A slightly presumptious question since I know bupkiss about marketing, however that never stopped me before so here goes… :-)
My reason for making such a statement isn’t really a reflection on marketers per sei, but rather on the types of discussions that I believe companies are now (or will be) having with customers, and the people best positioned within the organization to have those conversations.
“To have access, or not to have access, that is the question”, or is at least the question that most companies are asking themselves with respect to broad employee access to the dangerous medium of social media. What’s going to happen to our brand if every employee is out there totally unfettered? How are we going to control what they say? Well firstly we aren’t, and secondly we don’t want to, or at least not in a very prescriptive way.
No-one trusts marketing messages, and the only people who really read these messages and interact with the people generating them are other marketers. If I am a security specialist or an IT Director, I am much more likely to trust someone within the development organization that has worked on the latest security enhancements. For those companies that eat their own dog food (always a good practice), then the line of business folks on the client side would be much more interested in getting the skinny from their counterparts within the company. If I am a product manager then I would like to talk with other product managers, and so on. The subject matter experts are the people I want to hear from and the people I want to interact with. This is the same across every profession in the company.
So if we accept the hypothesis that people would rather talk with non-marketers, then what does this say about the role of the marketer? Are they a dying breed? I don’t believe so. The need to manage brand perception and messaging is never going to go away and marketing play an invaluable role in building the strategy and crafting that message. But moving forward, instead of being the sole mouthpiece that delivers that message into the market, perhaps they will become facilitators for empowering the delivery of that brand message from across the organization. And I don’t mean crafting messages that employees regurgitate, thats disingenuous and will not be believable. I mean by creating an environment which helps employees understand how they can talk about whatever they want to talk about without damaging the brand. If we want broad (and diverse) engagement with our customers, across all levels of their organizations (decisions don’t just come from the top down), then we need broad engagement from the enterprise.
Employee communication has the potential to be more honest (no-one is going to risk their reputation with their peers), less polished (which is more believable), and more interactive (which drives deeper relationships). Making such a broad engagement model work for the enterprise is not without its challenges, and will demand a new breed of marketer. However I would like to think that in the longer-term it builds stronger and more credible links between the company and the client. At least that’s my story and I am sticking to it!
I have some theories around the role of analytics in helping to facilitate this new engagement model, but I will leave that for the next blog post :-)