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Navigating a complex marketing maze
New products and technologies are completely changing the rules of the game.

Marketing is becoming increasingly complex, caught in the middle of revenues that are hard to find, elusive budgets and ever-changing customer expectations. Every day, new products are launched and new technologies revealed that completely change the rules of the game. As an example, the creators of Siri have launched a new voice assistant called VIV, the world's first artificial intelligence that writes its own programs. If VIV lives up to its promise, then people will not need to download apps from Google and Apple and will directly connect with computers in televisions, cars, smart appliances and phones. The implications are just staggering. So how do we marketers navigate through such changes where the boundaries of our industry are constantly changing? Here are some tips to think about:
1. Become masterful collaborators
A critical ability of successful marketing organisations is the fundamental awareness that to succeed one needs to be adept at joining the dots. Those dots, a metaphor for capabilities, could lie within and outside the marketing organisation. Clever marketers, depending on the challenges at hand, are quick to collaborate with internal and external experts who can help in the successful delivery. The days of the alpha male marketer who carries the full weight on his/her back are over. In the classic 'David vs Goliath' duel, collaboration was the winning strategy and it still holds true!
2. Think mobile only
Never in the history of mankind have all of us been so closely connected by a device. It is estimated that now there are more mobile phones than human beings! Our mobiles pretty much are the access to us for almost everything! So why do we sometimes 'also' have a mobile strategy? On the contrary for some industries today we should only have a mobile strategy. The roads seem to lead to Uber for inspiration.
3. Social is business and not a media channel
Are you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, YouTube.? If your answer is no then just reach out to the nearest teenager and carefully look at his/her expressions when you mention that your business is not social. Every business today is social. People are commenting, rating and sharing like never before. The choice is yours. Either get involved by participating in the conversations or become irrelevant.
4. Become a story teller who loves data
Data is without a doubt the new oil. Organisations across the board are heavily investing in data marts, CRM systems and analytics capabilities that guide decision making. However, there is today more data than ever before that is also being captured. Marketers need to develop the ability to sieve through this information overload and focus on what really matters to customers as well as to their bottom lines. And most importantly, the stories that we weave to sell our products should be on the back of a solid data foundation that lends credibility and efficiency to our promise.
5. Build a listening organisation
Everyone's talking but only the insightful few actually listen. I have always believed that if you care to listen hard enough then customers do tell you what they need. If they don't tell you what they need then they certainly tell you what they don't need. I know it's a bit of a play of words here but knowing what customers don't want can save marketers from obvious failures and costly decisions.

6. Fail fast
It is said that the secret sauce that defines winners is that they are great at handling failure. All of us fail at many things through our lives but some of us are just naturally better at managing failure. The key to failing fast is to not put all your eggs in one basket by concentrating your investments and efforts. Failing fast is also a fundamental attitude change where one stops holding on to favorites or hobby horses!
Agility demonstrated in recognising failure is coming to life increasingly through marketing analytics where through A/B testing of campaigns the rule of the survival of the fittest is becoming the core of sophisticated marketing organisations. A simple personal test of 'failing fast' is asking yourself the question -"What have been my recent failures?' and being comfortable with the answers. Denial is the biggest enemy of the 'fail fast' strategy.
7. Don't wait for the illusive perfection
'I need to get this right' is a refrain that I hear many times during the day. Don't get me wrong here. It's important to get your products in commercial shape and make sure that the adopted marketing strategies do not compromise the brands reputation and trust. However, it is important to draw a line in the sand and have the courage to take the leap. Sometimes in our quest for perfection, we end up chasing a mirage.
8. Develop strategic partnerships
Industries are converging more rapidly than ever before as customer needs evolve. Our smartphone is a telling example. Is it a telecom device? Is it a watch? Is it an entertainment device? Is it a compass? Is it a camera? Is it a music system? Is it a health monitor?
As industries get re-imagined those organisations that are able to partner across industry categories and extend unparalleled value to customers consistently are likely to create a sustainable business.
9. Be consistent
In a noisy and cluttered world it has become increasingly important for brands to have a unique and consistent brand identity and expression. To stand out one must have the dogged discipline of adhering to the principals of the brand construct and sticking to it. Successful brands are adopting to the medium of communication and creating differentiating marketing messages, yet to the customer they appear consistent in their promise. In this context, the role of a strong brand governance organisation is becoming increasingly important.
Finally I have always believed that the best marketing does not seem like marketing. A great marketing organisation always focuses on creating outstanding value for its customers and not trying to sell what it is making!
A successful marketing function plays the role of a big multiplier to build an organisation's revenue momentum. Equally a poorly constructed marketing strategy can prevent great products reaching out to customers who genuinely need them and can benefit from them. It's a fine balance that takes sometimes a lifetime to learn.

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