The Future of Marketing In The Post-PC World

If you are a marketer who has spent the last 10 years mastering the art of capturing and converting customers on the desktop web, the rapid rise of smartphones and the iPad might make you nervous.

You’ve built businesses on paid search, written essays about optimizing lead forms and studied the ever-changing subtleties of SEO. Using cookies that follow us around the web, you’ve turned display advertising into a performance medium. But just as you were beginning to wrap your heads around the whole social thing, along come the iPhone, Android and the iPad and with them a whole new reality: the post-PC world.

The post-PC world is radically different from the world in which most marketers honed their skills. Here, horizontal keyword search is losing ground to vertical-specific apps like Yelp and Hipmunk and a stream of recommendations from Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and maybe Path. Along its frontiers, touch- and voice-driven interfaces write most of the laws. This landscape is unfriendly to lead forms. It rejects traditional tactics like SEM and SEO. In the post-PC world, the marketing methods of the last decade will be on their way out the window. Marketers and businesses that can’t adapt will be on their way out the door.

But there is good news for those ready, willing and able to evolve: Post-PC consumers – like generations of consumers before us – will still want ways to entertain our senses, engage our imaginations and stimulate our minds.

The future of marketing in the post-PC world is not about showing up high in search results. It is about reputation and spontaneous discovery. It is about weaving yourself into the feed. This is an evolution of what is known these days as inbound marketing. It involves creating awesome content that makes you relevant and then leveraging your overall awesomeness to establish a relationship with your target customers and maintain it over the years.

When you do it right, your customers want to find you. They need to find you. Your existence delights them because you are exactly what they were looking for – whether they knew what they were looking for or not.

But post-PC consumers are not patient. When we want to engage with your business, we expect you to respond in an instant, on the communications channels we prefer to use. Responding to our emails in a few hours or days just ain’t gonna cut it: depending on our demographics, we are either overloaded with email or hardly use email at all.

But we do consume almost every text message (SMS) that we receive. When we’re in info-gathering, entertainment or transaction mode, we tap on links that seem enticing and follow push notifications into our favorite mobile apps. And if your business offers a frictionless way to contact you, many of us will even call.

In practice, this means embedding SMS tools into your CRM, email software or whatever else you want to use. It means using call tracking to gather metrics on phone calls or sending voice and text messages to notify sales reps about new leads in real-time. It means creating “tap-to-call” capabilities that instantly connect smartphone or iPad users via VoIP to your sales or support agents with a tap on a link in a mobile app or an ad. And for these agents, it means taking calls straight from an iPad – not locked down in some office or call center, but anywhere that wireless internet can go.

If what you’re selling is weaksauce and your content is boring, you will find the post-PC era to be a cold, cold world. But if you can produce products that incite our passions and generate content that resonates through an ever-more-insane degree of noise, you’ll have a shot at becoming part of our feeds. If you do these things while creating new ways to engage us when and where we want to be engaged, the future will be yours.

So what are you waiting for? The latest iPad is selling like crazy and it’s time to think different.

The post-PC world is almost here.

A version of this column originally appeared on TechCrunch.

8 thoughts on “The Future of Marketing In The Post-PC World”

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. When you talk about embedding SMS tools into a comapany’s CRM or email software to alert salespeople, I am not sure I understand this point. Can you elaborate on this please? Do you mean that companies should send us a text message based on what if were were just interacting with their website/app/game on our mobile device?

    1. Great question.

      Email is still a fantastic channel if you know how to work it right, but someday, it, too, will reach a saturation point or (more significantly) a decline in usage.

      When that happens, brands (but also software companies), will need to find new, effective ways to communicate 1:1 with their customers, send them offers, engage them, etc.

      Until the day comes that WhatsApp decides to enable companies to communicate directly with customers, the best, fastest, and most powerful way to reach the mobile consumers of the future is likely going to be SMS.

      Very few (if any) companies have truly cracked this code, but my guess is that someone will eventually, and then there will be a rush.

      Note: this applies a lot less to native mobile apps and games, which can use use push notifications if they want to communicate with their customers.

    2. I just re-read your comment and realized that I mis-read your question.

      I once read a study (will find and write about it later) about the importance of responding instantly to new leads. It basically said that the faster you called someone back after they submitted their contact info, the more likely they were to become a customer.

      The idea of notifying your reps with SMS is so that they can respond almost immediately to an inbound lead.

  2. Hi Dan,

    I just read this article after http://techcrunch.com/2014/03/22/the-real-engines-of-growth-on-the-internet/

    I like your idea of using SMS as a 1:1 engagement channel between customers and a business as well as empowering a business to route customer support/subscription requests in realtime to subject matter experts ultimately providing a two-way interaction between customers and subject-matter experts (eg sales or techsupport).

    Coupling the notion of 1:1 engagement together with insights from your Highbar’s onboarding article motivates me to A/B test an onboarding experience for my own company Celly that outputs an embeddable 1:1 engagement widget (vs a social network) that users could put on their own site.

    Thanks for your insightful articles!

  3. Hey Dan,

    Just stumbled upon this; fantastic read and insight! However I’d replace SMS with WhatsApp, WeChat, Line and all it’s competitors.

    In my opinion, their ease of use compared to the usual clunky text messaging will eventually replace SMS, which is already happening to some degree as we can see by the ridiculous growth of Whatsapp (and it’s 19 billion buyout).

    However with no advertising on many of these platforms, tracking not only will be harder, but measuring your brand will also prove difficult.

    1. Hey Mark,

      The great thing about SMS is that, despite all of its clunkiness, it is universally accessible to anyone with a mobile phone. You don’t need to be on WhatsApp, WeChat, or Line to send or receive a text message.

      While the rise of over-the-top messaging apps is a major trend that marketers will need to figure out, I suspect SMS will have a lot of utility for a while.

      1. That’s a very good point Dan. I guess eventually 3G will be more accessible, but for the time being SMS will cover the basics in growing nations :).

        It’s a interesting and brilliant area to keep an eye on!

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