Marketing in 2020

This week marks the one-year anniversary of quitting my job and launching Ultera Digital full time, so it seems an appropriate time to share my vision of what marketing, technology and health care can become in the next five years.

My hope is that sharing this vision will inspire and strengthen others in the digital marketing community to up their game and fully embrace the future.

I have a vision of how growing businesses can better embrace the marketing of the future, how marketers can provide better value everywhere, and how health care delivery can pivot to make patient engagement and mobile health a reality.

Let’s address each of these three facets:

1. By 2020, successful small and medium-sized businesses will embrace the marketing of the future.

Business executives will stop clinging to the notion that marketing is a one-way promotional broadcast and instead will implement marketing that works in the 21st century. It is a two-way conversation; a customer-oriented, needs-based, helpful, listening, collaborative activity that provides pull value, not push value. In most ways, it scarcely resembles the billboard and TV ad approach that so many still consider “marketing.”

Social media and mobile will converge to provide unique, customized experiences that are tuned into customers’ needs and generate goodwill in a way that far exceeds the historical marketing of grabbing a bullhorn or plastering offline commercials during the Super Bowl. Content marketing will be understood as more than just optimized blog posts.

Successful growing businesses will overcome the bureaucratic and organizational plagues that have haunted marketing for decades. These include but are not limited to:

  • Too many cooks in the kitchen
  • Too much marketing infatuation
  • Too much time using marketers as just tacticians, not strategists
  • Too much time using marcom as sales support rather than strategic communications
  • Too much time producing a product no one wants or needs
  • Thinking the product is so good that marketing isn’t needed
  • Thinking marketing is a soft metric

Influential concepts such as Brian Solis’ X, Jeremiah Owyang’s collaborative economy and Joe Pulizzi’s Content Inc. will be the new standards. Marketing will be described as lean, informed, authentic, connected, forward-facing, strategic, based on data, and most significantly, vital to business development.

2. By 2020, marketers will provide better value to their organizations.

Successful marketing agencies will give better advice that starts with ending the creation of clutter in the name of search rankings. They will understand that old-school SEO doesn’t help anyone and only creates noise. Successful marketers will bridge the impasse between companies’ subject matter experts and agencies’ tactical knowledge of how to execute, which will lead to companies finding true ways to differentiate themselves.

Successful agencies will no longer be compartmentalized. Responsive Web design, for instance, has killed the traditional project management conveyor belt hand-off from account managers to design team to development team and replaced it with a highly iterative collaboration that goes back and forth. A premium will be placed on lean, agile, adaptable vendor partners who proactively bring strategy to the table and never feel complacent.

Growth hacking will be the rule, not the exception. The playbook of traditional marketing that comes at the end of product development will be thrown out and replaced with customer acquisition techniques that are testable, trackable and scalable. Agencies will drop vanity metrics altogether and focus almost exclusively on engagement metrics, in all stages of business development. They will not just collect data for data’s sake; their analysis will lead to trackable actions.

In-house teams will evolve. Those who cannot adapt, lack the desire to continually educate themselves, are not networked, lack digital or technical skills, cling to too many outdated assumptions, or don’t like to test or quantify will find their way out of marketing. This cleansing of marketing teams will leave them leaner and more agile. The Chief Digital Officer, who leads through boardroom experience, business strategy and deep knowledge of technology, will ascend in more organizations.

This evolution of alignment between in-house marketers and agencies will overcome problems that plague marketing right now such as:

  • Too much “one size fits all” marketing
  • Too much sales collateral dressed up as content marketing
  • Too much focus on SEO without context
  • Too many campaign-focused teams

3. By 2020, health care providers and med tech companies will embrace patient engagement, mobile health and empowered patients as standards of care.

Those who want their own health data will be able to get it in a way that is convenient and helps them make better care decisions. Health IT providers will have UX standards and best practices that accommodate users of all ages. App developers will pay more attention to UI that accommodates the elderly so mobile devices will be used more regularly in their care and allow for greater remote health.

When a patient is transferred between facilities, loved ones will be able to keep track of their medications, communicate with all caregivers from multiple facilities and track daily progress against a treatment plan. Patients won’t need advocates except in rare instances.

Empowered patients will be welcomed by a majority of practices and health systems, not just early adopters. The patient that orders his own blood tests, closely tracks his own fitness and video chats with health care professionals will no longer be a pariah at his primary care provider’s office. Providers will celebrate their patients who take health decisions into their own hands. The market will be led by health care technologies that fully embrace the convergence of mobile, social media and collaborative tech.

Physicians and med tech companies will be partners in innovation and collaborate to develop open source hardware and software. Providers will utilize the native functions of wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) in care settings and exam rooms. They will adapt their business models to accommodate retail health, telemedicine, and smart sensors. They will seek out and prescribe smartphone apps that measure and improve health. Medical billing will be revolutionized and will more closely resemble our paying experiences at retail, entertainment and online venues.

Join the Movement

It’s all coming, but it isn’t here yet. Are there efforts happening towards this now? Yes. Parts of this vision are already underway, but we need more time and ceaseless effort to make them reality.

I am just one in a community of hundreds who are striving to make these things happen. Join us in ushering in the next wave of marketing, technology and health care. Join the conversations that are already happening, and start new ones. Dream big. Discard fear and take calculated risks. Be a part of the future as it unfolds.