Imagine you’re the CEO of a profitable company, and your job is to make sure that it fails.

Faced with the above scenario, what would you do?

Half the number of hours that you work?

Employ black-hat strategies to plaster 1-star reviews all over the internet?

Fire your customer service department?

All of these are certainly good answers. However, there’s no surer way to fail than to create a product and to just let it sit there.

Promotion is king

As powerful as word-of-mouth can be (it’s cited as a cornerstone of profitable businesses by no less than Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos), if it’s the only thing you do to promote your business, you’re a century too late.

You learned about Product, Price, Place and Promotion in business school for good reason.

This article addresses the last — and arguably most crucial — of these four staples that make up the quintessential “Marketing Mix”.

It’s important to note, however, that “promotion” doesn’t mean running a few PPC ads and calling it a day.

The landscape is changing faster with each passing year. You can see this in Moore’s Law — technology isn’t just advancing, it’s advancing faster as time goes on.

Increasingly, the companies who promote themselves successfully are going to be the ones who can adapt to that rate of change.

Like anything, the more people hop on the bandwagon, the more saturated the advertising channel becomes.

And the harder it is for smaller players to carve out a share of the pie for themselves.

As hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio observes:

“The value of a widely known insight disappears over time.”

The landscape is changing

The annals of history are littered with examples of once-relevant companies that failed to adapt to changing market conditions.

There’s a reason you’re not reading this on a Blackberry.

Historically, companies have focused their promotional efforts on advertising channels like Google and Facebook.

For example, Google accounted for roughly 70% of PPC advertising in 2017 while Facebook accounted for around 20%.

In contrast, this ratio had reversed itself only a year later, in a telling example of just how rapidly market conditions can change.

With that in mind, what are those changes going to look like over the next 5–10 years?

The most natural way to search

More notably, the rise of voice commerce — or vCommerce — is already disrupting the eCommerce industry as we know it.

The voice commerce industry amounted to $200 million in 2017. In 2018? $2 BILLION.

It’s not hard to see the appeal.

For instance, voice assistants equip you with the ability to get things done faster than you can when limited to two thumbs.

Unless you’re a genetic mutant, you probably don’t type on your phone at 150 words per minute — the average pace at which a human being speaks.

You only need to look as far as Amazon’s Alexa to see this change at play in our day-to-day lives.

Such is the retail giant’s drive to make its voice-recognition technology a staple of every household that it’s rumored to be selling its flagship Echo Dot at a loss.

Skills are the new apps

Amazon’s accompanying Alexa Skills programme should be the first port-of-call for companies looking to move with the times.

10–15 years ago, customers viewed companies as Luddites if they didn’t have an app to complement their product or service.

In the same way, as the decade draws to a close, Alexa Skills looks poised to supplant apps as the must-have promotional channel.

Businesses can use the platform to build what are known as Skills — interactive voice apps that you can use to provide just about any functionality a customer might find useful.

We’ve seen Skills as inspired as recipe encyclopedias, apps that integrate with home appliances like lights and thermostats, and even virtual therapists.

Crucially, the platform also offers the ability to embed product promotion into Skills.

Either by means of in-Skill purchases (drawing another parallel with mobile apps), or by integrating with Amazon Pay, opening the door to an unprecedented number of opportunities to promote your products and services in creative ways.

A surprising acquisition channel

Toothpaste manufacturer Crest made headlines with their much-loved Chompers skill.

Countless parents have made good use of this fun-filled quiz, designed to get their kids to brush their teeth.

But the most noteworthy takeaway is that this has become a major acquisition channel for the company.

It’s easy to see the value of a device that responds to, “Alexa, can you get my kid to brush his teeth?”

What’s more, voice apps are inexpensive to build.

Given that 50% of all searches are predicted to be done with voice by 2020, companies who fail to take advantage of the platform are playing the game with a major handicap.

Most business people can vouch for the truth of Warren Buffett’s assertion that:

“In the business world, the rear view mirror is always clearer than the windshield.”

More than ever, it’s a sink-or-swim game.

In conclusion, the companies that swim are going to do that by looking through the windshield at what’s ahead, leaving the Blackberries of the world to sink as they continue to look through the rear view mirror.