- Jan 16, 2014
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Happy 2014, the 20th anniversary of Web-based business! Amazon, CDNow, and Netscape were all founded in 1994. My own baptism by fire, ColumbiaHouse.com, came a year later. What a long, strange trip it’s been! Some thoughts as I stagger home from the party:
1. Content marketing is now a core marketing capability.
Content development, distribution, and activation are essential skills for any digital business that wants to engage customers more effectively and improve marketing ROI. In other words, we’re all media companies now (see “The Inevitability of Content Marketing”). This isn’t just another box to check on your To Do list. A content focus will inform everything you do. Two themes intersect here:
Right brain: Customer relationships are rooted in stories that the brand and its customers share. With social media, customers have been taking the lead in brand story-telling. Content marketing empowers brands to re-assert a degree of control over that conversation in a really convincing way.
Left brain: Often, more profit opportunities exist in cultivating existing customers and fans than in chasing marginal new prospects. Customer relationships develop over time, and branded content is a key factor in deepening customer engagement through this process. CRM based on structured, measured, and personalized content – a powerful intersection of left-brain and right-brain expertise – is an exciting development I’ve been calling “activated content marketing.” And there’s a big-data angle – making sense of millions of customer interactions with content – so it is certifiably sexy.
- Activated content is a proven model. We’ll see some exciting executions of it this year.
2. Subscriptions are in your business’s future.
As a long-time subscription and continuity marketer, I was amazed that I could make a list of over 700 “box of the month” continuities you can subscribe to online today. And the Birchboxes of the world are just one indication of the popularity of recurring revenue models – there’s software as a service, games, mobile apps, and digital media of all kinds. Consumers are comfortable with this business model and it’s been called “the holy grail of business,” because it delivers long-term, predictable revenue streams and locks in your best customers.
- If you don’t think there’s a recurring revenue opportunity for your business, let’s talk. And if you do, let’s talk for sure.
3. Entrepreneurship isn’t a function of age.
No disrespect to the “30 under 30,” but this year I’d like to see more stories about the “50 over 50” – not captains of industry, but entrepreneurs building new businesses. Of course, this puts the burden on 50-somethings to do some work worthy of that story, but it’s being done. We should recognize that.
Those of us who led businesses that were flattened by the digital tsunami can have “dazed and confused” flashbacks, but let’s not underestimate the value of what we learned the hard way. As we defended and reinvented those businesses, we got a profound education in who our customers really are, what they really value, and how to align our business models with their needs.
- We’ve been adapting and tapping new sources of growth for two decades. We’ve gotten really good at it. Now we’re going live without a net.
4. Scrappy is the new well-oiled machine.
I work with nonprofits that constantly impress me with their ability to make the most of limited resources. Unlike start-up businesses, which grow or die, nonprofits usually have to make scrappiness a permanent way of life. I think that’s an interesting lesson for business. Too much money, too many staff members, and too many products to sell will sink you more often than save you. And we have the digital tools now that enable small groups to build impressive businesses and customer experiences.
- The new lean is more about effectiveness than cost savings. Question the impulse to grow your organization and budget.
5. You don’t know your competitors any more.
Your competition is now anyone with a digital connection to your customers. Recently I’ve seen the walls crumble between digital, magazine, and book publishing; between text- and video-based media; and between customer-funded and advertiser-funded models. Big prediction: more to come. However much you have dominated your niche, you’re probably headed toward collisions with unexpected competitors.
We’re also seeing the disrupted become disruptors. My former employer, Conde Nast, is developing a significant video production capability. So far, the TV studios don’t seem to feel threatened … and isn’t that exactly how disruptive innovation takes hold?
- If you can’t know your competitors anymore, the only real defense is knowing your customers better than anyone else. What are you doing to make sure you’ve got that covered?
6. More to come …
One of the best things about my 2013 was the hundreds of great discussions I had with new and familiar folks across the industry. I’m fortunate to know a lot of smart people with insights that make a difference. I look forward to continuing these discussions and to sharing some of them here this year.
- Dec 13, 2013
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Relationships are rooted in stories – my story, your story, and the stories we share. This puts content at the heart of relationship marketing. As a long-time relationship marketer, I…view more
- Dec 03, 2013
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The promise of digital media included broad reach (the universal network!), low costs, interactivity, and rich analytics. Instead, we got a fragmented media space, expensive websites, stand-alone mobile apps, proliferating…view more
A business is simply an idea to make other people’s lives better.
It is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.
There is no business to be done on a dead planet.
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