It might be too early in the year to write this post, but Patti Knight and I had a conversation yesterday about the future of brick and mortar offices and it got me thinking about trends for next year, let alone 10 years from now. So following are what I think are going to be the communication and marketing trends for 2011.
1. Content, content, content. Did I mention content? A lot of people will disagree with me – some think content is dead. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface. All companies should become media companies, in that the content they provide is valuable, consistent, and non-salesy. This will be big for B2B companies while they figure out how to use, what they’ve always considered, intellectual property to attract new customers. Examples include white papers, enewsletters, podcasts, and videos.
2. FTC rulings. It may not be as early as next year, but the FTC is already looking at regulating our industry. It began with disclosure on blogs and then on paid reviews. Next will be around ethics and how we approach traditional journalists and bloggers. That’s why becoming a media company will be even more important – you’ll be able to reach your customers and prospects without relying solely on the influencers. But hire an attorney because you’ll need to really understand what you can and cannot do and say through your content.
3. Net neutrality. It makes me crazy that no one is paying attention to net neutrality and what Google and Verizon are planning to do. If they are successful, the Internet (as early as next year) will become a paid model, just like cable television. So being able to write a blog post at 6:00 in the morning and post it two hours later and letting it reach audiences around the world FOR FREE will be gone. The playing field will no longer be level and the companies that can afford to have their content delivered more quickly will again be kings of the earth. Not because they’re better; because they have more cash. Davids truly will be fighting Goliaths in an unfair, non-level playing field.
4. Customer engagement. We talked about this a little bit yesterday, in terms of customer-centric vs. customer-focused organizations. If companies do not engage their customers, I mean really engage them as human beings and not as people who you think want to be sold, it won’t matter what kind of content you have, how you follow the FTC rules, or if you have more cash to get on the Internet more quickly. If you don’t know how to engage your customers, start by asking them simple questions when you talk to them: What is one thing we do that you wish we did better? Having Facebook communities and Twitter followers and blog readers are great, but what about those real conversations you have with your customers every day? Begin asking them questions and I think you’ll be surprised at how much you learn.
I have about 12 trends I’ve been thinking about for a while, but they’re written down on a post-it note on my desk in the office and, well, I’m not there today. So stay tuned for a second trends blog post. In the meantime, what would you add?