Marketing for Tomorrow: Principles for the Future of Marketing (Part 1)

Alex Alexander
Chief Marketing Officer
October 21, 2021

This piece is an installment in our four-part series, Marketing for Tomorrow, where we share our thoughts on how to future-proof your marketing funnel amidst the rapidly changing digital landscape. You can read Installment 1 — How to Build Brand Loyalists with Effective Content — here.

But First, a Recap...

  • Content is still king (and always will be). 
  • Start thinking about content as an investment, not a cost.
  • When it comes to creating content that converts: (1) Get to the point in the first two-to-three seconds — attention spans aren’t getting any longer. (2) Optimize for a mobile-first approach. (3) Focus on benefits and outcomes, not features. (4) Start creating with whatever tools you have on hand (even your iPhone).

Digital marketing isn’t just an ever-evolving space — it’s a rapidly evolving space. In the past year alone, Covid-19 has made it critical for brands to take ecommerce seriously and build marketing funnels that can keep up with changes to consumer shopping patterns, platforms, algorithms, and operating systems. For marketers, staying nimble and elastic is part of the game, but it takes a ton of time and resources to update or overhaul a marketing strategy. This means that seeing the forest for the trees — thinking long-term and “future-proofing” your approach — is the best way to engage with your customers today, tomorrow, and long after that.

At Sieo, we’ve come up with four “Principles for the Future of Marketing” — axioms every brand can use to extend the “shelf life” of its marketing funnel indefinitely. So whether you’re a new start-up starting from scratch or an established business looking to revamp your digital game, scroll on to learn more about the first two principles: relationship-first funnels and community-based marketing.

1. Focus on a Relationship-First Funnel

We’ve said it before, but treating your customer as a dollar sign won’t do anything (positive) for your bottom line. Instead, start thinking about how to build a relationship with your audience.

In fact, long gone are the days when the standard customer journey resembled this type of cone:

flow chart of the traditional stages of a marketing funnel, including top of funnel marketing
Courtesy of Business to Community.

Those familiar with this model have probably heard the common parlance of TOFU (top of funnel), MOFU (middle of funnel), and BOFU (bottom of funnel), though the traditional sales flow that this lingo shorthands doesn’t quite hold up to 2021 digital realities. In the outdated spout-like funnel above, your customers trickle down to the “purchase” stage and boom! — you’ve made a sale.

Then what?

Today’s funnel is more like an hourglass. It’s a nonlinear, fluid, and cohesive experience that places equal emphasis on post-purchase behavior, turning consumers into loyal brand advocates and repeat buyers through “delight” factors, testimonials, feedback, product development, and more.

Courtesy of Wix.

In other words, marketing today is a conversation: two-way, dynamic, and continuous. And whether you’re speaking to Gen Z or Baby Boomers, your sole job is to earn their trust with a stream of relevant information, transparency, social impact, accountability, and community management.

Suggested Reading: How to Build a Business with Social Impact

2. Build a Valuable Community

It’s paramount to get to know your customers to build a relationship-first funnel, but how do you really uncover their pain-points and address their wants or needs in the first place?

Well, one of the best ways is through community-based marketing (CBM). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a community is a “group of people who share the same interests, pursuits, or occupation, especially when distinct from those of the society in which they live.” But how does this abstract notion apply to your overall marketing approach?

Well, creating a community, in the context of your future-proof funnel, means directly engaging with the personas you identified when you were first building your brand. Instead of trying to “acquire leads or customers,” CBM opts to communicate in a way that is explicitly not sales-driven, and instead sparks meaningful conversations to earn your target audience’s trust and buy-in.

Here’s how you can do this:

  • Clearly define your goals. This will shape the types of conversations you start and the data or outcomes you ultimately assess to help refine your overall marketing strategy.
  • Cultivate controversy. Be “softly” provocative, driving engagement through meaningful, rigorous discussion that stands out from your competitors’ own attempts at CBM.
  • Start small and find your champions. Getting a few evangelists on board will do more for your brand than getting a crowd of mildly interested participants.
  • Don’t compromise on integrity. If the ultimate goal is to nurture these community members into customers, do it without compromising on the integrity of your brand or the relationship.

Why Is Community-Based Marketing Important, Anyway?

When done correctly, CBM can give you a better understanding of your customers and provide a genuine touchpoint for gathering product feedback (which can play a huge role in product development) as well as rethinking how you deliver a frictionless experience. Again, the goal is to create a relationship-first funnel, and that involves plenty of back-and-forth communication to garner loyalty. (One recent study revealed that 71% of customers are turned off by loyalty programs designed to increase purchases, and that relevance is more important instead.)

Pro Tip: You should own the platform where you convene your community. In an age of increasing digital privacy, first-party data is becoming one of the few avenues you have to truly understand user behavior and compile actionable insights and metrics.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 of Principles for the Future of Marketing…

In our next installment, we’ll discuss the last two Principles for the Future of Marketing: ensuring that your customer has a frictionless experience and creative-based marketing. In the meantime, explore the rest of our blog and sign up for our email newsletter to stay tuned on new posts, company updates, and cool events, or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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