Your 2012 Marketing Plan: Tell Me What to Do

The ever-awesome Mitch Joel wrote a dizzying blog post forecasting that 2012 is The Year of More.

He points out that 2012 will be a year of technological and information abundance:

  • Social sharing will intensify and choices will multiply
  • The marketing stage — even for small businesses — will be more global
  • The opportunity to target in a hyper-local way will create an unprecedented push of “deals”
  • Devices are still multiplying, not consolidating
  • Brands will be fighting hard to connect with us more directly and more personally
  • Sorting through the information density today is difficult and becoming impossible.

Mitch is right of course (just don’t tell him that I said so).  But here is the grand irony. All of these trends fly directly in the face of what consumers really need right now.

We need LESS.

Consumers are paralyzed by choice and overwhelmed by information density. I just viewed a TV ad for something called Deal Chicken. I thought, does the world really need another freaking way to get coupons?  We can’t handle the number of deals we’re already getting!

Time-starved consumers just want to be told what to do. How do I save time? How do I save money? How can I have more fun? Just tell me.  I don’t need to sift through 1 billion results on Google.  I have far too much choice.  I just want to know.

Isn’t it ironic that companies like Facebook and Google are collecting so much information about us to presumably make our decision-making more streamlined and efficient?  Does anybody feel that their information flow is more streamlined today?

Mitch is right. 2012 will be the Year of More.  But that is in direct opposition to what consumers need.  There’s a business opportunity in there somewhere, isn’t there? How are you helping your customers sort through complexity?  How will you tell them what to do?

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  • Wow, I love it! Now where to begin. 🙂

    Yes, but is it really because we are offering more? Are you going to write 500 posts and publish three books this year? I assume no! 

    Many marketers are simplifying by improving their focus on the customer. The real source of more here isn’t individual marketers, products or companies. It is the overwhelming number of them trying to be heard today and our determination to make the best choice (at a full cost we rarely consider), rather than a choice that meets our needs.

    In the spirit of 2012, the Year of More, my original comment ran over 500 words, and I’ve posted it instead on my blog, along with my view on how each of us individually CAN create the Year of Less in our own lives, if we simply want to, and what the real opportunity is for marketers.

    Loved it, hope you appreciate the response!


  • Hello Mark and Happy New Year to you and your ones.

    Your post is one of the most relevant I read about what we can call ‘2012 predictions’.
    I think developed markets are surrounded by contents, media and overachiever users.
    On the opposite, we can discover emergent markets in demand of learn, best practices, best purchases, new places and even more human experiences.

    Maybe it’s time for us to ask ourselves where is the balance : how are we going to conduct our future as well being consumers. More experiences, more products, more infos are maybe way too much for the average consumer that will probably aspire to more quiet, calm, and even slow motion in matter of media marketing. It’s definitely time for everyone to focus on itself and the self development instead of scattering all around all the time that could drive to some inner explosion.
    I remember someone told us: ‘Less is more’ 🙂 isn’t the right time to look forward this living expression?

    Thanks Mark for sharing, and again, all the very best.Yael

  • This is a superb contribution to the dialogue Eric and I appreciate the exploration of a somewhat dissenting view through your post.  I agree but still think marketers need to be guiding consumers toward a highly-focused choice. Here are two examples.

    I have a system in place where my stereo, Internet, cable, TV and computer are all integrated. The wires got crossed over the weekend and i had to spend time trying to figure out how to sort through all these wires and connections. I understand that Apple is working on a TV offering. You know what? I’m pretty sure my problems would go away. I bet that I won’t need to figure out the right pieces, parts and connections any more. It will be in one device.

    This is one of the things that makes Apple great. Simplified choice. The first thing that Steve Jobs did when he returned to Apple was to dramatically slash product offerings and decrease consumer choice. We are all grateful for this focus!

    Let’s pin this down even more granularly to you and me. In 2011 I produced more blog posts than I did in 2010 (largely due to the addition of growtoons). Did i do a service or disservice to my readers?  Did I help streamline their Internet experience or clutter it?

    I am a bit of a generalist in my approach to my marketing topics. Do I need to have a more defined niche that might serve a smaller audience much more effectively? 

