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This article was published on February 9, 2017

5 steps to future-proof your marketing

5 steps to future-proof your marketing
Brian Honigman
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Brian Honigman

Brian Honigman is a marketing consultant and an adjunct professor at NYU. Get his free Content Marketing Style Guide. Brian Honigman is a marketing consultant and an adjunct professor at NYU. Get his free Content Marketing Style Guide.

Every business owner and brand marketer fears falling behind with their marketing.

We’ve all felt the pressure of having to be everywhere, the need to jump on each new opportunity like Facebook Live and the growing fear that our competitors may outflank us.

In 2017 there is increased competition for attention, more channels to be active on, advances in technology to account for and rising expectations from consumers.

To manage the risk of falling behind, keep your organization ahead of the curve by making your marketing future-proof.

What is future-proofing?

Future-proofing is the act of ensuring that no matter what changes occur in your industry, the marketplace at large and with your customer’s evolving needs, you’ve put measures in place to reduce the negative impact of these changes on your organization.

Future-proofing your marketing comes down to planning ahead as to how you’ll adapt your approach, regardless of the circumstances, to connect with your audience with the best content on the correct channels at the right time.

Organizations like General Electric, Burberry and American Express have thrived for decades as each brand has adapted to changing conditions and in a variety of ways, future-proofing their marketing to connect with their customers where they are most active at the time.

How to create a future-proof marketing plan

To follow in the footsteps of brands able to withstand the test of time, here are five ways to keep your marketing future-proof:

1. Listen to your customers, especially the most loyal ones. 

Marketing that works today is a dialogue not a monologue, which will stand true no matter how marketing evolves over the next few decades.

To stay present and vital to your customers, communicate with them and listen to their feedback.

Whether you’re chatting with customers over live chat, conducting a survey or holding a focus group, paying attention to trends in the conversation with your audience and taking action from their input is essential to make your marketing relevant.

When you communicate with your customers, the problems they are facing and the information they’re looking to consume will become much clearer.

These insights gleaned from listening will better inform the marketing campaigns you’re focused on today and in the future.

2. Be open to learning about new ideas on a regular basis.

Stay educated on what trends are coming and why they matter by reviewing relevant and recent marketing resources like First Round’s 2016 round-up of Best Pieces of Advice for Entrepreneurs or Firebrand Group’s eBook on Big Ideas for 2017.

Whether you’re reading, watching, listening to content or taking a course, remain aware and open to learning about what’s next.

3. Make small and smart bets with your marketing.

No one company should spend their entire marketing budget or resources on one activation as the risk of failing is too high.

Instead invest in a few different areas of marketing on an ongoing basis by making small allocations of time, resources and money to see what performs well and what does not.

This way you’ll begin to gain experience and exposure with a variety of marketing techniques.

This experimentation may come in handy if a certain marketing medium becomes more profitable over time and you’re already active there with the right expertise on how to drive results.

On the flip side, you’ve got less to lose as a company when making a small bet if a marketing effort fails to drive results or the channel is no longer used by your customer base.

4. Construct a team of non-complacent talent.

Your colleagues must be aligned with the company’s drive to future-proof its marketing efforts, otherwise things will falter quickly.

Most importantly, is your team comfortable with constant change? Are they questioning your processes and strategy to improve them?

Do they understand what’s happening outside of the company and its impact?

Marketer Raghav Haran argues that all hires need to be excited about tackling ambitious problems, align with the brand’s core values and be willing to figure out what needs to be done and do it.

5. Measure as much as you can, but not at the expense of instinct.

When you measure what’s happening with your marketing on an ongoing basis, you’ll quickly be able to see what’s driving results and what’s not.

Paying close attention to your analytics gives you the foresight to know where to keep spending time with marketing and where to call it quits.

In many ways, this will prevent your marketing efforts from becoming obsolete as your data acts as a compass.

However, not every decision you make with marketing needs to be entirely backed by data as some of the biggest successes you’ll see will be based primarily on your instincts and taking risks.

They key here is to base your decisions on a balance of available data with your experiences as a marketer, expertise with the brand’s customers and your instincts.

Nobody knows for certain what lies ahead, but marketers can confidently take on the new year – and years to come – by future-proofing their work to prepare for what’s coming next.

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