. (Although the mystery is deepening as I write this, with rumours circulating of faked deaths and missing millions).
But whether you believe the hype or not, the technology it is based on – Blockchain – is a lot more useful and likely to be here to stay. There have been a few articles linking it to marketing, but it’s a bit like linking computer software to marketing, the applications are actually a lot wider and less directly helpful.
Blockchain is basically a way of storing records in a chain of blocks – each one linked to the other using cryptography in such a way that no single block can be altered without affecting all the blocks in the chain. It allows for a ‘ledger” to be distributed across the Internet building in both security and decentralisation. It was invented to store bitcoin transactions, but the basic idea can be applied to many types of transactions including secure passwords, ad buying, supply chain monitoring, artists royalties, conventional banking and potentially voting.
It may seem too good to be true, and according to some experts, it is. Currently, it is too slow to be used at a large scale required by conventional financial transactions. It’s not particularly earth-friendly either; “mining” where the transactions are clustered in “blocks” and added to the ledger by powerful computers (“miners”), can only happen in computers which earn the right to do so after solving mathematical puzzles through an electricity-consuming series of random attempts. It has been estimated that Iceland uses more electricity for mining bitcoin than it does for powering its households.
And you are probably asking by now, what has all this to do with marketing? Well, frankly, very little. Applications outside of cryptocurrency are still in early stages, and due to the nature of the technology are unlikely to directly influence marketing strategy. They are more likely to be the underlying technologies that other products and services are based on.
Oh, that’s got your attention has it? Yep – I’m saying ignore big data in 2019. Why? Well, unless you a huge multi-national corporate with endless resources, collecting huge amounts of data is actually a waste of time, effort, money and resources. Whilst it may seem logical to try to capture as much data about your prospects and customers as you possibly can, the more data you collect, the more issues you will run into. And far from being a way to get fresh answers, it can end up confirming prejudices.
As you try to collect more and more data, that data conversely becomes less and less reliable until it’s so flaky that any decision you make based on it will be a poor one.
The more data you have, the more time you have to spend on sorting, cleaning and analysis – leading to analysis paralysis and a situation where any conclusions you reach are out of date.
So Big Data is out for 2019. But… and it’s a big but, that does not mean I’m saying don’t collect data – far from it – what I am saying is make sure that the data you collect is laser focussed and appropriately timed.
Establish your KPIs – not too many – and then collect that data that directly relates to those and the day to day running of your marketing. Use your marketing suite of software to collect data at just the relevant touchpoints, and only collect what you need. Make sure that the data you collect is clean and accurate – after all, there is nothing worse than making decisions based on faulty conclusions drawn from bad data.
Tips for future proofing your B2B marketing strategy
To finish on a positive note – here are some rough and ready guidelines for when the next big thing is touted in the media – based on my experience of seeing technologies come and go:
- Most new developments take at least a year after their first mention to become useful.
- Usually, most marketing channels and techniques are (rightly) exploited first by B2C marketers and then only later by B2B. (Generally, because new channels and techniques have to be accepted by the masses first – before they are of use to B2B.
- You are more likely to fail to be the first to implement ground-breaking techniques and ideas than implementing them second. (But you will fail if you are the last to take them up).
- Context is everything – remember what works and is popular in B2C may have no practical application in B2B.
- Always review new developments, what may have seemed impossible, fanciful or impractical a year ago, could be just what you need now.
Just as it’s important to recognise what developments you can use to gain an advantage over competitors, it’s equally important to recognise those that are not worth spending your valuable time on.