Lately, it seems that no marketing job description or resume is complete without at least one reference to Digital Marketing. Digital Marketing is a popular yet loose term that is being bandied about an awful lot, often by people who don’t fully understand it well. It certainly makes sense in an era when Marketing has undergone so many profound and rapid changes (think of all the web, mobile, social, apps, CRM, etc… in just the past 10 years!). Many, if not most of these, are the direct result of countless advances in technology. But more than a skill, activity or even “thing,” Digital Marketing is really a broad (and continually evolving) spectrum made up of various tools, applications, channels, activities and even services. From the digitized PDF brochure (LOL!) all the way through Social Media, Mobile Apps and beyond, the question is really: Where do you operate on the Digital Marketing spectrum and where do you want to play?
Almost anyone today can claim to have done some form of Digital Marketing. There is no significant novelty anymore in things like e-mail campaigns, building websites, banner ads, SEO, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Mobile Apps, webinars, YouTube videos, etc… Almost all of these and many others are pretty mainstream and very likely already in the digital repertoire of your biggest competitors. Worse yet, few of these are truly effective at generating incremental business (check out: The Case for Companies Staying Off Social Media). So why are you still doing stuff you can’t measure well or be sure works? The herd mentality certainly applies to marketing.
“When everyone does pretty much the same thing, unless you can do stuff significantly better than the others, it’s time to move on to something new.”
Astute and ambitious digital marketers should be turning their gaze towards emerging marketing technologies, trends and innovations to stay ahead of the pack. Which ones you ask? Well, here are a few worth diving into before they hit the mainstream.
Conversational Interfaces — Graphic user interfaces are ubiquitous and have come a long way in a very short time. We clearly live in a point & click & touch & tap world. Yet in spite of all these advances, we are still left longing for something more natural, more human,… more conversational and engaging. TIP: Time to drop the screen layouts, graphic displays and app interfaces and make your customer/patient interactions more conversation-like. Shift from trying to TELL your customers something or GET something from them to sustaining a true CONVERSATION with them through whatever channel they prefer or are comfortable with. Also, consider adding a conversational layer to your zombie apps or websites that are slowly dying on the vine. For more information on the rise of conversational interfaces check out this excellent article .
Chatbots. Chatbots are a natural evolution of our desire to have a true two-way conversation with a product or service provider. Riding on nearly universal messaging platforms, chatbots are accessible almost anywhere and do not require any specials apps, downloads or complex menu screens. Best of all, they are easy, quick and very affordable to develop. TIP: Starts experimenting with chatbot development today before the full gold rush is on. Your first efforts won’t necessarily be great but you will learn a lot and gain valuable insights. From customer service functions to health & wellness tracking or from sales support through behavior modification, the potential for chatbots to change the way we interact with our customers is simply enormous. To learn more about how chatbots will have a profound impact on Healthcare in particular check out this article.
AI — Artificial Intelligence may not be new but it has made incredible strides in recent years. With so much data being generated every second, we desperately need help deciphering what it all means. AI is also the natural partner of chatbots and voice recognition applications. It makes interactions more precise, pertinent and personalized. That said, AI is not entirely where we would like to be — yet. We still have several years to go before it works seamlessly and universally. TIP: Ensure you are up-to-date with AI evolutions and start identifying opportunities where AI can be introduced into your organization and/or marketing activities. Think new algorithms for handling all the data you are collecting, image processing capabilities, sales data, customer/user info, anything quantifiable and in large volumes is fair game for AI.
NLP — Natural Language Processing is closely associated with AI. Whether written or spoken, language needs to be broken down into pieces which can be quickly and accurately interpreted, ideally all in the right context. TIP: Look at your FAQs and accumulated domain or product knowledge bases (White papers, studies, reports, etc…) to see how they can be tapped into via NLP engines.
Voice — Voice Recognition is the next logical evolution of conversational interfaces. Virtual Assistants like Siri, Alexa, Allo already lend themselves extremely well to supporting customer/user dialog with service/product providers. TIP: Start thinking about how your conversational interfaces can leverage voice powered virtual assistants such as the ones mentioned above. Give your customers the freedom to interface with you and your business whichever way they choose to: text-only, voice-only, or GUI-only. Or perhaps a mix of all three!
IoT — Seems not a day goes by without some new object becoming connectable via what is referred to as the Internet of Things. Connected wearables, for example, have created an entire category of Patient Generated Health Data (PGHD) that health and wellness providers can now tap into. Meanwhile, appliances, cars, homes and even clothing are becoming connected and therefore accessible to anyone, anywhere. TIP: Think of what a connected world might look like and mean for your customers and/or organization. How can you add your products to the growing list of connected objects and how can you leverage or develop systems that can transform these multiple interactions into a sustainable competitive advantage? How will you enrich your customer/user conversations with IoT data?
VR/AR — Imagine the power of combining natural conversation within a virtual or augmented physical context or environment. Yes, that’s the future that Virtual/Augmented Reality, in combination with conversational interfaces, promises us. TIP: Start planning for virtual trade shows & demonstrations, VR meetings with customer Service or Sales representatives, virtual factory or lab visits, etc…
It’s still early days for some of these technologies, yet the momentum is undeniably there. As a digital marketer, you can distinguish yourself by implementing mainstream applications better than others or by getting in early on emerging ones. The former won’t meet with too much internal resistance but it also won’t win you any innovation awards or meteoric sales increases. The latter is certainly not without risk (and perhaps a few arrows in your back), but it will set you on an altogether different trajectory.
Bottom line: It’s not whether you do any Digital Marketing or not that matters anymore. It’s more about where you operate on the Digital Marketing spectrum. Are you in front with innovators and early adopters or in the main pack, hustling with other “me-too” digital marketers?
Andrew Hyncik is an International Strategic Marketing & Product Development veteran with 20+ years of experience in the Medtech, CPG, Healthcare and Pharma industries. For more Medtech & Digital Marketing insights, original articles or services, visit www.MedtechMojo.com
Andrew Hyncik and Pascal Malengrez are International Strategic Marketing & Product Development leaders who amplify classical medtech marketing with digital startup thinking.