As an entrepreneur, you’re expected to know how to market your business. The truth is that marketing is technically and creatively challenging. It’s getting even more so. With new technologies like AI, the complexity is daunting for even experienced marketers. You want to make marketing a priority, but you might not be sure where to focus your efforts.

That’s what Kevin Getch, the author of Future Proof Your Marketing, is here to help you with. Kevin is the founder of Webfor, and he’s their director of digital strategy. He started his career in marketing over sixteen years ago.

Kevin is going to give you the tools that will take you inside the minds of your customers, enable you to build a winning strategy that can evolve along with your business, and make your marketing future proof.

Kevin Getch: I work with businesses every day. I sit down with executives and small business owners and marketing managers. I’m constantly seeing the need, from their side, to have a better understanding, not only of the current marketing landscape, but understanding how to measure everything. A big thing we hear a lot is how to measure and actually know what’s effective across all these different marketing channels. How do I set the strategy that actually encompasses these things and really know my client?

I see all the time so much opportunity when I sit down with these businesses. It kills me—there’s just so much opportunity left on the table. I wanted to share the way I look at things, because when I sit down with these people and I walk through everything, then they see it too.

They see that they are missing all these opportunities. I wanted to really provide that value to more people. I wanted to be able to put that in a book. That was one aspect.

The other aspect was there’s so much change coming in the next five to ten years. I’m concerned about a lot of businesses being able to adapt and evolve. What’s exciting about it is there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity. My fear is that there’s going to be a lot of businesses that don’t adapt in time and are left behind.

I’ve seen that happen when we went from print media to more digital mediaand a lot of businesses that did not adapt went out of business. We’re going to be going through another transition, we are already in that transition now, so I wanted to help give people a little bit of guidance so that they didn’t end up on the wrong side of the evolution.

AI and Marketing

Rae Williams: The subtitle of your book talks about the artificial intelligence revolution and how to grow your business during that. What exactly is the artificial intelligence revolution? How will it be affecting businesses and marketing?

Kevin Getch: The artificial intelligence revolution is something we’ve heard and talked about for many years. There are these things that are going to happen in the future, but is it really going to happen? All of a sudden, in the last three years, there’s been this exponential growth in AI technology.

Machine learning, deep learning, the ability for machines to process massive amounts of data and be able to utilize that to make decisions is, in short, what they’re doing. The ability to do that is very helpful for all aspects of business and marketing. Obviously, there’s automation aspects that can improve efficiency andprocesses. There’s also a lot that has to do with just the marketing, customer service, and customer experience in general, as well.

As this technology is increasing, there’s actually a number of factors that are going along with this exponential growth. Because as AI improves, it improves AI even more exponentially. It’s one of those things that if it grows 10x this year, then that means maybe 100x next year, because the technology that just grew is going to increase our ability to grow that technology more.

It’s compounding the exponential growth that’s happening.

Now, we’re to the point that if you use something like Google photos and if all your photos are uploaded to Google photos, you can literally do a quick search by just voice search. I use this example in the book and this is what blew me away. This was probably a year and a half ago, I searched for an elliptical machine, because I was going to sell my elliptical machine because it was sitting in the garage.

I thought, well, maybe there’s a photo of it there somewhere and Google will recognize it, because I was having a hard time finding it. Google automatically populated this photo with the elliptical machine, which was only half of the actual elliptical machine, because it was in a garage among a bunch of other things. That’s part of AI—being able to visually process images and understand what an image is.

We have natural language processing. Obviously, there’s the visual side, there’s the auditory side, there’s all these different elements that AI is growing in. How that’s going to actually impact businesses is in the macro trends in marketing, which I call the three Ps. They’re personalized, predictive, and proactive.

These are the macro trends that are driving marketing in general across a broad range of channels and industries.

AI is allowing us to personalize our marketing more effectively. It’s allowing us to be able to, on the fly, predict a consumer’s needs and proactively go and change the messaging to better fit that specific client’s needs.

Right now, this is something that is really in the beginning stages. It’s really cutting edge and not that many people are utilizing it. Some people are using base personalization by name and things like that. That’s going to change in the next five to ten years.If you think how much AI has grown in the last three years, in the next five to ten years, we’re going to move into different stages. One of the biggest areas, I think, is going to be a surprise for a lot of both businesses and consumers, and that is the proactive side.

That’s one of the largest changes we’ll probably see in our lifetime. Marketing is going from a reactive state to a proactive state. I think that is going to be a big surprise for a lot of people.

Customer Experience

Rae Williams: What do you think is the one unique idea from your book that people will be able to take action on?

Kevin Getch: I don’t know how unique I would say this is, but I think it’s really important to understand that while many of us that are obviously good businesses and focused on creating our best product and service, we really have a high focus on the customer experience.

Think about if you go into a search engine and you’re looking for a specific type of service or business. The customer experience and the user experience have increased exponentially. I’ve been saying for years that search engines are going to be doubling down on user experience.

