Value and Conversation as a Tool for Marketing in 2017

Content Marketing 2017

Our ability to see into the future well enough to make good predictions is the product of diligent work and on the ground interaction and impact rather than tea-leaf reading (with all respect to useful ways of doing that.)

According to Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner, “it involves gathering evidence from a variety of sources, thinking probabilistically, working in teams, keeping score, and being willing to admit error and change course.” 

In Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, Tetlock and Gardner say open mindedness, flexibility and an ability to move quickly between different viewpoints is essential to good forecasting. Our ability to interpret what we see is also the result of experience with boots on the ground, so to speak.

Other lessons include:

  • striking a good balance between under and over confidence
  • striking a good balance between under and overreacting to the evidence
  • breaking down problems into smaller chunks adopting a kind of Fermi approach to problem solving (Fermi problems typically involve making justified guesses about quantities and their variance or lower and upper bounds)
  • recognizing the limits of one's prediction domain
  • looking for clashing or contradictory causal factors
  • dividing the evidence into more and less certain pieces
  • being part of a good team and learning from each other can lead to better results

Superforecasters, say the authors, go above and beyond the average good predictions—they beat other benchmarks, competitors, prediction markets, and even the collective judgment of intelligence analysts with access to classified information. 

With that in mind, every year Joe Pulizzi and his team at Content Marketing Institute poll a fairly high number of marketers and practitioners to learn what they are forecasting will be the hot buttons for the following year.

Using my own past predictions as a benchmark, here's some direction from me on next year.

Value and Conversation [2017]

2017 will be about value and conversation as a tool for customers to get more of what they want and for brands to keep engagement high. This means marketers will need to be super clear on the benefits of their message, connect it deeply to solving a problem or creating an opportunity for the customer, and deliver on the promise.

Specific, niche, visual and interactive, longer form as well as short bites will coexist within a structure that will help brands build momentum by taking customers on a journey.

We can only optimize so far (last year's mandate), and unless we have a system to deal with uncertainty and also to capitalize on compound value of our efforts, we're not going to get a good return on our investment. In other words, we need to think in patterns of use and networks of interaction.

When we use conversation as a tool, we can let our customers tell us who they are rather than assume we know them based on tracking them or what they have purchased in the past. Helping them self select up front also begins the relationship in their mind and makes it personal as in have a stake in engaging.

Starting with the self selection also helps us glean context—for example, we're beginners in certain situations, and advanced in others—which helps us establish the value chain. In the over saturated online and off line world, the value becomes who is going where. Which means:

  • Focusing more on creating and energizing
  • Capitalizing from collaboration with customers, partners, even competitors
  • Promoting our vision as a way to provide direction
  • Seeing more opportunities along the way
  • Doing our own thing and not being consumed with fighting someone else's battle

We've experienced a nice progression in our work with brands—from taking advantage of access with mobility, to brands taking control of their narrative, to gaining a more nuanced appreciation of desires and needs through testing and experimentation, to appreciating the value of compound presence.

It's part science and part art, where the art of being thoughtful and demonstrate it will set our business and brand apart. As wildly successful entrepreneurs have discovered, all stages of development build on each other to establish businesses as platforms of value exchange.

Past contributions below.

Time will Tell [2016]

Brand marketers will look to keep costs under control, repurpose more content, and create efficiencies in critical processes. Based on the company’s people, process, and technology maturity level they will look to become more relevant and customer-centric.

The problem is the best results in the world are a function of time. To benefit from the effects of compounding, duration is important, along with a deep understanding of how success in a field actually works. This means systems over goals, keeping an eye on the emergence of patterns meaningful to the business, and managing energy.

Content Value [2015]

Why would we predict when we can know? Look for evidence, then help bring to life the expressed and/or latent desires people have. Content’s value: it gives brands the ability to gain a nuanced understanding of their audiences through a simultaneous process of examining alternative story lines and engaging the remix culture of the Web.

Embodying the Brand Story [2014]

What will separate the long remembered from the quickly forgotten will be the ability to connect all brand activities into a positive-sum experience. Winner brands will be Secretaries of Understanding, Champions of Network Smarts, and Meaningful Actions Agents who master the ability to draw relationships between relationships.

Any Place, Any Time [2013]

Tablets, smartphones, laptops make up the buyer’s multi-device ecosystem. Responsive Web design meets the challenge of not knowing which screen the user prefers by providing an optimal viewing experience: easy reading and navigation with minimum resizing, panning, scrolling across a wide range of devices. 

Content needs to be structured in chunks that can be flowed into this architecture. Personalization addresses: 1) who I am – e.g., location, preferences; 2) what I’m doing – e.g., learning, buying.

Still curious? See Unpacking marketing predictions, and my thoughts on content value in 2015.

Find the full list of predictions here.