It’s hard to imagine that a marketer would take lessons from The Eagles and a philosopher from 500 B.C.E. and smash them together as a guide for business today, but I would. So here goes ...
Take a look back to 1977; the Eagles released “Life in the Fast Lane.” One of the key refrains, repeated 10 times or so, is “Life in the fast lane, surely makes you lose your mind.” Fast-forward to 2017. We do live in the fast lane in business today, and those who can’t keep up are losing their minds applying the same strategies developed over time and expecting radically different results.
Speed — the need for speed on a given project/initiative/product launch or go-to-market strategy is the battle cry of all businesses today, large and small, international or local. And speed demands change. It’s exactly what the philosopher Heraclitus taught us back in 500 B.C.E. that “the only thing that is constant is change.” The constant today, tomorrow and in the future is speed, which drives change.
Drivers of Speed and Change
1. Democratization of digital access. The average U.S. household now has seven or more connected devices. Gartner forecasts that by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected IoT devices worldwide. Even in second- and third-world countries, a smartphone is the gateway to the world. Given this near-universal access, companies and their marketers must answer questions like: What is the health of our tech stack when it comes to marketing? Are we a digital company at our very core?
2. With connections come rising expectations. Google search works at 0.2 seconds, travels 1,500 miles to a data center and back to the user, while using 1,000 computers to process the query. That means that the very essence of how businesses and marketers operate must change. Load speeds on a site are not digital marketing. Maximizing tools, data and platforms quickly to fundamentally meet consumers on their digital journey is marketing.
The classic four Ps of Marketing (product, price, promotion, place) are no longer the only measures. Companies and marketers must answer questions such as: How laser-focused are we on our best customers and on those who are leaving us for other options? Do we really understand our consumer’s journey? Are we shifting our thinking from “did it work” to “what did we learn?”
3. Rising expectations equal speed. All businesses are pressured to keep up with consumers. Consumers today have learned from natively built digital companies and have been taught that there is no need to wait, it can happen in an instant. Amazon sells over 480 million products in the U.S. alone. Ratings and reviews are more critical and influential than TV spots. When it comes down to it, all else being equal, the faster company in any market will win.
Thinking about making decisions must shift to actually making decisions. Ultimately, this is much more important than the decision itself. Implications for marketing include: Do you have a solid e-com strategy in place? Are you operating radically faster than six months ago to meet consumers head on? Is your corporate decision making rapid?
4. A rapidly changing marketplace. Numerous markets have been destabilized in the past five years, from rental cars to books to art to medicine. The biggest challenge facing FedEx and UPS is Uber and Lyft, and they are coming. The CAPEX that both FedEx and UPS spend on an annual basis, nearly $8.5 billion, would be worthless to companies that don’t own inventory.
Every chief innovation officer (really any company now) must think both vertically (rules, structures, sequence and order) and horizontally (what’s possible, what’s coming). Implications for marketing and beyond: What is your corporate culture’s appetite for change? How many beta programs are running concurrently? What is the speed of beta work? What are the current alliance or partnership programs with others that can fuel growth?
All business today is indeed in the fast lane, and those savvy enough to recognize the lanes-changing as a constant will come out on top.