February 01, 2010

Rebuilding: The Futurist

You are a CEO. You have a good customer data infrastructure in place. You have great customer reporting, filled with key performance indicators that populate a daily dashboard. Your team does an outstanding job of mining your database for new and exciting customer insights. You have individuals who are highly motivated by targeting strategies ... they actively generate sales increases and profit improvements via their techniques.

All of that is good, right? And yet, you feel like something is missing. You aren't actively moving your business into the future. You aren't actively trying new marketing micro-channels. You feel like you are stuck.

Maybe it is time to rebuild your marketing department around the skills of a Futurist.

Let me make this very clear. You do not rebuild a marketing department around the skills of a Futurist unless you already do a great job of Organizing, Mining, and Targeting. These are three areas that must be mastered before you rebuild a department around uncertain and unproven marketing strategies.

The Futurist is a very different kind of marketing leader. The Organizer, The Miner, and The Targeter are very focused on "certainty". They demand perfect and accurate data, they demand well-defined queries, and they demand targeting strategies that will yield sales increases and profit improvements. The Futurist is willing to forgo strategies that used to be successful for unproven tactics that may or may not work in the future.

Take Social Media as an example. If you polled 100 marketers, you'd find 99 that said that Social Media doesn't work. The Futurist doesn't care that 99 marketers fail. The Futurist cares about what can be learned from the 99 failures.

This is a major change of pace. The Futurist will leverage the skills of The Organizer, The Miner, and The Targeter to take action on what is learned from all of the failures.

For instance, The Futurist will aggressively pursue a Mobile Marketing strategy. The Futurist has a thick skin, and is willing to absorb punishment from a Merchandising Executive who thinks that an iPhone app is a huge waste of time. The Futurist will partner with an Organizer to integrate Mobile Marketing data into the customer database. The Futurist will partner with a Miner to understand how existing customers and new customers behave after being exposed to an iPhone app. The Futurist will partner with a Targeter to exclude iPhone app users from traditional direct mail campaigns, knowing that the iPhone app user has "moved on" from traditional marketing.

In other words, The Futurist can only be successful if s/he has the skills of an Organizer, Miner, and Targer at his/her disposal. The Futurist pushes a company in a direction that the company doesn't want to move in, but probably needs to in order to be successful in the long term.

Remember, The Futurist doesn't care about failure (whereas the Organizer, Miner, and Targeter actively try to avoid failure). The Futurist cares about what can be learned from failure.

If you have already built a marketing infrastructure that has Organizer, Miner and Targeter skills, then the next leader could easily be a Futurist. The CEO needs to have thick skin, because The Futurist is going to fail, because the Futurist is going to take the brand in unanticipated directions. Futurists tend to fail when they aren't on the same page as the CEO, or when the Organizer/Miner/Targeter infrastructure is not in place to support the direction The Futurist wants to take the business in.

The Futurist is destined to fail when the brand does not want to evolve or change.

If you feel confident that you have adequate Organizer/Miner/Targeter skills, it is time to consider hiring a Futurist to push your marketing department into the future.