What wonderful time of year. Between vacations, family and end of year work the web is a relatively quiet place. Except for all the digital marketing folks trying to push their respective agendas by predicting what will happen in the coming year.
You didn’t think I would miss the opportunity did you?
Technology is changing quickly. And consumer behaviors around purchase decisions are becoming more complex. It’s the end of 2011, and I see widening knowledge gap as marketing professionals try to hit a moving consumer target. Some marketers are winning big, (those are the case studies you read about in AdAge) but most are grasping at digital straws. Thus there’s a growing market for digital intermediaries; those who have demonstrated past digital success selling or creating consumer demand in specific industries. 2012 will be a year of prosperity for industry-specific digital consultants with quantifiable success. Expect more of these marketers to break out on their own as they realize demand for their talents is outstripping supply.
Digital Salary Growth
The scenario I just described has also created an environment where young, skilled digital experts are in high demand. And that demand will cost brands big dollars in 2012. Expect qualified talent in search engine marketing, content marketing, mobile marketing and analytics to come with a big price tag.
It should also be noted that none of those skillsets are grounded in traditional creative development. Hard metrics like cost per click, conversion rate and digital revenue earned will drive marketing activities in 2012. It’s a natural evolution from “Let’s make a YouTube video that will go viral!” to, “Let’s tweak the landing page copy to increase our Quality Score and have a look at the confirmation experience to see where we can shore up cart abandonment.”
These skills are young, and the technology behind them evolves daily. Brands will begin to see more value in agencies that staff skilled individuals with a narrow focus on digital customer acquisition. And that starts to make agencies of all kinds look more like consultancies.
From Vanity to Acquisition
A key underlying theme in the coming year is a transition from vanity numbers (awareness, engagement, followers, likes, comments) to hard metrics (goals, conversion rate, sales). It’s a tough pill to swallow for companies selling the intangible, and it puts a big burden on firms that can’t deliver consistently. To put it bluntly: selling great creative is about to get a whole lot more difficult. Selling guaranteed customers is about to be the new norm.
And that means a new mindset for the CMO. Roles are changing as organizations shift to align all departments towards a common goal: increasing market share in the digital space.
Easier said than done, and not without some serious growing pains. Expect old relationships to be strained as new metrics come into the mix. Smart agencies and consultants will prepare for the coming storm by making efforts to tie all activities directly to sales. The closer and more reliably these companies can get to actual revenue in the door the better off they will be.
Change is happening, and quickly. If you’re wondering what you should, as a digital marketing professional, be tackling in 2012 the answer is simple. Do what it takes to quickly implement a holistic digital program that touches all departments and moves from online awareness to customer acquisition to customer loyalty and nurturing. It’s possible, but it doesn’t come cheap and can’t be turned on over night. Plan ahead, do your homework and get internal buy in (after all – who doesn’t want more customers?). Then seek out partners with proven and quantifiable track records to help you execute in the digital space.