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So what characterises the market at the moment?
Continuing rapid evolution.
Technology and platforms evolving rapidly – this impacts (ultimately) on buyer behaviour.
Despite all the progress that marketers have made, the profession still isn’t highly regarded by the rest of the organisation.
Misunderstood. Seen us fully and unmeasurable – unaccountable. Does not contribute.
Pre-digital revolution, the sellers were in control of the information flow – they determined how, where and when you got to hear about prospective products and service, through outbound marketing.
In the digital age, the buyer is in control – they can access information wherever and whenever they want, through online content and inbound marketing.
The old model of funnel-marketing where people arrive at the top and are filtered through to the bottom, is broken – if it ever worked at all.
What that means is that marketers need to focus on content, in all formats, to lure in potential customers and give them the information that they need to shortlist their products.
But more than that, they need to create a sophisticated matrix of content – for different size of companies, in different sectors, and different functional units within them.
No wonder more and more brands are increasingly bringing content creation as an internal skillset and resource, relying on agencies less and less.
Here’s a slide from the Corporate Executive Board – who are a business advisory organisation.
The marketing funnel was invented in 1898 and describes how an individual is taken through Awareness Interest Desire Action.
But this slide suggests that the Funnel is broken. The average B2B purchase is 57% complete by the time the individual raises their hand.
Content is king, but just producing content will only get you so far.
There is so much content out there that buyers are simply overwhelmed – it’s a content avalanche.
When content marketing was a new thing, simply producing ‘me-to’ content was good enough. These days it will not cut through the clutter and may actually undermine your brand.
You’ve got to do things which genuinely resonate with people – which appeal to their emotions.
In the broadcast age, the ‘fear’ sale was common in B2B – if you don’t do this you will be in trouble.
But this is the social age – we are relying on people to share the messages. And no one wants to share bad news!
So you need to enlighten and entertain, as well as inform.
In the old days, the mantra was ‘if you can’t measure it, then don’t do it’.
Today, as espoused by Karen Walker, who is VP of Brand at Cisco, ‘If you can’t make them feel it, don’t do it’
Technology has always been important – but cloud based applications are revolutionising how it is used and managed.
Increasingly the CMO has more control over the technology than the CIO.
What will the CIO mean in the future? I as in infrastructure rather than I as in information.
The marketer has an increasingly sophisticated arsenal of solutions at her/his disposal. The challenge is how to utilise them most effectively… and not let them take over.
There is still competitive advantage to be gained from things like Marketing Automation, even though it’s been around a while. The skills required in terms of structural reorganisation are very different from those traditionally associated with marketing.
This is a very well-known slide – but it does brilliantly illustrate the sheer variety, rapid evolution and competitiveness of the marketing technology landscape.
Consolidation has gone up a gear recently, as the global tech giants have zeroed in on marketing, seeking to build their own Marketing Clouds. Automation has been at the heart of most of these – both IBM and Oracle have now bought two different automation vendors.
We can expect to see more consolidation, but new categories and brands will spring up… a challenge for marketers is to build and manage the best possible marketing technology infrastructure for their organisation.
Marketers have been uncomfortable with dealing with data in the past
That’s no-longer an option.
But these days data doesn’t mean email/postal addresses, it means web stats, engagement, revenue pipelines, etc. Hard data which means something to the business.
Big data is coming… but it’s not here yet. According to the Financial Times: ‘Big data is a vague term which is thrown around by people with something to sell’.
It’s a technical description which is widely misunderstood and wrongly attributed. What is often called big data isn’t. But it is coming, and it’s potential is vast.
In the bad old days, it was sales that ruled the roost. They owned the customer – they were responsible for engagement with them for the majority of the funnel.
But today, the buyer is in control – inbound marketing means they can access your content whenever they want. They don’t neatly pop into the top of the sales funnel – they arrive somewhere in the middle. And they don’t want to be harassed by a salesman. They only raise their hand when they are very well informed.
That means that marketing now owns the majority of the funnel – sophisticated technology and digital channels are enabling far greater transparency over this process.
Marketing has to embrace these and manage the role of sales to best effect for an effective final mile.
The 70/20/10 rule is as old as the hills, but its resonance is now greater than ever, given the constant evolution of technology and the migration of digital natives into prime buying positions.
More and more onus on the marketing team to deliver what is required.
B2B marketers need to be more versatile and better informed than ever.
We need to invest in constantly enhancing our knowledge and expanding our skills bases.
… at the same time a skills gap has emerged, as people fail to invest in training and new techniques and technologies arrive.
Marketing has never been more important to the success of business.
There have never been so many tools or techniques to help marketing deliver and demonstrate its value.
Technology is opening up massive new opportunities.
The potential is enormous.