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As our universe becomes more and more digital, executives need to build their business’ interactive presence while removing organizational obstacles to tapping innovative opportunities. In this monthly series, I attempt to provide insight and actionable suggestions for winning in today’s marketplace.

Time to believe the hype?

My elementary school humanities teacher (yep, that’s a class for nine-year-olds in England) once told me that the amount of information in the world doubles every five years, and that the speed of growth was increasing. That was, and still is, kind of hard to wrap my head around. So, when I read somewhere last year that analysts estimate 90% of all recorded knowledge was created within the prior two years (it wasn’t here, but they must have read the same thing), my mind broke a little bit. Sure, this is super exciting, especially for data analysts; but it does pose a challenge for marketers. Business strategies are all over the map due to this incredible rate of change, and it’s not slowing down any time soon. Hype words like social, mobile, and cross channel optimization are being tossed around marketing circles like bad metaphors in a business blog. Throw in some extra risk aversion symptoms due to a struggling global economy and sales cycles lengthen. As much as I rebel against hype, it is clear to me that these trends cannot be ignored. Great organizations, regardless of industry or product, are able to gain substantial competitive advantage by going digital. This is my first of blog posts that will explore what CMOs at these great companies have top-of-mind in 2012.

Buyer behavior has changed forever

Retailers are seeing a significant shift in buying activities. Over the last hundred years or so, marketers have been conditioned to focus on a single target audience. Now the proliferation of data as well as social and collaboration networks are creating buyer networks with new players involved in the decision making process. This is starting to seriously contaminate traditional analytics and behavioral targeting. This abundance of “kingly” content and the interconnectivity of consumers have put buyers in the driver’s seat.

I haven’t sat through a commercial break since last years’ Superbowl

Prospects’ attention spans are short. While we, as potential customers, navigate the often overwhelming sea of data available to assist in our purchasing decisions, our brains become numb to marketing messages… unless we’re actively seeking them out, they are being shared by our network, or they are genuinely entertaining. Even then, I’m not looking for marketing content; I’m looking for real intelligence, real experiences, real empowerment.

According to Adam Sarner at Gartner (03/11), “Mass marketing is no longer a long-term strategy. Mass-marketing campaigns have a 2 percent response rate and are on the decline, whereas by 2015, digital strategies, such as social and mobile marketing, will influence at least 80 percent of consumers' discretionary spending.” Already, sales people are seeing that the buying decision is two-thirds done before the customer even talks to them.

“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” -- Henry Ellis

The behavioral data is harder to read, the sales/marketing funnel doesn’t work the way it used to, and every business and their mom have become content publishers – further exacerbating the competition for eyeballs and search engine placement. But don’t fret! The rules and tools have changed, but the role of marketing still remains: Connect with the customer.

The Stage is Set

Stay tuned as I dive into a few solutions for these challenges that CMOs face in this era of information overload, and how these obstacles are turned into opportunities by forward-thinking organizations.