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In his book, "Pre-Suasion," social psychologist Robert Cialdini shines a curious light on the art of effective persuasion, revealing that the secret doesn’t lie in the message, but in the key moment before that message is delivered. Cialdini, the bestselling author of the iconic book, "Legendary," explains how to capitalize on that essential window of time before you deliver an important message – the "privileged moment for change” that prepares people to be receptive to a message before they experience it. As Cialdini says, optimal persuasion is achieved only through optimal pre-suasion.
In other words, to change “minds” a pre-suader also must change “states of mind.” Greg Chambers believes this way of thinking will be one of the most important marketing ideas to gain traction in 2017. Chambers, founder of the sales-and-marketing consultancy Chambers Pivot Industries, says the beauty of this creative version of storytelling – successfully mastered by the likes of Michael Lewis, Malcolm Gladwell and Laura Hillenbrand – rests in its ability to unravel a mystery.
"It starts by positing a question, then taking the reader on a journey for the answer," Chambers says, "discussing all of the possible explanations until it finally reveals the answer. Marketers will do this more with their brand stories, case studies and narratives."
It has been quite a year – across all marketing fronts. Heading into 2017, marketers want to keep the momentum accelerated in areas like content marketing, marketing automation, customer engagement and social analytics, just to name a few. Ask for the goals and strategies they will focus on next year, and marketers say the game plans involve engaging and growing their communities, along with closely analyzing customer patterns throughout their journeys.
"The imperative in 2017 for marketers will continue to be customer experience," says Wilson Raj, global director of customer intelligence for analytics leader SAS. "Winning at customer experience requires a combination of individualized insights, contextualized interactions, and fluid processes to engage the customer in their channels of choice."
Raj says there will be two prevailing themes dominating this quest next year. First, machine learning will be more mainstream in marketing technology. "Marketers will be smarter; predictive systems will improve over time; they will learn from previous events/interactions; adapt to changing conditions and new data; and optimize to improve marketing goals," he says.
Second, data privacy will be elevated to a customer experience priority rather than a governance issue. As consumers browse the web, post to social media sites, share data from wearables and mobile devices or shop online, they are intentionally – and sometimes unknowingly – giving away digital bits of information about their identities.
"As digital opportunities and threats become critical to business strategy," Raj says, "boards and C-level executives must have the digital expertise to balance between protecting the business and enabling profitable digital growth through personalized brand experiences."
Knowing Thy Customer
In the race to know anything and everything about today's ever-sophisticated consumer, Mike Sciortino believes that focusing on creating the client experience will be a major asset for any marketer.
The founder of Gratitude Marketing and bestselling author of "Gratitude Marketing: How You Can Create Clients for Life," Sciortino says companies that become memorable work hard to master the art of consistent, creative, fun engagement and deliberate, emotional connection with their customers.
Sciortino says that knowing and creating the experience begins with asking the following questions:
Do I have a systematic approach to consistently communicate with my top customers and top prospects?
What are the most effective ways I am using to reach my customers today?
Do I have a carefully crafted and specific plan in motion to position myself to be the thought leader in my industry, marketplace and community resulting in me staying relevant and "top of mind" with my customers and prospects for when their need for my services arises?
Which marketing strategies have I tried to improve my business worked and which ones didn't work?
"To create the ultimate customer experience, be prepared to listen, and listen to be prepared," Sciortino says. "Train your staff to listen intently to what customers are saying in the day-to-day operation of your business. Customers who feel like they are being listened to feel accepted and appreciated."
With the rising costs of customer acquisition, marketers such as Sciortino believe brands will place greater emphasis on nurturing what he calls the 3 Rs:
Increased customer retention
Increased customer referrals (one of the most cost-effective ways of marketing)
Increased customer revenues (per customer)
"Customers want to be regularly reminded that they are important to you," he says. "It's not up to your customers to remember you. It's your job to constantly and consistently remind them of who you are and reinforce why they have a relationship with you."
Forgive Carlos Hidalgo if he sounds like a broken record, but the founder and CEO of ANNUITAS believes that collecting buyer intelligence in terms of buying committee involvement, purchase path, pain points, content consumption patterns and preferred channels will be critical again in 2017.
"Marketers need to look at how they align to them," says Hidalgo, whose company develops and builds buyer-centric Demand Generation programs. "If this occurs across marketing organizations, we will see marketing become a growth driver for their companies."
Hidalgo believes the trend in buyer sophistication and complexity and growing buying committees will bring organizations to the place where they must adopt buyer-centric strategies in terms of people, process, content, data and technology. "I see so many organizations building strategies around technology or tactics, but to get it right, the strategy has to have the buyer at the center," he says.
SAS' Raj says data will continue to be the foundation of marketing and brand strategy. Data-driven or algorithmic marketing will continue to expand as more marketers adopt algorithmic attribution over traditional rules-based attribution models such as first or last-click.
"This approach will remove much of the subjectivity that currently plagues rules-based marketing attribution models," he says. "In content marketing and digital asset management, we’ll also see more algorithms used to assemble, analyze and create meaningful content."
The need for brands to inject storytelling into their marketing to tap into people’s emotions, aspirations and needs hasn’t changed. But SAS' Raj believes the way brands can tell their stories has changed.
Today, a brand’s narrative can be told through tweets, posts, crowd-sourced content, rich media, etc. "The best stories tap into people’s emotions because they genuinely connect to what a brand stands for," he says.
For example, find stories that stand out from a crowd, give a sense of belonging or confidence, and show how to succeed in life or how to feel secure. It’s about connecting the brand’s narrative to one’s personal narrative. "The marketers who can best paint such pictures and create such personal narratives are well on the way to establishing long-term brand loyalty," Raj says.
In today's ever-changing marketplace, brands can’t ignore the Internet of Things (IoT) as a channel for customer experience and engagement. SAS' Raj believes that IoT presents an entirely new paradigm for building relationships with customers.
"In the past, the only connection between brand and consumer was typically a loyalty card or discount coupon," he says. "With IoT, brands can be connected via an expanding mesh of digital endpoints, devices, applications, etc. Brands must evolve and adapt their strategies to take advantage of the multi-way communications IoT affords."
In the end, marketing thought leaders say that when seeking to budget and maximize your marketing spend, realize that traditional marketing speaks at people. Today, it's about engaging and connecting with people.
"This will grow your business in a deliberate and measurable manner and allow you to better target and select the clients you want to work with for the long term," Sciortino says. "It will position you to attract clients, not pursue them."