I think what people don’t understand is, or maybe I think it is really important for them to understand, that customer experience is going to be one of the single determining, biggest factors that affect the success of their business.

While I feel like that should already be the case in a lot of businesses, there’s a lot of businesses that stayed under the radar with different things. In the future, it’s going to not only make or break your business from a reputation standpoint, but it’s going to affect how you rank in search engines. Significantly, it’s going to affect whether you show up or not. The simple analogy I often use with business is if you were referring your friends to another business, and they weren’t having a good experience, how long would you do that?

For a search engine, this is their whole business. Referring their customers to other businesses is the main aspect of their business. Sharing, whether it be information or services or whatever it is. They want to make sure that the customer is having a really good experience.

When we talk about strategy, we talk about customer-centric strategy. I think the biggest thing that someone should take away is understanding that rather than falling in love with our product or service, they should be falling in love with their customer and really focus everything on them—really understanding and developing a customer-centric strategy.

In order to be able to continually change as the consumer trends change, they need to basically have a feedback loop with that customer, where they’re always listening and learning from the customer, so that they can adapt and change and, hopefully, get to the point where they can anticipate the customer’s needs.

They know the customer so well that they know what the customer wantseven before the customer knows what they want. I think if we can get to that pointas a business, we can not only thrive in the current market,but we can thrive in the coming market, and make sure that we adapt as our customersand the market adapts.

The New Digital Assistant

Rae Williams: You have a chapter that’s called “The new digital assistant.” Can we talk a little more about what that is and how we utilize that?

Kevin Getch: Definitely. I’m very excited about this. There’s a lot of people that are worried. Anytime there’s a new technology, people are worried about thenew technology. Back in the day, it was phones. People thought that the phone was going to steal their soul. When computers were invented, people had computer phobia. Every time a new technology comes around, people are fearful.

There are some reasons that they are. I think the digital assistant, in its current stage, is kind of fun, it’s helpful. In the next five to ten years, what we’re going to see is that with the growth of artificial intelligence and the processing power of quantum computing, we’re going to see the ability for this digital assistant to process massive amounts of information.

This is really an important aspect, because AI needs massive amounts of information. I’ll tie it all together by bringing it back to the proactive aspect. When I think about digital assistant, the analogy I often use is if you were going to hire an executive assistant to work for you, would you want them to not get to know you and just sit there and wait until you actually requested something? That isn’t personalized, and my guess is you wouldn’t want to hire that assistant. But when you hire a good assistant, they are going to get to know you. They’re going to get to know your needs. They’re going to get to know your likes, your dislikes, what kind of food you like, and how you prefer your meetings scheduled.

They are going to actually predict your needs and then they are going to proactively take care of some of them for you. So now, our digital assistant is in the infancy stage of the ability of what they can do, but in the next five to ten years, what we are going to see with technology’s growth, is we are going to move more towards that proactive side.

What I mean by that is that right now our technology is very reactive. If I want to search for something, I open up my phone, then I go search for it, and if I am looking for a convenience store, I can just say convenience store. In the future that will change. The assistant will be in always-on mode, where I can have my phone always on, and like any good digital assistant, they’d be listening for opportunities to be of service.

For example, I might be having a conversation with a friend and talking about how I want to learn how to fly a plane; that one of my goals is to take flying lessons and learn how to fly a plane over the next eight years. My digital assistant notes that as something that is important that maybe they could remind me about or find information about. Then, I get a notification after I’m done with that conversation.

So, here is more information on learning to fly, whether it is right for you, and of course, here are ads for flying lessons. I guess this is a good example to show where it is going, but it is really just the beginning, because from a business standpoint, assistants will be utilized in meetings, so that the assistant can take notes, then come up with action items, and tell everyone afterwards what the action items are.

They’ll be used in retail situations, when someone is coming up to pay for an item. This is why there is some fear around digital assistants. AI is going to drastically change the job market, just like the industrial revolution did when we went from human powered or animal powered things, to steam powered.

We’re in the AI revolution, which is going from humans owning intelligence,to nowa computer having the ability for intelligence. That is scary to a lot of people, but from our standpoint as businesses that are looking to be able to market, if we understand what’s coming, we can better prepare and make sure that we are creating a solid foundation to take advantage of what is coming.

Reactive to Proactive

Rae Williams: What happens to people who are not moving in the direction of being proactive? What do you think will happen if we don’t adapt?

Kevin Getch: It’s unfortunate, but what will happen slowly is we will wonder why business is slower than usual and numbers are down a little bit. Unfortunately, if they are not adapting, they’re probably going to blame it on market trends, rather than them not innovating. Unfortunately, that’s often the case when these things come around. Maybe the business is not actually adapting.

They are stuck in this mindset of “I have done it this way for years and it’s worked and so now it is just not working anymore,” but they keep doing it the same way. What’s important is to test and innovate and adapt and constantly be pushing the limits from a business perspective and a marketing perspective, to see how we can add more value to our customers. Whether it is in the processor whether it is in our marketing.

