marketingtechoutlook

Marketing in the Age of Information Ubiquity

By Douglas Turk, CMO, JLT Group

Douglas Turk, CMO, JLT Group

The supply and access to information has never been greater. We live in a world where almost everything has the potential to provide data about its current state of existence. Physical assets, animals, people, and systems are all sources of data and we now have the technology to capture this data and provide it in near real time. In addition to this structured and automated information, access and availability to opinion and perspective is now even more prevalent and in many cases, is weighted equally regardless of source. We are swimming in information and it is only going to increase at an exponential rate.

"We are swimming in information and it is only going to increase at an exponential rate” 

So, we must ask, in this world of information ubiquity, how is marketing changing and what can we do about it? To start, marketing, by its very definition, are the actions that get a client to purchase your product or service. Marketing is about providing information and describing value to the customer to convince them to make the transaction. This information must be provided in a consistent, relevant, and targeted manner. When done correctly, marketing provides information to the right buyer, at the right time to effect a sale. The challenge however becomes when the amount of information, the consistency, and relevancy is impacted through information overload.

Think about a consumer experience in purchasing services today. A simple search can find multiple results that describe the “right” way to do the service, opinion on the service provider, pricing direction, and a variety of other information that defines the transaction. A client can do all of their research from the comfort of their desk without any direct interaction and only through publically available information.

As a marketer, this information is accessed before the buyer even interacts with the company’s information sources and marketing materials. A perspective and opinion is already formed and many times the buyer will be comparing to their understanding and expectation. As a marketer, we are now faced with not being the “first person in the room” and many times is either spending time on the wrong information (already provided) or communicating without knowing the context of how the buyer is coming into the transaction.

As a result, marketers need to spend more time understanding how they are being described by others and should put themselves in the place of the buyer and their information search and discovery process. Without this context, marketers can miss critical information and the value proposition and messaging can be diluted or lessened.

Once marketers truly understand how our product and services are being described by others, we are able to focus on strengthening and influencing the definition.  Awareness and control of this information allows marketers to influence the conversation and positions the brand correctly. Fundamentally, our brands and messages need to become somewhat ubiquitous within their own market.

So, how can a marketer influence this seemingly monumental amount of information? The key is to find the sources of information that, at the start are limited, but then become amplified and accelerated. Think about water running off a mountain, at the top of the mountain, there are a variety of small and seemingly insubstantial rivulets, yet as the water moves down the mountain, it combines and the stream gets larger and larger, until at some point all of the water is now flowing rapidly and powerfully together. The original water is still a part of this larger river and it’s now amplified and accelerated.

For marketers, we need to find those feeder rivulets of information, the starting point where information is sourced and then amplified by others. While there are an enormous amount of technology platforms and data sources available to marketers which allow them to get information out into the marketplace, it’s more important to find those initial feeders than to jump into the river. These channels can be different by segment and varied to influence and lead conversations within their market; including media outlets, social media, customer relationship management systems, digital assets, events, and speaking engagements to name a few.

The hard part is that we don’t know initially where to focus. Therefore, it is important to have a plan and to test and refine constantly. Keep in mind, not all channels have the same outcome or engagement level, therefore every marketing channel should be used strategically depending on the target audience.

The final point is that the target audience needs to go beyond just the obvious buyers and may be in a completely different and seemingly unrelated area. For instance, center of influencers (COI) are equally important to target as they can market on behalf of the marketer in many cases. This will create additional conversations without marketers having to market directly to buyers.

In the end, we are marketing in the age of information ubiquity.  Chances are supply and access to information will only increase. Marketers need to look at how information is created, shared and consumed and think differently about how we are in the conversations and the flow. Not responding to the new world of information ubiquity is not an option and the next generation of leading companies will adopt and embrace this new world.