What’s next? marketing operations in a world after covid

| April 8, 2020

The world will never go back to the way it was, but what it becomes and where it goes from here is in our hands.

The way we behave now, in the coming months, and the way we act when this is all over will shape the world our grandchildren grow up in.

So I thought that rather than spend another coffee break crunching numbers looking for some kind of trend that will give back hope, I’d look a little further into the future (and the past and share some thoughts…. So here goes ūüôā

The first digital transformation was the launch of the internet in 1994… It spawned new industries, changed the way we communicated, turned the lowly nerds into the gods of the future.

The second digital transformation was the launch of the iPhone in 2007… While the internet was “a thing” before then, the iPhone turned the internet into “THE thing”… It went from being an accessory to a necessity and the human race began it’s transition into a cybernetic symbiosis with our technology.

Covid-19 has been the trigger for the third digital transformation… By taking away the most fundamental ways in which we survive and interact, Covid-19 has shattered a lot of heuristics and assumptions about what is “necessary”.

Companies continue to operate with 50, 75, or even 100% of their staff working remotely. Retail and groceries continue to be delivered despite people not leaving their homes. Social interaction and communication transitioned to the online world in a way which will forever change the nature of human interaction.

Sure, we’ll all get back outside… We’ll all go back to the baseball… We’ll go back to hanging out with friends and even hugging family (it feels weird that that’s suddenly a scary thing)… But will we all go back to having to commute 2 hours a day just so we can sit in the same room as a bunch of people who largely reduce our productivity?

Will we all go back to standing in lines at the supermarket to hand select which box of Mac ‘n’ Cheese we want to take home?

Will we all go back to paying $50 for popcorn and a movie after we’ve gotten used to being able to just beam it into our living room on release night?

Some of life before Covid will get back to normal… but a lot of it won’t… and ALL of the things that won’t will involve people taking things they had previously done in the real world into the digital realm.

So digital marketers have just moved from – those annoying people that keep talking about how they spent money on google… to the great hope of companies that had NO plans of having to adapt to a world they expected never to change.

So what does that all mean for Digital Marketers and Marketing Operations?

1.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Digital Transformation is no longer something that can afford to wait – A lot of industries have only recently started dipping their toes in the digital water… whether it’s Education; Government; Insurance; Health; Construction; Retail; and more… A lot of these industries which were established long before the first digital transformation didn’t really bother moving into the digital space. Even the majority of those that did were still lumbering through it with very little idea of what to do. It’s going to be up to MOPs people to rip those bandaids of and deploy new tools, processes, and teams in companies in time-frames that you never even dreamed of having to work in.

2.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Events are now a sometimes food – Events have been dying for some time… They’ve been getting bigger, more bloated, and less pragmatic for years. In the past month, some of the biggest companies in the world have switched their events to fully digital events and that’s opened them up to 10x the number of leads/customers, and… Ironically, has made the events feel a lot more like they used to be when the digital world was young. Marketo Summit for example when I first attended had 400 guests… 400… I got to spend time getting to know people, have conversations in which I really built some meaningful relationships. Last year there were thousands of people at Adobe summit… everyone was trying to sell you something or a talking head, and you left with a few knick knacks, a room service bill, and a sense that you’d just wasted a week but hey at least you got a trip on the company dime… Adobe’s recent virtual summit flipped that paradigm, suddenly you could go to all the sessions you wanted and actually pay attention… you didn’t have people distracting you… and the lockdown actually made a lot of people who would otherwise have seemed very distant seem rather approachable talking to you from their own homes. People are going to want more of this, particularly until we all get used to planes and big crowds again.

3.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Youtuber set the standards – Corporate production value for digital assets has been trash for years… Webinars recorded in an echoey office with lazy powerpoint decks that have been rehashed a thousand times… Audio quality, video quality, and entertainment value that reminds you of a bad MP4 of a much loved 1980s TV series that makes it barely watchable as much as you want to see it again. Digital audiences are not captive audiences, they have the option, nay the constant temptation, to click away at any moment. Digital marketers are going to need to look to popular youtubers to understand the tricks of the trade, and they are going to have to invest in the equipment to do it well… Otherwise you can be 100% sure that you will lose your audience to Pewdiepie (just ask your kids).

4.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Old industries will wither, new industries will rise – You’re going to miss the local green grocer, or that shoe store down the road… and a lot of people who used to work in travel and tourism are probably going to be looking for work… It’s not all bad news though, because there are going to be a bevvy of new jobs that rise up out of this, and if we as digital marketers avoid the temptation of thinking in the “pre-covid” way, it can actually create some quality work for people. Digital event production companies will provide whole new ways for people to leverage their production, camera, sound, and editing skills…. Those formerly esoteric youtube kids are about to explode into the most important support role in your MOPs team. If you’ve already got one, you are one of the lucky ones, and if you don’t… Now is the time to find them, because there aren’t a lot of them… and they are going to start being as important as social media marketers were in 2010.

5.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Privacy is making a come back – People having their entire lives move online has really brought digital privacy back to the forefront of every day conversation… Suddenly grandma is asking whether or not it’s safe to trust Zoom if it’s API shares data with facebook (yep… grandma talks about APIs now). Most MOPs people will know that a lot of the more “invasive” tools that we created to track people on websites and to collect data about audiences was done because people didn’t trust technology… No one in 1999 would have been willing to tell their phone how they feel, or to tell the local store exactly what kind of products you were dreaming of buying… So we implemented cookies, tracking, APIs, big data, FB and Google did their things and well… that led to places we didn’t really expect. Humanity’s skepticism of machines is gone… Now the machine is our lifeline to one another… Skepticism of corporations and governments is at an all time high. There will be a huge opportunity for businesses with the ethical fortitude to replace the “lets spy on people to figure out what they want” paradigm with a new “lets ask people what they want and give them their privacy back” paradigm.

This third digital transformation is compulsory… and a lot of industries are going to be reeling. It’s up to digital marketers and MOPs teams to help lead companies through this haze and into the new world.

That said, we should be thinking about doing so ethically… 2020 should be a hint to look back and to look forward. To look back with a clear vision not only of the positives that the previous 2 digital transformations have brought, but also at their costs. To look at the world today and see the values that have really shone through during these hard times, and the way the earth itself has healed in such a short time, To look forward at the future that we wish to create.

Those that are leading this third transformation should strive to do so ethically, to maximize the social benefit of it, and to make sure that we create a world worth living in and perhaps begin the process of healing both the earth and our societies… and without

There will be a post-covid world, and it’s the job of programmers, digital marketers, and MOPs to shape that world into a world we’d want our grandkids to live in.

Take care of yourselves, be safe, and lets get through this together and make what comes out on the other side worth the sacrifice and the hardship that it will cost.

How is your business going to do things differently post COVID-19?

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