A good friend asked me yesterday what I thought the next big thing in web advertising would be. I had one of those moments where you just start speaking to the question at the same time you're thinking it through; in other words, with no intellectual filtration.
The next big thing isn't going to be a big thing. The next big thing is going to be about making all the little things work together and make sense.
Let's first take a step back from online advertising and marketing and look at the internet itself. My long-time friend Steven Comfort once said to me "all the really big internet business successes are always about navigation and finding stuff." Yahoo! Amazon. Google. Facebook. They didn't invent all the web pages, books and people out on the internet; but in their own time and in their own ways they contextualized and connected them.
Now, back to advertising and marketing. Face it: Those of us who sell digital are innovation junkies. Contrary to all experience, we believe that if we just get one more feature to match or exceed what the other guys are doing (better reporting, behavioral targeting, widgets, whatever) then we'll be living fat! We lie to ourselves the way a habitual gambler does when he bets the rent money on one last sure thing. Enough already.
Truth is, when it comes to tools, services, audiences, locations and context, we're all drowning in a sea of opportunity. It's not that we don't have enough to sell; we have too much. The average online toolbox is deep and complex, far more so than what buyers and sellers in any other form of media are expected to sort out. The problem is compounded in that we continue to use a linear, 1980s, show-and-tell, 'avails-driven' sales model that's not up to the task. There's simply no time and no interest in 'the capabilities presentation' in this amped-up, twittering, ADD new millennium.
The next big thing is going to be a whole new collaborative discipline around sales that actually thrives on the complexity and infinite choice available in the online and integrated world. The next big thing is not an iterative riff on "the sales call." The next big thing will borrow as much from consulting, marketing and sales engineering as it does from media sales.
The next big thing is Fusion Selling. In the coming weeks and months you'll be hearing more about it. It's the natural product of the intellectual work we've been doing with thousands of sellers, marketers and buyers over the last decade; it's the only answer to the complexity we must harness if we're to successfully mine the value that's inherent in our companies and their interactions with consumers; and - because today's economy will make us all do more with less - its time has come.