    I think the decisions we face even as bloggers are similar to what these brands have to deal with. It took courage for Apple to eliminate choices and possibly lose a group of customers. But in the long-term, their focus de-cluttered consumer choice (and also simplified their own supply chain!) 

    Now, compare that to a strategy where you are the 50th company offering local coupons. That’s fine if you have a differentiated niche or a revolutionary delivery system, but how many ways can you innovate on a coupon? Are those marketers solving a problem or adding complexity and noise?

    Like you, I have just written a comment longer than the original post. I suppose that is a good sign of vibrant dialogue!  Job well done today!

  • Thanks for the wonderful comment Yael. It’s great to see you in the comment section again! : ) 

    I like this imagery of creating slow-motion for the consumer.  Isn’t that an interesting goal? Very thought-provoking idea.  Can we create products that help consumers slow down and spend their valuable time with us? That’s kind of the goal of blogging too, isn’t it?  Great comment!  Thanks!

  • Mark, Happy New Year 🙂
    I agree with LESS.
    Two years ago I reduced my “social” butterfly status and downplayed my SAAS SM presence to concentrate on my owned website. I sell antiques.
    I firmly believed in Seth Godin’s post about the “1000” and actively pursued having 1000 members, direct KNOWN client members.  I’ve achieved that with almost 1500 now.(up almost 1000 this year alone)

    Any SM content I spread is geared to getting the consumer TO my website, and it’s paying off handsomely so far.
    I’m a tail-end seller, awaiting the right customer for the right item at the right time. As often happens, I get a call or email about a specific item, of which I am the ONLY source on the net that day.  That’s a direct result of NOT selling on many venues, and NOT spreading my info too broadly.  I have tracked this, and the LESS linkages I create around the net for my site and products, the more traffic I get directly.  Traffic I can analyze, and act upon in full knowledge. Customers I can contact directly.

    Same with my viewing this blog.  I don’t follow you on FB, or google+ etc… I just see your posts in my Twitter stream, and I jump directly onto your blog once in a while.  If your tweets led me to seven different outposts, I probably wouldn’t bother returning.  This is a destination, one I enjoy frequenting. Your community and stats clearly show that too.

    In my case, the LESS I spread out, the MORE I can concentrate on my core offerings and biz, and the MORE I can offer my own members and customers that they might need.  A matter of FOCUS, I think. IN the end, I think “yup, I exist in a few places, but the real ME is HERE, at this website, where I do real biz. Now let me entice you into buying my stuff”

  • I’ve been feeling the same way for some time but not been able to put it in writing as succinctly as you do. Your Apple TV example is a great and illustrative one.

    Even in my own B2B realm the same seems to be true. Less overwhelm and clearer choice are the order of the day. (That’s why there are changes in the pipeline for my own website and social media presence, for example. Helps me focus, too.)

  • Vince that is really a brilliant tale. Congratulations. Nothing to add to that! 

  • I think is this particularly acute in B2B where decision makers are doing jobs once populated by 3-4 people. They need solutions they can trust.  Thanks Kimmo!

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  • Anonymous

    I concur that the best strategy for 02012 is going to be to focus on your audience, wherever they are. I am working with my clients to help them find where their audience is and converse with them there. For some it’s Twitter, for others it’s Facebook. The tool doesn’t matter, listening and sharing does.

  • Your comment prompted a thought. In some ways, the tool does matter. Let’s say 10 years ago … there was huge entry barrier for many businesses … the cost of advertising.  Now, with the Internet, the barriers are lower but the noise, and the choice, is higher.  Maybe to stand out, the answer is to advertise on TV  after all. : ) 

    Thanks for the great comment Stephen! 

  • jkings

    If people didn’t respond to and buy from Deal Chicken it wouldn’t exist. 

    One downside of the Web is that publishing and selling can be incredibly cheap so lots of crap emerges …. but consumers who either don’t know better or are just information gluttons ultimately help to perpetuate that sort of stuff by clicking, buying, etc.

    Completely agree with you, Mark, that good businesses help customers cut through complexity. 

    Just not sure its a vendor responsibility per se since sellers will just respond to whatever the marketplace bears whether it’s content, coupons, news, etc.


