Cloud Communications and The Future of Marketing In The Post-PC World

If you are a marketer who has spent the last 10 years mastering the art of capturing and converting customers on the desktop web, the rapid rise of smartphones and the iPad might make you nervous.

You’ve built businesses on paid search, written essays about optimizing lead forms and studied the ever-changing subtleties of SEO. Using cookies that follow us around the web, you’ve turned display advertising into a performance medium. But just as you were beginning to wrap your heads around the whole social thing, along come the iPhone, Android and the iPad and with them a whole new reality: the post-PC world.

The post-PC world is radically different from the world in which most marketers honed their skills. Here, horizontal keyword search is losing ground to vertical-specific apps like Yelp and Hipmunk and a stream of recommendations from Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and maybe Path. Along its frontiers, touch- and voice-driven interfaces write most of the laws. This landscape is unfriendly to lead forms. It rejects traditional tactics like SEM and SEO. In the post-PC world, the marketing methods of the last decade will be on their way out the window. Marketers and businesses that can’t adapt will be on their way out the door.

But there is good news for those ready, willing and able to evolve: Post-PC consumers – like generations of consumers before us – will still want ways to entertain our senses, engage our imaginations and stimulate our minds.

The future of marketing in the post-PC world is not about showing up high in search results. It is about reputation and spontaneous discovery. It is about weaving yourself into the feed. This is an evolution of what is known these days as inbound marketing. It involves creating awesome content that makes you relevant and then leveraging your overall awesomeness to establish a relationship with your target customers and maintain it over the years.
When you do it right, your customers want to find you. They need to find you. Your existence delights them because you are exactly what they were looking for – whether they knew what they were looking for or not.

But post-PC consumers are not patient. When we want to engage with your business, we expect you to respond in an instant, on the communications channels we prefer to use. Responding to our emails in a few hours or days just isn’t going to cut it: depending on our demographics, we are either overloaded with email or hardly use email at all.

But we do consume almost every text message (SMS) that we receive. When we’re in info-gathering, entertainment or transaction mode, we tap on links that seem enticing and follow push notifications into our favourite mobile apps. And if your business offers a frictionless way to contact you, many of us will even call.

This is where cloud communications comes in. Cloud communications democratizes telecom, making it easy for anyone with access to programming chops to create applications that historically required tons of expensive telecom hardware, big contracts with telecom carriers and a slew of esoteric telecom skills. Cloud communications abstracts these challenges away, making things like interactive voice response, automated outbound dialling, two-way SMS, text-to-speech and even mobile VoIP as simple to implement as a few lines of code.

In practice, this means embedding SMS tools into your CRM, email software or whatever else you want to use. It means using call tracking to gather metrics on phone calls or sending voice and text messages to notify sales reps about new leads in real-time. It means creating “tap-to-call” capabilities that instantly connect smartphone or iPad users via VoIP to your sales or support agents with a tap on a link in a mobile app or an ad. And for these agents, it means taking calls straight from an iPad – not locked down in some office or call centre, but anywhere that wireless internet can go.

If what you’re selling is weaksauce and your content is boring, you will find the post-PC era to be a cold, cold world. But if you can produce products that incite our passions and generate content that resonates through an ever-more-insane degree of noise, you’ll have a shot at becoming part of our feeds. If you do these things while creating new ways to engage us when and where we want to be engaged, the future will be yours.

So what are you waiting for? The latest iPad is selling like crazy and it’s time to think different.

The post-PC world is almost here.

Dan Kaplan does Product Marketing for Twilio, which is hosting a conference on cloud communications in October. Follow him on Twitter @dankaplan.

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