What will Marketing Look like to the Next Generation?

My son was home from college for the holidays and borrowed my car when I realized I had left the office holiday cards in the back seat. I texted him and asked him to mail them for me. His response “They go in that blue thing, right?” Wow. Really?rjs1322_Mailbox

So, like any good mother, I posted on Facebook and told everyone at the office about my kid not knowing what a mailbox was. Everyone reported that their kids asked where the stamp goes when helping with the family holiday cards. So at least it’s not just me.

I mention this because of the ongoing debate of whether print – and specifically direct mail – is still relevant. I am firmly in the camp of integration and using every means possible to get a consistent message in front of members. Today, for many organizations integration includes print. Today. Tomorrow, next year, in five years – who knows?

Today’s college kids will be in the work force in 3-5 years. Hopefully. They bring fresh ideas, new skills and possibly completely different cultural reference points. Along with no one agreeing on the office music will come great opportunities for challenging how those of us in the current work force think.

This struck me as we recently received an RFP for a three-year marketing plan. Think about what you did to market your organization three years ago. In January 2010 I ran a social media introduction class and had to turn people away when I couldn’t fit another chair in the room. People asked me what Twitter was. Ok, some still do. No one knew the difference between a profile, a page and a group on Facebook. Pinterest didn’t exist. Talking about the Cloud was a conversation about weather. The world was four months from realizing we had to have an iPad.

Things change. I don’t know if its faster than ever or if I am just getting older, but writing a three year tactical marketing plan today is an academic exercise that won’t pay off in practice. A better approach is to invest in an Action Plan.

An Action Plan is based on your communication goals and strategy, just like a marketing plan, but its more direct. We recommend focusing on 5-10 communication efforts that could be implemented over the next 3-12 months. Each tactic should have a one-page (or shorter) description that includes:

  • Description
  • Purpose
  • Format
  • Message/Content
  • Goals
  • Audience
  • Timing
  • Project Plan/Personnel

When complete, review the items and pick the one that if done now will have the most impact on your organization. Don’t pick the easiest. Don’t pick the fastest. Don’t pick the most fun. Don’t pick the one you know the most about. Go for impact – which can still mean a lot of things. With this tactic save time, reduce costs, expand donors, or retain members? To know what impact would be most valuable you only have to look as far as your organization’s goals.

It’s likely that by the time you finish implementing the first marketing effort, something inside or outside your organization will have changed. Maybe you received a huge grant – or lost one. Maybe the next amazing new technology we all have to have just launched. Maybe the mailbox outside your office was just taken away to be stored with all the phone booths. So when it comes to your marketing, stay open, stay flexible, stay curious and stay on top of what’s coming. Because something is always coming, and it may be in the form of a new audience who doesn’t send mail.