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Four Takeaways from The DOZ Interview with Brian Solis

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Over the last four weeks we’ve brought you the entirety of our interview with futurist, analyst, and trend-spotter extraordinaire, Brian Solis. Today we take a final look at the interview, extracting and expanding on some of the most important points he raised during our one-on-one.

Brian Solis – The DOZ Interview

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Brian Solis is well known in the world of technology and marketing. His experience as an analyst, a consultant, a thought leader, and a futurist makes him an in-demand speaker and panelist at events across the US and the world. We were glad he was able to find time to sit down with DOZ and discuss the future of marketing from a variety of angles. We talked trends in marketing, the way in which marketing was likely to evolve in the near future, ways in which marketing has been – and should be – humanized – and…

Brian Solis being the sort of speaker he is, there is a thought provoking quote almost every minute. Whether he’s musing on the on-demand economy and the ways in which apps are redefining the customer experience or the ways in which great experiences market a brand more effectively than an advertising campaign, Solis lays out his vision for marketing in an interconnected, on-demand world in a clear and reasoned manner.

Below we’ve taken one thought-provoking moment from each of the interview segments we’ve published over the last month, starting with how SEO is so much more than anchor text guidelines and keyword salads – it’s a journey.

SEO is a Journey

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Brian Solis urges marketers to rethink their approach to SEO. Instead of concentrating on the outcome – a higher Google ranking or a place on the haloed front page – he suggests treating SEO as a journey.

When you travel there are times when you only focus on the destination. Maybe you have a family trip planned to Disneyland, or maybe it’s that once-in-a-lifetime trip floating down the Nile River. If the destination is something so fantastic you know you’ll only ever visit once then the way you get there is perhaps less important. A low-cost jet for six or seven hours? No problem. A rickety old bus bouncing across unpaved roads? All part of the experience.

But if it’s a journey you are making regularly, and if the destination is somewhere you need to be in order to survive rather than to relax, then the quality of the journey matters a whole lot. There’s a reason that millions of people prefer to drive their own car into work than take the bus, and a reason that people will pay a premium to travel business class on a flight that might only last an hour. As songwriter Harry Chapin once put it, for many people “it’s got to be the going, not the getting there, that’s good”.

SEO is much the same. Focussing on the end result is great if you get there, but not if you want to make SEO an everyday part of your business. Instead of treating a great Google ranking result as an end in and of itself, focus on how you get there. Instead of stuffing keywords, focus on the customer experience. Ask yourself what visitors will do when they arrive on your site, where you want them to click, what your reason for directing them here or there is, and what value you are adding at every step.

Focus on the journey, not the destination, and watch your customer experience and search engine results improve hand-in-hand.

Marketers Should Inspire, Not Sell

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Solis also urges marketers to rethink exactly what they are setting out to do. For Solis, the future of marketing is not about convincing more people to buy or tricking them into making a decisions they’ll later regret. Instead, effective marketing is going to be about storytelling and inspiring people to identify with a brand, its values, and eventually its products.

There’s already a push within marketing circles to use story-telling as key component of a content marketing program. Yet for some marketers ‘story-telling’ ends up being shorthand for longform blog posts or downloadable ebooks that start in one place and end up somewhere else (and always with more than a few hints dropped as to the business model of the company paying for publication).

But engaging stories are not simply longer than 140 characters, and nor are they yet another way for companies to promote themselves. Across the centuries compelling stories – no matter the genre – have a consistent structure and common traits. Almost every story contains four elements – the scene, the characters, the event, and an idea. How these four work with each other in a specific case makes a novel, a television sitcom, a radio drama, or a film unique, but they are always there.

When marketers tell a real story they need to define each of the four. They need to do so creatively, they need to draw on emotions, and they have to achieve buy in. While a novelist or a dramatist might be able to ask their audience or readers to willingly suspend their disbelief, most marketers cannot. Hence, as well as appealing to the emotions of the audience, they must also maintain a grip on reality.

The stories that marketers tell need to inspire. They can inspire action, reflection, emotions, perhaps a purchase, perhaps a Facebook share or a Twitter retweet. But they must inspire action and thought – if they do not, they are simply setting out to sell or, even worse, to add to the noise that already infects the marketing sphere. Marketers can – and must – do their best to inspire.

Marketers Need to Think Globally and Act Locally

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It used to be advice that was reserved for the environmental movement: think globally, act locally.

The thinking was that no single person acting alone could stop global warming, fix a hole in the ozone layer, or stop deforestation in the tropics. But these global problems could be addressed by individuals making choices locally that, in concert with their friends and families, could add together to deliver global impact.

When Brian Solis uses this phrase, however, he is taking a slightly different tack. Brands, he suggests, need to start by considering their positioning, their values, their unique selling point, and the image that they want to project. This is the ‘global’ element of the marketing, the overall depiction that the brand wants to deliver internationally.

The ‘local’ element is how this depiction is presented in each of the markets in which the brand exists. This is much more than just changing a catchy English-language slogan into another language, nor using a different national flag at the conclusion of an advertisement otherwise full of American cultural references. Localizing marketing requires knowledge of the local language, cultural traditions, cultural mores, norms, and values, and the most effective means of reaching out to the audience in that market.

Without a global plan the local marketing efforts will not have a single reference point to group around and the brands voice and image will be dispersed. Without local execution, marketing runs the risk of being culturally inappropriate or linguistically twisted. By thinking globally, and acting locally, brands and companies ensure that they have the best chance of experiencing success around the world.

Everything Will Be On-Demand

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Uber. Task Rabbit. Lyft.

The on-demand economy has arrived for some industries already, but it is coming for more. And soon.

Solis explains that the on-demand economy is more than just a trend in the technology sector. Instead, it is a fundamental change to the way that people consume and also the way that work. With almost anything soon available at the click of a mouse or a swipe on a screen, the means and mode of consumption is going to change in a major way. Why subject yourself to a Saturday morning trying to organize your grocery shopping between getting the kids to their sports events and meeting the in-laws for lunch? Instead, order online and have someone deliver it for you. You’ll pay for the service, of course, but you’ll be buying time with their money – a good deal, right?

Or you’re at a picnic when you realize that you forget the corkscrew for the wine. No problem – just tap, swipe, wait a short time and a corkscrew will be delivered direct to your picnic blanket. Will you pay? Sure – but you won’t have to leave the picnic and someone else earns a few bucks for doing you a favor.

It will make life easier, allow you to spend more time with the people and activities you prefer, and provide employment options for those who are willing to serve in the on-demand economy. But there’s another side to this, too: while there will be more work, will there necessarily be more workers? As people begin to prefer time over money, perhaps we’ll see choices by more people not to work. Given the choice between an extra couple of hours in the office or on a project and time with family and friends, perhaps we’ll see more people opting for the second option.

Coupled with globalization, the rise of the on-demand economy is going to create significant challenges for businesses but also significant opportunities to grasp. Solis reminds us that this is not a choice – you won’t be able to opt out of the on-demand economy – and wants us to be prepared: the future is coming.

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See all of our interview with Brian Solis on The DOZ Blog:

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