Even though there has been some positive economic media copy in January, especially in response to the temporary fix of the United States ‘Fiscal Cliff’, I have a pessimistic outlook on the Australian economic climate.  Positive headlines, if they continue, will stimulate some confidence and in turn increase consumer spend but it is my opinion that there is more bad news to come in what seems to be a one-way tide. Mining is slowing, the housing market is benign, consumers are still saving, the Chinese economy is cooling and Europe is a mess.

So while I am pessimistic about the World economy and the negative effect on Australia, I am optimistic about overcoming adversity. Don’t whinge about the problems, get positive and do something about it!

Use this opportunity in a restricted market to refocus and refine your business practice. Strengthen your customer relationships and push through the flat market with a novel approach. Chances are, if you are left standing amongst the rubble with your business relationships intact, then you have the opportunity to thrive when conditions improve and consumers start spending again. There is a chance however that conditions won’t improve, for years even; perhaps the current financial status is the new norm.  I would like to reiterate, get positive and do something about it!

Find opportunities and exploit them, use technology to connect with consumers and take advantage of the ever-decreasing social communication barriers. Connect at all your customers’ touch points with an engaging digital experience.

Marketing isn’t a process so don’t treat it as one, marketing is human science, it’s an opportunity to help people make decisions in their lives that involve your brand. Get proactive, be more flexible, embrace and leverage change.

Consumers have changed the universe, embracing the convenience and immediacy of technology, so now we have to market in a digital world. The pace of change experienced, and the consequential innovation and disruption, is only going to escalate so you need to be thinking differently. Marketing is becoming something that is an invitation from the consumer to the brand.

Do you have a vision for this year and the following five? Execute your detailed plan with measured steps and remain focused for the long term but remain agile. Push yourself, develop yourself and back yourself. Inspiration comes from observing customers, so you need to be close to them but remember, customers don’t always know what they want, so test novel ideas.

Consumers connect more deeply with organisations via digital channels, but it’s not all about digital, people are always going to want to touch, hold, feel and share in the revolutionised digital world, so use the digital to connect to the tangible, physical needs of people.  If you can connect the two and interplay marketing campaigns across physical and digital, customers will share their physical experience, they will do it on the social digital platform that you have enabled; ensuring word of mouth is amplified.

Jeff Clementz, Vice president of Paypal Australia, said: “The ritual of visiting shops, trying on clothes, and interacting with salespeople is not dying, but how people get to your shop and what represents value and convenience – this is changing and technology is enabling it. Australians are increasingly starting their shopping journey online and then buying offline so it’s imperative for retailers to have a presence at every stage of the path to purchase. We believe that retailers that understand their customers’ behaviours will enjoy the benefits.”

Mobile computing is driving dramatic change in the traditional purchase funnel. Marketers need to aid consumer discovery, helping consumers find exactly what they want, when they want it and then holed their hand through the funnel, regardless of whether that’s on or offline.

Build experiences, tell stories and assist in stories being told, utilise user-generated content to earn high dividend interest on marketing opportunities.

Yes, we are in a period where consumers are living within their means, they are chasing bargains and checking prices. They are focusing on needs not wants, what can you do to move your products closer to the ‘need’ end of the paradigm?

It’s time to get closer to the CIO and IT department, CIOs are threatened by digital and don’t like to move at a faster pace, but these silos need to intertwine. IT needs to support marketing, as marketing’s role is to create and manage profitable customer relationships. While the two departments have clashed for years, there is an increasing demand for marketing to make actionable decisions based on campaign analysis, decisions need to be going out the same time the data is coming in.

While technologies become easier to use and deploy, marketing still needs IT to help host (in the cloud or LAN/WAN) and support the plethora of technologies needed to create, maintain and measure marketing campaigns.

In no area is this more true than in ecommerce, where products and pricing need to be interoperable with legacy and contemporary accounting, ERP and CRM packages.  If marketers want a full 360-degree view of the business, B2B and B2C customers and prospects, then we won’t be able to do it without shared goals and support from IT. Find a way to get close to IT and morph the departments, use your people skills, intelligence, social science and knowledge to connect and respect each other. Do what is right for the business.

Look for ways to create project teams that invite membership, input and project ownership from the IT department. Share the success across both departments and help to life the profile of IT in the business. Help tell their story in terms of business success, and build stronger alliances in the process.

Don’t accept a bad economy, it’s not impossible to grow revenue and market share, customer power has changed the world so look at it with a glass three quarter full mentality, communicate with your market and add value, think about innovative ways your voice can be heard when other businesses have battened down their advertising. There is an opportunity right now to stand out when competitor-marketing noise is low.

Survey your customers and respond to what they need, learn how you can solve their problems or make their life easier, learn fast. Who are your definitive prospects? How can you establish a conversation with this prospect and hold their hand through the sales funnel? Don’t duck for cover and wait for the financial storm to blow over; the weather front isn’t being blown off the coast anytime soon.

Partner with those that can help you push through the storm, find customer prospects and engage with a solution to their needs, offer a point of difference, add value your competitors aren’t.

Finally and foremost, you have to be offering the best service possible and this should be measured, so you know you are achieving your service level objectives. Top shelf customer service is the primary answer, it has to be memorable – measure this. What are customers looking for and what are your competitors doing about it. Spot the holes and exploit the opportunity.

I am going to say it for a third time, get positive and do something about it!

Dominic Byrne

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