April 26, 2012

Who Would You Fire?

Have you ever presented at a major industry conference?

It's an interesting experience.  If you do a bad job, you put people to sleep ... you read slides and basically cause people to think that they just wasted $1,195 of scarce company resources as they check email on a smart phone while you plow through a presentation.

If you do a good job, then something will happen during the presentation that tells you people are paying attention.

For instance, I presented this slide at Internet Retailer, way back in 2009.  My session was about the future of catalog marketing.  Maybe three hundred folks were in the room.  You're wondering if folks are truly paying attention.  And then, you realize they are paying attention!

The room, a room full of catalog professionals mind you, overwhelming voted to boot the Catalog Marketing Director off of the island ... they chose in this example to downsize their own, and by a sizable margin.

This was three years ago.  What would the response be like today?

I didn't ask a follow-up question, one that is probably more important.
  • "What does the catalog marketing director with 24 years of experience do when he is downsized?"
For a decade, the instinct was to "be multi-channel".  You simply said that you were a multi-channel marketer, expecting folks to recognize the importance of this set of skills ... skills where offline marketing are used to grow e-commerce sales.

Of course, multi-channel skills were not rewarded, were they?  We now see online marketing experts, the e-commerce folks who benefited from offline marketing driving their traffic early on in the evolution of e-commerce assuming leadership roles in companies.

And we see the pattern repeating, don't we?  Search and email marketing experts now publish white papers that tell how their crafts interact with social and mobile to create sales among today's savvy shopper.  Sound familiar?  It's happening again.

Our instinct is to build a bridge to the future.  We try to connect what we've done in the past with our version of the future.  And then, a few years later, the future doesn't turn out the way we thought it would turn out, because it was all based our version of the future, not a version that is centered around the customer.

It seems like we have a generation of catalog marketers, multi-channel marketers, email marketers, and search marketers who need to ask a different question.
  • "What do I have to offer the future of marketing?"
Answer this question, and then start positioning yourself for the future.

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