Early on in my career I noted that a lot of my peers were rooted in the past, and were at risk of being left behind professionally. They just couldn't "move with the times" and were becoming marketing dinosaurs.
I realised I needed to learn from best practice and actually started a marketing networking group. With a group of friends, I got together 12-15 Marketing Directors for dinner every few months to discuss the latest trends and issues in marketing. It really helped me as it contributed to my learning and growing. And to give you an idea of how early on this was in my career, it was pre-social media and at a time when many businesses asked "do i really need a website?"
So, I'm always amazed at how many marketers aren't interested in the profession and in learning about developing technologies or initiatives. For example, how few have a smartwatch, fitness band, twitter account or have used sharing sites such as instagram. Or how few haven't tried out Uber or Hailo or subscribed to Netflix. Let alone backed something on KickStarter or rented a room through AirBnB.
These may sound like trivial things and when I say this I see many people roll their eyes. But regardless of what industry you're in, or even if these things are not that relevant for your business today, understanding their implications is important. And putting your head in the sand isn't going to help either. Do you think social media, wearable devices, cloud technology etc is just going to go away? And anyway, why wouldn't you want to try out new things and learn?
And it's the small things that can make all the difference. Here's three simple examples from my recent past:
- I have a Pebble Watch and now an Apple Watch. Not necessarily because they're going to figure in my marketing strategies, but because I wanted to understand the future implications of marketing into such a personal space. The rules of email marketing for example will change forever if consumers are receiving emails in a 2x2cm screen.
- I've owned fitbit, jawbone, jawbone UP fitness bands. Why? To start to realise the enormous potential of collecting different and more personal types of data. (Oh, and as a bonus, I also discovered that tracking steps alone does not make you healthy. I subsequently ditched the bands and lost 15kg by just watching what I eat and doing no exercise...)
- I wrote a daily music blog for a year. Why? Because it helped me understand the discipline, issues and challenges of producing fresh content on a regular basis. Content marketing is one of the hottest topics right now and I wanted to see what it was like to be a content marketer.
Now, I'm not advocating jumping on every digital bandwagon in your marketing. Far from it - chasing the next shiny new thing is a dangerous path for any marketer. However, investing the time in these digital developments outside of work keeps you current, up to date and ahead of the curve. It also gets you some perspective as you have the chance to experiment too.
And on a career front, they also open up new opportunities for you professionally as you'll add innovation and creativity to the list of your many skills. And it'll also stop you being that digital dinosaur that I know I continually try not to be on a daily basis.