William Gibson said “The future is here, it just isn’t evenly distributed.”  I agree.  It’s here.  You just have to look for it.  I saw a piece this morning: branding that changes as people interact with it.

More on brands that morph as their customers engage with them.

The bigger point: what does this mean for small businesses?!

It means your marketing plan needs to be very different today.  How about in 140 characters instead of 10 pages:




The marketing plan of the future prescribes a process of discovery, engagement and listening.  The normal stuff of marketing plans — product introductions, trade show schedule, website changes — is revealed through listening.

If you engage and listen you’ll know everything you need to know.

How to engage and listen?

Ask your customers general, open-ended questions.  Don’t ask a hundred via survey.  Call five.  Record the conversations and distribute them throughout your company.

Send email.  (Yawn. . .)  Don’t yawn.  It works.  Send email to your customers that is more like the conversation you’d have with them over lunch and less like a brochure.  Then listen.

A client (established software developer) started sending email and was less than delighted to receive a thundering rant, (paraphrased) “The fact you guys don’t have a Mac compatible version of your software is ridiculous!!”  We got the email to their lead coder, Joey.  They had looked at developing a Mac version about a year ago and concluded it would overwhelm their resources.  Joey spent his weekend revisiting the issue and found advancements in the past 12 months now made it realistic.

That was in January of this year.  I”m proud to announce on August 8th they are shipping a rock-solid Mac version of their software.  With high hopes (800 pre-orders).

Start a Google Adwords campaign. Uh, we already have an Adwords campaign.  Or, we tried Adwords and they don’t work.  Okay, sorry; start an effective Google Adwords campaign.

You aren’t doing it right unless you can answer which search queries convert best, which “core” queries are fading and which longtail queries are rising.  Not to mention you aren’t doing it right unless you’re making money on the campaign.  But that’s a different topic.

Probably the most exciting, ground-breaking work in the engagement/listening area is being done by Dave Snowden and Cognitive Edge.  Snowden likens my steps 1-3 as a dance you do with your customers; listening, changing and co-evolving with them. (The future is definitely showing itself in Snowden’s work)

Go ahead, give the Marketing Plan of the Future a try.  Be warned.  It might sound easy.  It certainly is different, but easy it isn’t.