Marketers: It’s time to adapt to change or find yourself out of business within five years

Disruption is happening so fast that there’s only so much time left for traditional media and marketing businesses which fail to evolve, warns Current Asia CEO David Ketchum

What if we did our jobs so well that we worked ourselves out of business? Given the pace of business transformation in Asia today, that’s looking like an entirely probable scenario within the next five years.

Today everyone is talking about digital transformation: the big consulting firms, the business media and, especially, the software and hardware vendors are all sharing studies and tips – and touting the benefits of going mobile, into the cloud and using big data.

Companies everywhere are waking up and realising that their customers are relentlessly moving to online and mobile customer journeys and touchpoints. It’s becoming equally obvious that their organisational structures, legacy systems and marketing campaigns are misaligned with these new realities. Just about every senior executive is somewhere in the process of assessing what to do next, changing their processes and technology or striving to optimise  new platforms.

The transformation process is messy, scary, disruptive, complex and technically challenging. It requires organisational change and the vision to realise that the short-term risks are worth taking to gain long-term competitive advantage and future-proof your business in order to assure that it is relevant to the ever-changing customer.

These are wonderful days for people in my line of work: companies that help guide, nudge and march clients through the transformation. In fact, the intensity of the work and the pace of change is so high that it’s likely that most companies will have changed or had change forced on them within five years. Or otherwise be out of business.

The forces driving transformation in Asia

Growth in smartphone penetration. High speed internet access in Asia has outstripped other parts of the world. With the Internet of Things and powerful apps consumers now have 24-7 mobile expectations.

Meanwhile, e-commerce platforms such as Taobao and, matched with mobile payment and logistics solutions, have driven online retailing to new heights. Companies that sit on the sidelines will be buried.

And the use of marketing automation platforms such as Eloqua, Marketo and HubSpot are growing. Firms need to jump on this bus to gain a single data view of the customer journey or risk losing out.

The touchpoints at which customers and businesses engage, and interact, will never be 100 per cent digital. But figuring out where search, email, WeChat, websites and social fit in the mix alongside events, face-to-face sales and traditional media is essential.

Companies and brands are rapidly becoming more sophisticated about creating engaging and compelling content targeted at specific customers, at every stage of their customer journey. Transforming into a brand-as-a-publisher is a crucial component of success.

Rather than making creative or arbitrary decisions about marketing and content, real-time analytics are becoming mainstream so we must understand which offers and messages resonate best.

Many companies in Asia still haven’t found ways to properly align sales and marketing so that they are creating the type of opportunities they can close. The first step is to agree on key performance indicators that meet the business needs. And marketers need to source fresh data, and prospects, to truly add business value, rather than simply providing a service to sales.

None of these forces are new, although they are accelerating and will reach a tipping point within five years. What happens next will be exponential change as companies plot their roadmaps and race to be agile and relevant. It’s a case of adapt or die.

But don’t worry about me. By the time companies have transformed or died, we’ll have moved on to embrace the next big wave of development and change in terms of customer experience. Progress never stops.

David Ketchum is CEO of consultancy firm Current Asia


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