Posted on January 2nd, 2022
Every year at about this time, the blogosphere is plush with year-to-come marketing predictions. True, Aimclear works hard to keep up-to-the-minute-current in theory and practices. And, key to our agency remaining one of the best integrated marketing agencies in America and the world is adherence to timeless, classic, indelible values.
I was trained by (nice, high integrity) Mad Men and, by the time I hit agency life in the mid 1980s, my mentors were 30-year marketing veterans who grew up professionally in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. By the early 90s the Internet was starting to swing and a stint as Creative Director for a CBS affiliate TV station cemented my perspective. Tech stacks change on a frequent basis, always have, always will. The arrival of the Internet itself was tectonic. Still, the most important marketing values did not change. Zoomed out, either a person can market their way out of a paper bag in an elevator- or not.
The following predictions highlight several of many timeless marketing truths that will remain in 2022 and perhaps forever. Principles apply to both in-house and agency marketers. We’ve included a couple of agency-specific goodies at the end.
1- Human marketers are needed, even if to teach companies to feed various elements to machine (based services) and/or refine the output. The trick is learning what your new role is, and there will be many. Even if the entire marketing ecosystem is entirely driven by machines (which it’s not), there are still roles for humans.
Somebody’s got to sign up for, budget, and buy the machines. A person needs to determine the right machine stack and configure it because there will be various classes of machines and capabilities for businesses with different needs. A person will be required to evaluate the viability and value proposition products that would be marketed, even if that role is to mine data and input to a machine for algorithmic decision marketing. Until all humans are fully replaced by robots, there will be marketing roles and jobs.
2-The in-house marketing team / vendor churn will continue
Every few years there is some migration or the other. It’ll probably always be that way. Brands jettison their agencies and install in-house marketers. A few years later they consolidate internal marketing teams and hire vendors to augment internal capabilities, learn from them, and hire internally again. Other brands fire all their internal marketing employees and go with a full complement of external vendors.
The rules of in-house vs. out-house engagement are timeless. In-house employees seem to cost less than working with an agency. Marketing agencies, on their face, appear to cost more than in-house employees. However, agencies tend to have more diverse skill sets in comparison to all but the largest brands’ in-house teams. In-house marketers are often limited to visibility to its own in-house case studies.
Reciprocally, agencies see a wide array of case studies and have varied experiences and data to draw upon. Marketing agencies frequently have specialists and networks of relationships to solve complex issues that arise for a client. In-house marketers can gain an intimate understanding of the wares and services they market, often with proximity to brain trust and leadership. Such internal relationships may lend valuable insight and relationships. They can also be toxic, sending the employee packing to another brand or an agency and leaving the brand screwed.
Also, agencies can serve as corporate memory for a brand, which may have some transiency in its employment retention. There have been several times when a brand left Aimclear because they hired internal marketers. We joked, “They’ll be back.” Often, they were. There is a season, churn, churn, churn, same as it ever was.
3-Brand equity rules
Having a distinguishable, accepted (if not lovable), familiar brand that customers seek out trumps most if not all other marketing variables. If you’re performance marketer, think of the conversion value of brand keywords. SEO search geeks, how much does conversion from direct traffic matter to a campaign’s outcome? CRO magicians, what would you give to spike conversion rates, average lifetime value, and lower CAC? An ever-increasing brand aurora is hard to beat for most marketing endeavors.
4-Marketing industry thought leadership ranges from genius to snake oil
We’ve learned so much from accurate, freely shared content. Since the digital marketing industry was a major early adopter of blogging, we’ve been astonished at the wide array empowering how-to, technical, and data rich content offerings.
We’ve also seen SO much bullsheep over the years and it’s hard to imagine the misinformation universe changing. For example, in 2021 a well-respected digital marketing firm published a survey purporting to report average costs for retaining SEO firms. The data was based on such a small cross section of that service’s unique, budget hacking, low employee count vendor relationships, that results were seriously off base. Since then Aimclear has been approached by several client prospects citing the “Study,” asking for absurd pricing. Our response- sorry, if you want those prices choose a company where they pay people sheep.
