As the year winds down and the last of the holidays come into view, many are wrapping up not only gifts but also the annual planning (and budgeting) process for the year to come. At KMB we have been deeply involved in this with our clients and will be done just before the holidays. It’s a process, for sure, but I always get excited about the data available to us and the inspiration that comes from it. In my opinion, taking this approach can — and should — heavily shape or influence what you do the following year.
Here are three notable trends from 2023 that stand out from my point of view. Perhaps you will find these useful for your marketing and communications strategies in 2024.
1. Service maturity. While 2023 wasn’t about significant change in our industry it certainly was about evolution, and, in my opinion, also about maturity. After CEDIA Expo, Joey Kolchinsky, founder and CEO of OneVision Resources, shared in a post on LinkedIn:
“One thing I learned at CEDIA 2023 is how much the industry’s approach to service has matured in the last few years. Most integrators who came into our booth this year did so with self-awareness and specific knowledge of their service problem. They were trying something, it wasn’t working, and wanted help to make it better. This was a far cry from several years ago when every single integrator approached us not knowing where to start or even how to define the problem.”
This is exciting to me in that it suggests there is a way forward that is fraught with a little less challenge and that provides healthy recurring monthly revenue. How integration firms are specifically addressing service and the systems used still varies, so, too, does the nature of each business. Therefore, I predict that the next evolution of the service category will be the maturation of platforms that enable greater efficiency and that can better proactively predict and prevent issues. I am certain AI and machine learning will play a greater role, and I support that, but I also have some reservations about the broad deployment of AI-driven service and support in our channel and the process of producing and publishing content. More on that in the next section and next year.
2. The impact of generative AI. There is no doubt that generative AI has impacted nearly everyone already, but how will it impact our industry in 2024? From my point of view, this is an excellent example of learn before you leap, but still move quickly so you don’t get left behind. What I mean by that is, from a communciations perspective, it is critical to learn how to extract the best, most accurate, output from tools like ChatGPT, Open AI’s language prediction model. Trust me, it takes more than just copy/pasting and asking the tool to spit out something similar that is factual, concise, and cohesive, and that, most importantly, delivers it in the same voice, tone, and phrasing as the brand standard requires. Read that last part again because it is important.
Harnessing this tool to best serve your needs takes time, and you will need to understand the limitations to make the best use of it. I’ll add that no matter which route you choose, all content generated by any form of AI needs to be carefully and professionally scrutinized so that what ends up online isn’t riddled with inaccuracies that we all then have to fight to clarify and reverse in the future. You can see how mayhem can ensue if we don’t take the time now to teach and learn.
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This topic is HOT and opinions vary, but at KMB we take the same position as the Associated Press, which says “…the central role of the AP journalist — gathering, evaluating, and ordering facts into news stories, video, photography, and audio for our members and customers — will not change. We do not see AI as a replacement of journalists in any way. It is the responsibility of AP journalists to be accountable for the accuracy and fairness of the information we share.”
3. Why the “I don’t have time to do [insert task here] so I will just do it myself (or my kid/spouse) can do it for me” mentality still fails. Sound familiar? I know, same here. Guilty as charged and why this one is in the Top Three. It is on the list because it is the continuation of what I believe to be a (very) bad habit that stems primarily from a lack of planning and, therefore, also budgeting. Make 2024 the year you strive to change — to bring in skilled resources your firm needs to rise above the competition rather than falling back on your inherent ability to do it all. Do better, not more, in 2024.
This is all meant to inspire and motivate, and most of it is actually a lot easier than you think. Ready for a quick exercise that you can do to help shed light quickly on what might be possible? Put your sales projections for next year in a spreadsheet and then run a simple formula that shows you what 2, 3, and 5 percent of that annual projection looks like. For grins and giggles, run those percentages up to 6 and 7 percent. If you were to allocate one of those results to marketing that promotes your unique offering to the target audience(s), would your firm benefit? I’m here to tell you the answer is yes, but only if you plan for the year and strictly adhere to the budget. That means also watching those projections and comparing them to actual, then adjusting accordingly. Involve your key stakeholders in this exercise and everyone in the company will benefit. More importantly, you will learn what works, what doesn’t, and what is worth exploring further.
When you do this routinely and regularly as part of your year-end, you will be in a much better position to maximize opportunities. I learned how Millennium Systems Design works on this as a team — including technicians — and the success they reap from it. More on that next year.
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If you need help getting off-center on this or just need some questions answered, send an email to me at [email protected], and let’s get that conversation started.
Happy Holidays, friends! Have fun, and be safe!