The time is now. Not next year, or six months from now, or at the conclusion of a five-year plan. Success won’t come with the next marketing conference, the new social channel around the corner, or the next piece of “game-changing” tech that’s just waiting to be unleashed on the world. Your future is written largely by what you do today, so the biggest single challenge for marketers in 2017 will be staying focused. Stop worrying about what’s next and concentrate on delivering what is now!
Yes, the future – and the near limitless possibilities it presents – will always be alluring, and of course it’s a good idea to plan for the future no matter what you have going on in the present. But there’s a big difference between planning for the future, and expecting the cavalry to come save you if you just hold out a little longer… or waiting for the perfect plan and someone else to show you the way.
Unfortunately, it’s just too easy for marketers to fixate on the mythical future fix, when most challenges, goals, and concerns are best addressed in the present. So it’s important to keep planning, but never at the expense of the here and now.
Avoid Succumbing to the “Shiny New Thing” Syndrome
The marketing world is full of contradictions, and I don’t mean that entirely as a criticism. Part of it is just the nature of the business. We all have a stake in staying on the cutting edge, but it’s also our job to find the best available solutions, rather than chasing every shiny new thing. The tug-of-war between what works now and what might work better in the future is something that every marketer, and person, has to deal with from time to time.
This is not a new struggle, or one specific to marketing. The real problem arises when we start projecting what we want to happen, and eventually that projection morphs into what we expect to happen. This is especially common when we face a challenge that seems intractable. It’s frustrating when hard work doesn’t lead to the desired solution, but crossing your fingers and hoping for something better in the future won’t get you anywhere.
Besides, as a group, we humans don’t exactly have a stellar record of predicting the future, in day-to-day life or in the business world. Small, incremental advancements are much easier to predict than big, disruptive changes. Plenty of very smart people have gone broke speculating on the next big thing.
The Practical Value of Staying in the Present
Big-picture psychological stuff is interesting, but focusing on the present has plenty of practical value. In marketing today, the bottom line is engaging your audience and building relationships. By their nature, meaningful relationships take time to build. It’s a step-by-step process, and you’ve got to be present in order to make it work.
Staying in the present also allows you to seize the initiative and connect with your audience on their terms. This is especially valuable on social channels, where every interaction is another opportunity to build upon relationships… and this scales since the majority participate vicariously through the interaction and engagement of others (many more than you realizing just watching “recorded’ interactions), and spreads from one to the next via every social channel. However, if you’re too focused on what’s coming next, you’re going to miss out on all of the opportunities that are right in front of you today.
So focus on what you can do today to build better relationships, connect with your audience, and improve your marketing in every phase. Planning for the future is great, as long as it doesn’t stop you from doing everything you can in the present.