Dis and misinformation run rampant. Fakes, redirects, counterfeit, and outright stupidity have permeated civilization since whenever the first liars and incompetent parties spewed bogus content. With the rise of Internet self-publishing, DIY video, and channels like YouTube, idiots can publish voluminous, real-appearing bunk on a whim. Some things will never change. There are plenty of marketing poser-imposters
5-Hiring and retaining great marketers means nurturing careers
Hiring marketers has always been something of a challenge. Marketing is a fascinating hybrid of technical, entrepreneurial, and creative skills. We seek a blend of science, art, and a candidate’s ability to parse subjective and measurable dynamics. Finding true talent that is also a great cultural fit makes the hiring process even more intense.
Future marketing industry employees likely won’t be either all technicians or all creative types. That’s the way marketing is. Interestingly, the very entrepreneurial qualities which make a teammate desirable, also lead many to start their own business, agency or otherwise once a level of maturity is gained.
Our solution at Aimclear is to nurture our teammates as whole people. “Nurturing” runs the gamut from salary and benefits to Boundary Waters trips, New York Jazz weekends, drone classes, wine tastings, pet sitting, paid time off for community volunteering, meals at work and for families when we travel, and more. We actively develop our team as thought leaders who hit the road speaking at conferences and lead thinking around the world. Multiple teammates judge global awards. The most senior people at our company share their relationships openly. We say, “I love you” at the end of the day. It’s “We, us, and our,” not “I and me.”
Aimclear developed our values collaboratively. No matter what changes in the marketing industry, there will be owners, employers, and employees. Succeeding as a marketing company means offering a professional home.
6-Valueless products don’t have high lifetime value
I had a mentor who once told me, “You can’t wrap a turd up in a bow and expect return sales.” That advice has proven prescient over and over. This reality is not likely to ever change, not in 2022, not ever. Great products and services almost sell themselves. It’s our job as marketers not to mess up a good product with dumb marketing. Crappy products and services are usually much harder to sell.
Whatever tech stack emerges as current or audience targeting of the era. The #1 criteria for successful marketing is to offer products and services that customers want, need, covet, and clamor for.
Agency Specific Bonuses: Here are a few bite sized goodies for agencies out there.
7-A torturous client prospect will become an awful client if you sign them
Follow the signs and read the signals. If a client prospect is demanding, does not follow through, has unrealistic expectations, wants disproportional attention, wastes a lot of time, shoots over lowball offers, or otherwise minimizes your feeling of self, run, don’t walk away from the deal. It’s not going to get any better once they’re paying money for your time.
8- RFPs are nearly a universal waste of time
One of our coolest clients who’s been with us for years, came by way of an RFP. The RFP came from good friends we’d known for a long time and was tailored based on our feedback. Most RFPs are junk. As early as 1981 I remember an agency owner, one of the mad men era players, referring to RFPs as “Really f’d up propositions.” We could write ad nauseam about sure signs of a futile cattle call, the questions we ask, and why we rule out nearly all RFPs. We’ll save that for another writing.
9–Great agencies cost more. Mediocre agencies can fill a niche’. Poor performance agencies must improve or find another line of work.
No great marketing business we know ever made a sustainable living being unprofitable. Great marketing agencies are good at what they do know how to charge for their services. They need to charge more to offer a high level of services and keep the best employees. Mediocre agencies can survive at a moderate price point, provided they fulfill a definable niche’, like small business marketing. If your marketing agency sucks, does not bring profit to clients, and steps to improve have not worked, it may be time to find another line of work. No matter the generation of marketing, these realities have been true and they’re not likely to change.
Aimclear has always made it our business actualize what’s next, adopting solutions early and with authority. As the marketing industry undergoes tumultuous changes, navigating change itself is our business model. History has shown us that there will always be a place at the table to take practical advantage of new technology and help others navigate the evolution. That’s not going to change in 2022.
Happy New Year everyone. Love, light, and be safe.