  • A tricky part of this equation is the fact that consumers/buyers don’t think they want a limited choice! Especially in the initial discovery phase, a limited number of options makes people feel as though you are not offering them enough, you don’t have everything they need. It is only after they become disillusioned and overwhelmed that they realize they truly want less.

  • Marc Winitz

    Hi Mark,

    Happy New Year. Sort of related but more on a personal level, I thought you might enjoy this article on “The Joy of Quiet” :

    Best – Marc

  • Yes that is very true. The market will sort it out … or, companies who HELP people sort it out will sort it out : ) 

    I have just confused myself.

    Super smart comment Joseph. Thank you! 

  • I don’t know. A year ago I went shopping for a digital camera. There were so many choices, so many conflicting reviews and so many features (would I ever use all these?) that I left shaking my head. 

    I ended up just asking a friend. 

    Thanks Samantha!

  • Whew. Nice piece. Great to see you on here again Marc. Happy New Year to you too!

  • Hey Mark,

    YES… there is a definite opportunity here. If we can offer to our clients well thought through options with demonstrable benefits we become their go to hero. That’s kind of cool, but carries some serious responsibility. 

  • … and trust.  Don’t forget that!  That is foundational.  Great comment Jim! 

  • is available. Sure the name is a bit long but imagine the SEO. It’s what we’re all looking for isn’t it?

  • Anonymous

    Don’t forget more noise. Yay.

  • I’m with you all the way on that one!

  • Yay indeed.

  • Customers appreciate being told what do as long as it’s in their best interest. If they knew what they wanted, us salespeople wouldn’t have a job.

    Earlier in my career I was that multiple-options-wow-the-with-how-much-I-know guy. I Shouldn’t have been surprised when they wanted to think about the bajillion different ideas that I presented them.

    Once I started telling them what we’re going rather than leaving it up to them to decide, things really started to take off. If your customer wants more, they’ll ask.

    You’re 100% right that less is more and the ones who don’t puke information all over their customer will benefit in 2012

  • Mark!
    I come by often but don’t comment because actually, your place really scares me! LOL

    But this time I just had to! I am a Mother of two. Have you ever had a sick child and go to the store to get some medicine (cough syrup or something), then just stand back and think “Someone, please tell me which one!!”

    Yes, we need fewer choices but we are not going to get them. So now what? (Oh. That was your question!)

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  • You’re very welcome dear Mark, I missed it a lot as well.

    I value commenting as great for the blogger as for us too.

    I fully agree with the goal of blogging that can be related to life actions. Yes we can slow down and go back to the basics sometimes 🙂

  • I’m not sure what “basics” are any more. Is email a basic? : )

  • That is a hilarious and very relevant comment! But I don’t understand why this blog would scare you. That threw me for a loop. Can you clarify?

  • Yeah, this plays into some of my thinking about what we’re learning about content marketing in the online world and how it can be applied to the offline world. The concepts are the same, some of the techniques might be transferrable! Thanks Tony.

  • The relation between a seamless and easy and quick shopping experience, and “recommendation” engines is somehow related to what Terry Oreilly says about “friction” in marketing…  I can’t quite put my finger on it… but perhaps there’s something in there which helps slow down or “lessen” our internet time.   but i’ve been thinking about it all day. Perhaps brighter minds can sift for me…

    (for me… it meant using a login system which creates friction for new members instead of the easy fb/disqus comment/login systems, for example).  For comments, easy entry is good… for sales, perhaps a little friction is required?  still puzzling on this one. 

    In either case, it’s a wonderful viewing, and well worth the few minutes of your time if you so incline.



  • No, Email is not basic. I was talking about simple conversation, nature, discovery of others as we walk outside, human meetings.  Those things that are healthy enough for us and can’t get digital or virtual and were we don’t need to sale ourself to shine. Here we are: a new consumer with independence and curiosity 🙂

  • The transforming power of “stillness”. A much needed element in our sensory overloaded society. 

  • Happy New Year Mark! There really is too much. And more is less in this instance. I think that people really DO need to be told what to do. That is why “calls to action” are so effective. 

