It’s the perfect storm.

AdobeStock_37136196.jpegTechnology and economic forces have put customers in control of their interactions with businesses like never before. The economy has never been more digitally and globally connected. Some will go so far to say that marketing has changed more in the last two years than in the last fifty! And yet, marketers are not confident in their digital ability. Only 48% of digital marketers feel highly proficient in digital marketing. According to a Forrester Research 2015 study, only 5% of organizations feel that they have mastered digital or agile marketing to a point of differentiation from their competitors.

In a recent blog post, published by HubSpot, 17 different traditional advertising agencies weighed in on what they perceived some of the biggest threats facing this dynamic marketing landscape to be. What surprised me is that while agencies acknowledge the digital evolution, many are still burying their heads in the sand, hanging on to their ever shrinking retainers, without adapting to the need for dramatic change.

In 1961, when John F. Kennedy was ideating his strategy to compete in the Vietnam War, he recognized that the usual military practices the military had relied on through the years would no longer be enough to compete against guerrilla warfare. He needed to innovate and adapt. A one-size-fits-all approach to warfare was outdated, which resulted in the formation of the military branch, the Navy SEALs. Although the Navy SEALs did not change the outcome of that particular war, the branch has proven time and time again to be invaluable to the military as a whole.

Much like the changing tide of military combat in the 60’s, we have similar needs as marketers today. We need to be agile, responsive, and adaptive. The internet was not intended to be a new platform for outdated advertising practices like flashing billboards on web pages, interruptive pop-ups and TV commercials repurposed as 30-second pre-rolls. Rather, the web is a dynamic playground of opportunities to build a one-to-one relationship with your target audience, earning their attention and fostering ideas worth sharing with like-minded advocates.While it’s clear nobody has all the answers as to what marketing and advertising best practices will be in the future, we know that now, more than ever, we need to give consumers information that is authentic, accurate, and accessible, and we want our tactics to be measurable. This is where the inbound marketing “Navy SEALs” team comes in. Consider hiring an inbound marketing “SEALs” team to get the job done!

    1. Speed

      — or put into marketing-speak, real-time. “Traditional agencies are built to uncover insights (takes time), develop campaign ideas (takes time), plan and buy media (takes time), and produce the creative (more time)” was a challenge pointed out by Will Burns, of Ideasicle from the aforementioned HubSpot post. Inbound marketing agencies leverage insights and data to adapt strategy in real-time. The inbound approach frequently relies on establishing a quarterly, rather than annual marketing plan, allowing for companies to be agile and adaptive to their business changes and challenges.

    2. Agility

      — If we agree that the last few years have drastically changed how consumers are accessing information, then the need for brands to adapt how information is accessed by their customers has to be aligned. One of the fundamentals of the inbound marketing methodology relies on your content “getting found.” Inbound agencies not only have had to immerse themselves with all the social media platforms, (as they come and go with relevancy), but need to adapt to all the search algorithm changes dictated by search engines. A best practice this quarter may be outdated next!

    3. Left Brain, Right Brain

      — Traditional marketing practices have relied more on creativity through the years than measurement. After all, it’s virtually impossible to measure the effectiveness of a billboard or a brochure! The Navy SEALs of marketing (inbound marketers!) understand how to tap into both sides of their brains by creating marketing campaigns that not only look great but are tied to analytics. When deploying inbound marketing, there isn’t one email, blog post, downloadable piece of content, or video created that doesn’t have a measurable component. This measurement allows you to adapt your near term strategies immediately to drive results faster. Like the SEALs, every inbound marketing strategy isn’t going to be done exactly right, but accurate measurement ensures that you avoid catastrophic results.

    4. Put Others First

      — If you have any friends who have been in the military, chances are they are on your speed dial as one of your first responders to lend an unconditional helping hand. One of the many attributes which sets a “SEAL” apart is to constantly be asking yourself how you can add value to your team. To be a Marketing “SEAL” requires the same passion for helping. You need to ask yourself “how can I bring value to my customers.” The successful companies today no longer approach sales and marketing by the historic “ABC’s,” always be closing, rather the mantra of the new digital economy has to be “ABH,” or always be helping. Your goal as an inbound marketer should be to make your customers and prospects more informed buyers by creating awesome content.

    5. Never Get Comfortable

      — Any effective SEAL recognizes that you are constantly training. When SEALs aren’t in combat, they are in training. Because being great at inbound marketing requires a myriad of skills (analytical, creative, writing, social media savvy, technical, etc.), you have got to stay curious and have a plan for personal development. When deploying inbound marketing best practices, you can never assume that you have it all figured out. Every campaign brings new learnings; a chance to deploy a better tactic the next time given real-time insights. Like the SEALs, you need to be moving and doing at all times, and staying abreast of all best practices.

Of course, I recognize that the worlds of marketing and the military are miles apart in terms of significance and outcomes. Whether you are in the military or not, by having a strategy, being helpful, adopting a certain sense of agility, and being quick and nimble will ensure you not only accomplish the big wins but triumph over a lot of small victories along the way.