Digital Marketing: How Far We’ve Come… And How Far We Have To Go – Forbes

Founder, CEO and CIO of HGM Fund, managing investments in the financial technology, health technology and communications industries.

Digital marketing

Since its genesis decades ago, marketing has undergone a series of metamorphoses with the rise of the telephone, followed by television, personal computers and the internet. Now with smartphones, big data and SEO firmly in place in our lives, the question is: “What’s next for digital marketing?”

I often contemplate whether the technological advances we pride ourselves on are doing the industry a disservice. Even as I sit writing this piece, my phone’s blowing up with spam calls, derailing my train of thought. Most of the inbound marketing traffic I receive lands in my junk pile. I might read some of it if I’m bored on a plane, but the chances are pretty slim. Just think of all the hours of wasted time and effort—not to mention marketing dollars—that end up in the proverbial black hole.

Sales Calls And Emails

Right now, the way most people manage all that clutter and shut out the unwanted noise is to intervene tactically, putting their phone on silent mode or clicking endlessly on “unsubscribe” email footers. Fortunately, when it comes to unsolicited sales calls, there’s now “an app for that,” which is a start. Still, anyone who’s had to deal with this knows it’s time-consuming and frustrating.

As for the senders, I think it’s a disrespectful way to treat the consumers you’re trying to draw in. Apart from the irritation of being constantly surrounded by unwelcome marketing overtures, there’s the issue of trust and transparency. In a 2016 study, only 19% of consumers found it easy to differentiate between marketing communications, advertising and branded content, and non-commercial content on social media.MORE FROMFORBES ADVISORBest Travel Insurance CompaniesByAmy DaniseEditorBest Covid-19 Travel Insurance PlansByAmy DaniseEditor

Ironically, any ground that unscrupulous marketers gain via these practices is quickly eroded for all players in the industry. Over time, consumers feel less inclined to listen to authentic and well-meaning digital marketing companies that may have valuable insights and products they’re actually interested in.

Browsers And Search Engines

Venture onto the internet, and the siege continues. We’ve all come to expect persistent pop-ups and video clips that burst into life spontaneously. Then there’s the explosion of browsers. There are so many options, and all those hundreds of browsers and search engines use AI and analytics to serve up the online marketing content they think we’ll be interested in. There’s a dark side to this. It’s been revealed that many of us have been covertly monitored online for years by companies we’ve probably never heard of.Forbes Small Business

Consumer Control

What if there were a way to put advances in AI to work to allow consumers to seize back control and introduce more fairness and balance into this dynamic? While I am encouraged by the recent move to disallow intrusive tracking by default via third-party cookies and by many countries adopting digital privacy laws, I do worry that the protections may be too broad and not easy to manage.

In the near future, I expect to see the emergence of apps that sit inside of browsers and allow us to control and manage how and when we consume digital marketing while online. We’ll be able to better control what does and doesn’t pop up in our search results. Given the sophistication of digital marketing tools today, it’s a wonder we’re not yet able to leverage this type of intelligence inside a browser.

This will go a long way to putting the power firmly back where it belongs: in the consumer’s hands and in the hands of companies that provide these browser apps with operating platforms. This will lead to people having the freedom to decide what messages they receive and when and how they receive them.

Rural Marketing Entrepreneurs

Another positive development I see on the horizon in the realm of digital marketing is better diversification of opportunities for employees. These days, most people can access the internet from anywhere. So, someone on a farm in Idaho can create a digital agency that is just as good as one with several hundred people in the heart of Manhattan. Indeed, lots of cool things are going on in rural America.

The doors of opportunity for anyone wishing to enter the world of digital marketing have been flung wide open. This is great news for those who’ve always longed to get their foot in the door but may not have had a chance. It’s possible, however, that under this new arrangement, mid-sized digital marketing companies will draw the short straw. Even before the pandemic, mid-sized marketers faced many challenges: being unable to find or retain the right talent because of salaries and overheads, as well as the uphill battle of building brand awareness and finding the right caliber of clients. Over the past few years, clients are becoming increasingly demanding while margins are dwindling. These agencies need to be careful or they’ll get crushed. This is a downside, but overall, the change means big things for more people.

Digital Recalibration

My own company has chosen digital platforms and digital marketing to reach our large global market. For us, with customers in 50 countries and operating centers in 23, traditional sales and marketing models are no longer viable; with digital marketing, our many separate teams can use the same tools.

Digital marketing has come a long way, and it’s fascinating to observe it continuing to evolve as a discipline. The key theme I see coming to the fore in the years ahead involves the recalibration of power and balance between all players in the ecosystem: tool providers, regulations, digital marketers, the consumers they’re targeting and the talent they employ.

If we use technology advances thoughtfully and responsibly to further this agenda, I believe the future of digital marketing is a bright one.

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