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The future of digital marketing is divergence not convergence. An ever increasing set of options for business owners and opportunities for digital marketers.
1st June 2011

13 years ago when I started in this field there was only web designing, we did not have to worry about SEO or any other areas or options. Slowly the services tree expanded into 2 branches then 4 and so on and so forth. Today we have a whole tree of digital marketing options with specialities within specialities, niches within niches - A very complicated mix of services to choose from.

As a follower of Al Ries I believe in Divergence and the evolutionary nature of things.

Marketing guru Al Ries believes in the theory of divergence i.e. splitting of categories into many sub categories and further splitting into sub categories and so on. In digital marketing there is ample evidence of the same as you can see from the chart above. Online marketing has evolved into many many branches and sub specialities. Starting from simple web design all the way to today's social media and mobile websites.

As the services split it will be difficult for a single firm to provide the whole lot of them. Here lies the opportunity for niche players.

Already many start-ups are exploiting the niche areas of marketing instead of going full service. Some are concentrating only on social media and some are even more super-special i.e. only Facebook.  With every advance in technology comes opportunities and problems and even opportunities to solve problems. Take 'reputation management services' for example. A niche service emerging from the need of companies to keep their nose clean online. Who would have forseen it as a money making opportunity.

Not only  are the services splitting  but they are also diverging wildly, taxing digital marketing companies resources

The resources required for SEO are completely different from those required for social marketing or email marketing. Not only does it require different skill sets but it also requires a different cross functional teams. For a digital marketing firm trying to provide the whole range of services it will mean increasing staff and overheads substantially. But ofcourse the opportunity to make a lot of money exists. Companies will have to weigh the cost/benefits to determine whether it makes sense to have that service in their portfolio.

Due to varied nature of the digital marketing services there will have to be a lot of cooperation and tieups between companies and specialists.

Gone are the days when one digital marketing co can provide everything under one roof. Even if they do try to project the services  as their own, behind the scenes they will have to tie up with other companies and specialists to get the job done. This gives small companies a fighting chance where a number of startups can come together to present a united front and bag some lucrative contracts.

One thing remains common even after splitting - concept and content are important

No matter how wildly diverging the services are, one thing will always remain common -   good concepts and good content. Factors such as design, delivery, speed, size etc will vary from service to service but they will always require an engaging concept backed by good content. Ultimately the goal is engage the prospective customer no matter the medium or channel.

Watch out for the next split because there is where the opportunity lies. The original leader will rarely emerge as the winner in the new area.

No one would have guessed that the next step for ecommerce would be 'group buying'. Even those in the heart of the parent service cannot guess where the next split might take place. Otherwise Ebay instead of Groupon would have been the leading group purchase website. Facebook and not Google is leading social media. There are many such examples where the existing leader never emerges the leader in the new category.

New digital marketing trends are a function of technology - follow the technology, follow the trend.

Tweeting got a boost from the emergence of smart mobile devices otherwise it would not have made sense for anyone to log into a site using a computer just to tweet. Similiarly Cloud computing got its boost from mobile computing - people did not want to lug around those heavy laptops instead prefering to keep their data on the cloud and carry lighter devices. My Netbook does not have outlook, I just access Google Apps from it.

Create your own category and reap the early mover benefits

The other day I heard of someone starting a 'Social Media Recruting Agency' i.e. a company that exclusively uses social networks to recruit people for thier clients. The entire process takes place on social sites even with a virtual  interview taking place on the site. Now thats a good example of creating your own niche with some imagination and a good value proposition (people are more susceptible to job switches on social sites).

In Conclusion - A very dynamic and fast moving digital marketing scenario that is growing, mutating and self correcting.

Cheers,
Ron

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