BMA April Luncheon Jeff SchmitzThese days, it seems like tomorrow keeps coming faster than ever. We all experience the increasing pace of change, individuals and businesses alike. The question is, how do you harness that speed and ride it into a successful future? Ask Jeff Schmitz, CMO of Zebra Technologies, and he’ll tell you: just throw a football into a cloud.

At the April Business Marketing Association of Chicago luncheon, Jeff shared how both technology and marketing are transforming our personal and professional lives. He shared an example of this change in one of the most powerful business franchises on Earth: the National Football League (NFL). Football players and game balls are now tracked throughout the game, which changes everything — from the way performance is managed to the fan experience.

Where Online Meets Offline

But how did we get to capturing data on flying footballs? Jeff shared the three megatrends that are shaping today’s digital businesses and creating what Zebra coins “enterprise asset intelligence”: the internet of things, cloud technology and professional mobile devices. There are around 8.4 billion connected devices today — there aren’t even that many people on the planet! What’s more, that number is expected to reach 21 billion by 2020. This shift enables businesses to provide more and do it differently.

Moving business to the internet isn’t a new phenomenon. But here’s an interesting irony: The pendulum swing to online that nearly killed brick-and-mortar bookstores is now evolving to a hybrid retail experience that incorporates both the online and physical experience. Amazon, for example, is now opening bookstores. Some stores are starting to offer delivery right to the trunk of your car. The offline and online worlds will continue to integrate, and technology is enabling it every step of the way.

Visibility: A Modern Marketing Priority

So where does marketing fit into all this? It’s modernizing along with the rest of the business model. And Zebra Technologies and its customers have been at the forefront of that change.

As with most companies, Zebra’s brand needed to evolve as quickly as its solution set. Zebra distilled its story down to three words: “Visibility That’s Visionary.” This hit on the key insight every company needs to transform: the transparency to see how things work and what works well.

For example, knowing where the buyer’s journey begins is key. Zebra knew that over 80% of B2B sales starts with a Google search, and that strategically directed marketing will enable brands to be seen at the beginning of that search. This goes for social media too, as well as other places decision-makers go to check on your reputation and what the collective community thinks of you.

During his talk, Jeff also shared a good synopsis of the difference between traditional and strategic marketing. Traditional marketing focuses on awareness, sales enablement, demand generation and the occasional product launch. Modern strategic marketing, on the other hand, takes a longer-term view of the business’ digital transformation, market intelligence, vertical marketing and the partner ecosystem. This expands marketing’s role in the business, making it the true growth driver it’s meant to be.

At the end of his talk with the BMA community, Jeff shared some great practical ways marketing can facilitate innovation. My favorite was his take on how we can all be “millennial-minded” in leveraging today’s digital and social marketing tools. I’ve always looked for a way to describe myself — digitally savvy without digital native status — and there it is. I am “millennially minded.” That’s how you handle those tomorrows that keep coming faster than ever. The pace of change is something we all share!