    But now I am wondering…if we face more and more information and calls to action each day, are they going to be less effective, or even more effective because of the information overload.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Mark! Sorry to have gone dark on all y’all, but I was pursuing my own
    form of “less” to try and manage what was a very overloaded period of
    time (and which will continue to be, at least for the next few months).

    That said, maybe another way to put needing less is that we all need an omniscient editor.

    We need a magical mechanical Turk. One that will not curate our content feeds and consumer choices, will not butler our information recommendation-engine style, but that will function like a good editor does for a good writer–clarify, pare, and parse what can be thought of as (to modify a phrase from the industry I’m now working in) the Minimally Viable Infoflow.

    Now, if I only had enough time to add a magical mechanical Turk start-up to my list of to-dos…

    🙂 Happy New Year!

  • What a great post and it underlies a dilemma I have, along with many of my clients.  We are in the vacation rental industry which is fairly new to mainstream holiday marketing and is struggling on many levels.  The big boys such as Home Away boast they have over 350,000 listings and more every day, but how can consumers find their way through this mass of information and select for one of their most important annual decisions?  Quality varies widely; there is little or no regulation in the industry and scams abound which does not inspire consumer confidence.  I hear from potential vacationers every day with that question, “Tell me what to do to find the one for me”.

    My advice to clients – vacation rental owners wanting to be seen – is to go the route that Vince suggested in an earlier comment.  Quit trying to compete in the mass market and concentrate instead on creating relationships via quality self hosted web sites and blogs.  Use long tailed keywords to attract visitors who are actually looking for what you have to offer rather than using a scattergun marketing approach.

    Like other commenters, I have a challenge in keeping this short so will continue in a post on my blog…………


  • I am working on another post along these lines. Basically the problem you are also facing is that you are being bullied by SEO. The big guy can out-muscle you in search no matter what you do, unless you figure out a way to exploit that niche. Even then, what would it take for them to beat you? Almost nothing. So we need to be thinking about the Post-Content Marketing Era. How do you compete beyond content … when content is ineffective or shouted down? Interesting dilemma.

  • You know that seems so simple and of course many people have taken a run at it but I haven’t found anything that meets my needs yet. Aggregating, directing, simplifying. That is the BIG opportunity. So happy to see you back in the comments!!

  • i think the issue is … how do we even get to the point of a call to action? How do we help people sift through the dune to find the right grain of sand? It is becoming so complex. Was great to see you. Thanks for commenting!

  • I LOVE that.

  • I love the way you connected the dots here Vince. Perfect! 

  • Yes, I agree with you. But I wonder what the next generation will consider “basic.”  It’s time to get back to basics — Super Mario? : ) 

  • I noticed a great deal of prominent Social Media personalities do a connection cull, and focus on the connections that were meaningful and real to them midway through last year – and attributed it to something I’ve been pondering.

    The insane acceleration of technology these past few years. It seems that every five minutes there’s a new something, a new Facebook, a New Twitter, a New Social Media platform to interact on. 
    I use Social Media as a large part of my marketing mix, and rely heavily on it – and yet even I felt overwhelmed by the digital rat race :)I can only imagine that in what is now the new version of interruption marketing, consumers are feeling much the same way, with so many mediums vying for their attention, that it’s easier to tune out and simply listen to the trusted few that they’re familar with and used to.

    Personally – the phone is working really well for me right now 😀

  • Anonymous

    Reminds me of the dilemma created by Walmart for small town retailers – niches and relationships weren’t enough to offset the steamroller effect of massive marketing spend and massive leverage on distribution channels. You raise a great question, Mark – I am very interested in your thinking on this.

  • Indeed, and maybe this is the best time to encourage people to make a step towards learning and ‘life discipline’ to get back to the ‘good’ basics of the ‘real’ life :))

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  • That is a superb analogy. May use that Lori. As I said, you ARE my muse!

  • Gosh Kiera you bring up SO MANY important points here.  The overwhelming nature of change affects our lives and careers in so many ways. You hit on about five blog post topics with that one comment!  Hang in there!

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  • Consider stop selling, and start looking at, and for the buyer motives to buy!

  • Linda Lu

    while social/crowd-sourcing DOES surface trends, ultimately consumers need some direction. we can’t be experts at everything, so we rely on informed opinions.

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