Wayne Gretzky famously told us to “skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” In doing so, he provided perhaps the sagest business advice never intended. He may have been talking about hockey, but what we heard was something far more universal. We heard the clarion call for survival in hypercompetitive markets: know the future and it shall set you free.

Off the ice, another business visionary, Clayton Christenson, taught us the lessons of creative destruction: competitive markets will always attract disruptive innovations which reverse the virtuous cycles you’ve come to know and expect. And it’s incumbent upon you to know the future—to own it and make it part of your business strategy, even if it threatens your existing franchise.

Why all of this scary talk? Because, as William Gibson said, “The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Innovation cycles are compressed and so is our ability to exploit innovation ahead of our competitors.

This is particularly true for today’s marketers, who face a reality that is at once both frightening and exhilarating: everything has changed. Customers know more than ever before. They have more access, information and power. Search and the social web have shifted the balance. Mobile devices have blown away every other end-user adoption metric we’ve known and, increasingly, these devices will be the center of gravity for customer engagement.

All of this has forced marketers to reshape their strategies to match the contours of customers’ changing online and offline behaviors, which has inflicted a certain degree of pain. But the reality is that all of this change creates opportunity—opportunity to target customers more effectively, to deeply understand their needs, and to drive unprecedented revenue growth across online and offline channels.

Let’s face it: Digital marketing is the engine of growth for your business, now or in the near future. Unfortunately, you don’t have a corner on that knowledge. Which is why, in addition to ensuring your marketing organization delivers value today, you need to keep one eye on the horizon. Because emerging trends are your key to unfair advantage.

The most successful organizations invest substantially in the future. They set aside budget and time to explore and experience emerging innovations that may not be ready for prime time, but represents the early edges of tomorrow’s mainstream reality. They use this insight to predict where the puck is going—for competitive advantage or even for survival.

So that’s why we look at emerging trends. It’s why predictions are more than a fool’s game. Because the future is already here—at least in some corner of your market.

As a digital marketing leader, it’s crucial that you know that future. Because knowing it may just set you free.

  1. 5 January 2013 at 3:47 pm
    Bob O'Brien says:

    Excellent insights. Completely agree that digital marketing is the engine of growth. Yes, we need to keep an eye on the future but there is so much to do to leverage all the new digital technologies today. 2013 is going to be fastinating! Which digital technologies are clients asking about the most?

  2. 7 January 2013 at 2:10 pm
    Jake Sorofman says:

    Thanks, Bob. Stay tuned for more on this topic, including the patterns we’re seeing in the market and the emerging trends on the horizon. More to come over the coming couple weeks.

  3. 7 January 2013 at 2:47 pm
    Hans Willems says:

    Its always interesting to decide what strategy to choose to get the ROI out of existing investments and in the meanwhile prepare for the future. Customers online and offline behaviour has indeed dramatically changed. Basically, most digital marketers are now to slow and fail to communicate the right individual message at the right moment.

    In 2011 we introduced a new engagement layer on top of all existing customer touch point technologies. It optimises and delivers one on one customer communications in existing channels based on deep individual customer insights continuously gathered from on- and offline behaviour and internal (historical) data. Improving current processes and communications with disruptive technology is a good way to get your ROI, create competitive advantage and work on the future.

  4. 8 January 2013 at 2:26 pm
    catherine says:

    Very thought provoking article Jake. Completely agree with you on the importance of predicting the future right of digital marketing to stay on top.

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