New technology shapes the way consumers want to do business, and if a business can't keep up, there's sure to be a competitor that can. From advanced social listening platforms and sentiment analytics tools to cloud collaboration services and mobile wallet payment systems, advances in technology abound. In Word of Mouse: 101+ Trends in How We Buy, Sell, Live, Learn, Work, and Play, Marc Ostrofsky predicts the biggest tech trends of 2014, and discusses how businesses can get the most out of new and innovative tools. Ostrofsky shared his insights with Associate Editor Maria Minsker.
CRM: Of all the sales and marketing trends you've been noticing and tracking, which stands out as the most significant?
Marc Ostrofsky: Right now, personalization is huge. Tools and capabilities like retargeting, facial recognition, and appvertising [in-app advertising] are heading in the direction of more personalization—providing customers not only with relevant, individualized content, but also providing it in a relevant and individualized way. Some of these tools are absolutely game changers. Convenience also continues to play a crucial role. Consumers are always looking for ways to make their lives better and easier, and businesses need to understand this. In the old world, there was a saying: "If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always gotten." But now, if you maintain the status quo while everyone around you gets better and smarter, you're going to lose.
CRM: What are some emerging technologies that sales and marketing professionals can leverage to meet the new needs of customers?
Ostrofsky: There's a lot of new and exciting technology on the horizon, and we've seen some of it already. The mobile wallet, for example, is coming up fast. Soon we may see a larger adoption of mobile payment systems that let you leave your wallet at home, especially because Visa, Mastercard, and American Express have all endorsed NFC (near-field communications) SIM cards that fit inside a smartphone and enable consumers to use their phone for purchases. We'll also see more QR codes on just about everything, so that consumers can instantly get more information by scanning the code.
CRM: As sales and marketing teams begin to embrace these new trends and technologies, what challenges do you foresee?
Ostrofsky: One of the biggest challenges is going to be ensuring that marketers and salespeople understand the dollar value of everything they're doing. This means knowing, down to the penny, the real value of buying leads from Google on a pay-per-click basis. As a brand, you need to put a dollar value on that, because if your competitor is spending three dollars to get a lead that you're only spending one dollar on, you might wonder: Why are they beating me? The answer is they're beating you because they're monetizing that lead better. You have to know all the numbers across the board, and you have to know where money is going. That's crucial for both marketers and sales folk.
CRM: What are some of the trends you're noticing in social media? How has it changed recently?
Ostrofsky: It's interesting to think about this because with my first book, Get Rich Click, I went out and marketed it through social media. I had all my friends send out notices on Facebook, and it did great. With this book, it was a totally different response. Why? Because people have become so bombarded with social media messages that they're turning them off. It's possible that social media got so big so fast that it may be reaching almost a saturation point. But, for now, it's growing faster than it's declining. The problem is just that marketing messages are getting diluted.
CRM: So how can marketers ensure that their message stands out, and reaches the right consumers?
Ostrofsky: I look at different social networks as different languages. Every social media Web site has an inherent language of its own. As different businesses learn these different languages and start to compete, they eventually figure out what works on each Web site, and how each can be beneficial in a different way. Each social network also has its own demographic. I don't want to market my book via Twitter as much as I want to market it via LinkedIn, for example. Why? Because Twitter is much more a young person's medium, whereas LinkedIn is much more beneficial for promoting a book that's business-related. More than ever, knowing who your customers are and what their needs are is tremendously important—without a deep understanding of their customers, brands will lag behind competitors.