Honestly, I’d say for 95% of businesses out there, their marketing doesn’t resonate with their customers. They haven’t sat there and thought about psychological needs and if they are actually meeting them for their customers. Then, they are not getting those messages in front of their customers in the right places.

But when their customers change and they’re no longer on that same journey, on that same path, or are now taking different paths to the information, then they are not seeing your information. They are not seeing your messages. The short answer is that, unfortunately, these businesses are going to become less profitable if they don’t adapt at some point or another.

Cash flow will become a problem and they may go out of business. That is the unfortunate life if we don’t adapt and if we don’t innovate—we’re going to obviously end up on the wrong side of that change.

Understanding Your Customer

Rae Williams: Do you have any examples of these principles that you can tell us about?

Kevin Getch: Sure, there are a lot of different examples, and I will give you one, because this is top of mind, and we recently won an award for this specific element. It is very linear,because it looks at one aspect of the overall strategy,but it is important to understand. It does communicate the power of really understanding your customer, understanding your product, and understanding the assets that you have.

So, we worked with a company called DiscoverOrg that has been growing substantially. Gosh, this is a really amazing story. We just started working with them when they announced that they were purchasing one of their largest competitors. They came to us and said, “Hey, we could use your help. We are going to bring that brand underneath our brand and we’re going to incorporate everything.”

They had this large web property, which at the time had 2.3 million URLs on the site. So, many different pages on the site, and they wanted to bring that all under their current site. For us, this was obviously a huge, massive undertaking. Often in these situations, what we are looking to do is not lose traffic and not lose value, because here is this great successful company, and now you are taking their website and all of their content and you’re moving it.

How do you make sure that those customers get to the right point? All the searches and keywords that showed up in the search engines are still showing up, and that all the people who are taking action on your website are now on the new site taking action there? So, we worked with their internal marketing team, which was fantastic.

We analyzed all of the pages on the site and recommended, “This is the content that needs to be migrated over, these are the pages, and this is how they need to be redirected to the new site.”We also looked at some of the information and architecture that they had, looked at the directory of people and companies that they had, and we helped recommend them transitioning that over too.

When all was set and done, and the transition was done, not only did we not lose any traffic or conversions, we actually grew traffic by over 400%, which was unheard of in that type of project. We also more than doubled the number of conversions of people taking action on the website.

That is one sliver of what we do in the big scheme of things. We were also working on the site SEO for their current site. They had a whole strategy that they were working on to create content for social media, and they had email campaigns. They had a lot of that already in place.

For other clients, we will sit down and come up with the entire strategy. One of our clients, who is a good-sized client, started experiencing a dip. Google had made some algorithm updates, which are called the bracket updates, because it is around March madness. Google had made some updates in 2018 and we could see a significant drop in the traffic to the client’s website, and the number of conversions.

People were actually requesting more information, but when we looked at the requests, the client didn’t even know that they were happening. They thought, “Business is a little slower.”

We were able to, first, identify the problem, and then come up with a strategy in order to get them back to where they needed to be. Within about six months, we actually exceeded where they used to be.

We recaptured all of that lost traffic and grew the client above that. That is something that takes a comprehensive strategy of understanding. Understanding the user, understanding what type of content is going to be valuable for them, making sure that thecontent is created in a way that is friendly for search engines, and that is sharable on social media. There area lot of aspects that go into it.

A Marketing Challenge

Rae Williams: If you had to issue a challenge to people working towards moving into the AI landscape that is coming and the changing of marketing, what would that challenge be?

Kevin Getch: Honestly, I would challenge them to come up with a strategy, and not just what most businesses do, which is, “Oh, I heard about this one tactic and I need to be doing SEO, or I need to be doing social media, or I need to be doing email.” That’s great, and you probably do need to be doing some of those things, but you need to start with a strategy, and that strategy needs to be customer-centric focused.

You need to start by really diving in and getting to know your customer.

What do they want and what are their fears? What are their uncertainties? What are their desires? How do they make decisions? If you really know your customer and you know them better than anyone else, that is your competitive advantage. Being able to deliver and deliver in a way that not only excites your customers, but also meets the psychological needs that they are looking to fill—that is going to make a customer for life.

There is no better marketing than a satisfied customer.

So, I would challenge people to develop a customer-centric strategy.

What businesses can do to protect themselves and adapt to the coming changes is make sure that they have a feedback loop in place, and that they are constantly learning more about their customers. We can get lost focusing on the next biggest thing.

However, we always have to be managing two businesses. We have to understand what works now, and then we have to look at who we need to become and what we need to do in the future in order to be successful. If we don’t manage both of those aspects, we’re going to fail.

What I challenge them to do is focus on developing a customer-centric strategy, make sure you have a feedback loop in place so that you are constantly listening to your customers, and then just make sure that you’re also thinking about the future and you are adapting.

Rae Williams: How can people contact you if they would like to learn more?

Kevin Getch: People can contact me through our company website at webfor.com. They can also connect with me on LinkedIn–it’s a great place as well. I connect with a lot of people there or they can reach out via social media, send smoke signals. Whatever, I’ll answer back.