David Alston is the Chief Innovation Officer at Introhive, an advisor to multiple startups, a director at ScribbleLive, an advocate for kids coding and the transformation of the Maritime economy to one underpinned by tech, and supporter of alternative energy approaches. He also wears a cowboy hat, sings Johnny Cash songs and is one heck of a photographer…oh and just another tidbit, he has been consistently named as one of the Top CMOs on Twitter by Social Media Marketing Magazine.
I had the privilege of working with David, so I can honestly say that his passion and conviction are contagious. His knowledge and expertise in marketing and innovation are phenomenal. I was so pleased that he agreed to be a part of my Influencer Series. So, let’s get to the questions, cause I know that you want his responses.
MacLean: Marketing continues to change and evolve. What do you see as the most important skills for people to have to meet the demands of today and the next year?
Alston: Content marketing is now as commonplace as community engagement. You also have to be tracking and understand all of numbers behind each online property & digital campaign. In order to stand out, you need to be able to successfully blend the art of marketing (creativity and relationship building) with the science of marketing (analytics and cross referencing multiple sources of data).
MacLean: What has been the most significant change you have seen in marketing over the last two years and why?
Alston: Marketers have become publishers. Of course that’s also created a lot of noise for customers to sift through and thus just publishing the same kind of stuff you were publishing three years ago probably won’t cut it. Taking a stand on issues, being bold with creative content, unique partnerships and infusing marketing directly inside products and services are now a must.
MacLean: Community Management was all the talk a few years back, but it seems to have taken a backseat. Do you think that people have lost sight of the value and/or that it is just an oversight and will re-emerge because of the true value that it can bring?
Alston: Hopefully for companies where it’s disappeared it’s because it was absorbed into the roles of any employee that would typically be in contact with customers – PR, sales, customer service etc. Companies that ignore people in social channels completely, will pay the price today just like they would have two years ago.
MacLean: What advice would you offer businesses in terms of hiring marketing professionals?
Alston: I’ve always been a proponent of investing in marketing early on when it comes to startups. Marketing is as much about strategy as it is about brand and collateral. Marketing should also have a seat at the executive table early on because it’s about building a market/demand for a product or service, getting marketing/sales into the offering, strategic positioning vs competitors, and creating content and influence in a space you want to be a leader in. Translation – you need to focus on adding someone with the experience on how to get this done. They can build out the team with more junior staffers for specific functions later.
MacLean: What do you think will be the next big thing in marketing?
Alston: Real-time marketing! The idea of creating engagement experiences using real-time content and looping potential prospects into the traditional sales funnel, similar to how marketing automation does it for non-real-time. (Full disclosure – I am on the board of directors for ScribbleLive).
MacLean: Finally, you have been very active in innovation and getting kids into coding, what can marketers learn from collaborating more with this side of the business?
Alston: Much of the success around progress with kids and coding has been tapping into the existing communities supportive of the cause and utilizing the act of documenting the cause on video, as a way to fan the flames of the movement. There is nothing more powerful than an idea who’s time has finally come.
As always, David offers great insight and ideas and I sincerely thank him for taking the time to answer my questions.
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