Precision in predicting the future — of anything — is just not something we humans do particularly well. But we keep trying to perfect it because we hate uncertainty.  (Ask Nate Silver.)

This is particularly true at this moment in time for most marketers. Consumers are increasingly managing their lives through the apps and mobile Websites on their smartphones.  Data-driven marketing strategies that investments in analytics platforms and data scientists are eliminating best-guess-based campaign planning.

Next week, the Gartner for Marketing Leaders team’s collection of news stories and report recommendations (subscription required) focuses on our annual “Predicts” report. This is our annual effort to deliver provocative but realistic predictions about the future of marketing.

But the thing is our predictions shouldn’t be viewed as a single-shot inoculation for your marketing strategies. You should be viewing them as instructive or directional and note how the dynamics supporting a prediction– market and technology based — can be applied to your business and your marketing requirements. Not every new technology is going to ever be applicable to all marketing teams at all times.

That’s because, as my mom used to preface every non-negotiable request, locking-in a strategy or making significant strategic changes based on any single technology or technique is a sucker’s bet.

What matters most over the long haul is building in flexibility — whether we’re talking about a strategy or techniques — not whether you and your team can develop perfect prognosticating powers.  A flexible approach to adopting new technologies or techniques based on any given prediction is one that is iterative, with built-in checkpoints, to assess and adjust your efforts. With our predictions, you get a bit of a head start on this by checking the “near-term flags” we develop for each prediction.

Tunnel vision on a single tech or technique and planning for success? We’ve seen that a few times. In the past couple of years, I’d say this scenario is best represented by the inquiries my colleague Charles Golvin and I get that start with “. . . we’ve had a mobile app in market for two years now but we just aren’t seeing regular usage or our app downloads growing.”  When we dig into the background that led to that statement, we generally hear that the app approach was selected because “…apps are hot.”  Or they hear that consumers spend hours a day with apps” (a handful of apps, actually).

Instead of thinking about the complete mobile experience for their customers, these marketers I mention saw the emerging app model as the silver bullet.  The modern marketing organization is all about orchestrating a collection of tools and information to deliver the right offer or message at the right time to the right customer, prospect or segment.

So don’t just look at the “prediction” and take it as an edict; look at the supporting information that support a prediction and figure out how it will, or will not, assist your marketing efforts.

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