Three Trends for Next Gen Marketers to Watch in 2014

Technology innovation is radically transforming how businesses communicate, create and market their products and services, and engage with their customers. And of course we are all feeling the impact of these changes as they are happening at an astonishing pace. It’s like the Big Bang theory of technology and business innovation.

2014-b2b-marketing-trendsBoth business customers and consumers have access to more information than ever before which puts them in the driver’s seat as they move through the process of researching, evaluating, purchasing, and recommending products and services. Whether making a personal decision like buying appliances for a house remodel, or a business decision like a CRM solution for a remote sales force, buyers are educating themselves, and making their decisions, often before even speaking with a sales person.

The winners in this new world of buyer decision making will be the companies and marketers that jump on board and embrace the next generation of engaging and delighting customers. With this dramatic shift in mind, here’s my take on Three Marketing Trends for Next Gen Marketers to Watch in 2014.

Big Data: Data Explosion

big dataSpeaking of Big Bangs, we all know that the volume of data being produced and consumed around the globe is exploding. What’s driving this explosion? Video, social, mapping technologies, online and on- demand movies, mobile internet connected devices, and most of our daily transactions are all examples of services driving the data explosion. Trillions of pieces of information are being collected, stored, shared, and analyzed daily with increasing speed. SINTEF research published in 2013, says 90% of all the data in the world has been generated in the last two years.  According to IDC, the digital universe will grow to 40 zettabytes (i.e. 40 trillion terabytes) globally by 2020! If it feels like we are drowning in data, it’s because we are.

With this data explosion, businesses must ask critical questions. How do we put all this data to good use? How do we analyze the data to better understand the needs of our customers? How do we use the data to make better business decisions? How do we use the data to as a competitive advantage?

The ability to use the growing mounds of data being captured to drive insights and make decisions is clearly a prized competitive advantage. Businesses can either get on board, or get run over by competitors who are embracing the data explosion.

If you want to reap the benefits of big data, you’ll need to partner with an expert, someone who can help you bridge the gap between huge piles of data and the insights that drive better business decisions. Naturally, I’m biased in favor of Microsoft Big Data solutions … we’re really good at this stuff.

Marketing Automation: What is it?

Every business has one goal in common (well, really two) – to generate revenue, faster. As a result of the data explosion marketers now have an unprecedented opportunity to harness customer behavioral data and use it to tailor how they engage the customer; and they are turning to marketing automation to do it.

Marketing automation streamlines marketing workflows by aligning marketing motions to the purchase cycle and automatically responding to customer activity with appropriate messaging and calls to action. Some of the most popular ways companies are using marketing automation are:

  • Sales & Marketing Alignment  – Leading marketers use marketing automation to score and distribute their leads to the salesforce. This improves both the customer experience and marketing’s relationship with sales by only engaging a salesperson when the prospect’s behavior indicates they are ready for a sales conversation. With sales and marketing in alignment, marketing turns into the preferred provider of leads to the salesforce!
  • Lead Nurturing – What happens in your organization when sales rejects a marketing lead? Chances are it is flagged as disengaged and never touched again. With marketing automation, companies can recycle these ‘dead’ leads and stay in contact with the prospect until they are ready for a sales conversation.  According to joint research by Marketo and Forrester, companies that establish lead nurturing programs generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% less cost per lead.
  • Integrated Customer Experience – Historically marketers have used push marketing techniques to reach their target audience. These techniques typically comprise of unconnected one way communications. Marketing Automation enables marketers to create and map marketing activities to the journey a customer takes to learn about and purchase a product. Through customer observation, companies can quickly reply with content relevant to the prospect’s purchase cycle stage.

Companies are rushing to implement marketing automation solutions. Gartner forecasts that sales of marketing automation solutions will grow to $4.2B by 2016. IDC predicts that “by 2020, marketing organizations will be radically reshaped. The core fabric of marketing execution will be ripped up and rewoven by data and marketing technology.” Marketing automation will clearly be a fundamental part of this revolution. There are many vendors providing marketing automation services, so be sure to evaluate them to find the best fit for your organization.

The Future of Selling: It’s Social” – Forbes

Over the past decade, the buyer journey has gone through a radical transformation. Buyers have become highly informed and engaged decision makers, going online to research products and services, understand the views of peers, leaders, and experts, and also share information and insights. This new way of approaching purchase decisions is quickly disrupting traditional sales and marketing disciplines.

social fishingAt the same time, traditional lead qualification processes and tools are experiencing abysmal response rates.  As technology innovation and sales strategies evolve, Social Selling is quickly becoming the new model for 21st century sales and marketing.

What is Social Selling?

The concept of Social Selling is simply the process of sales professionals leveraging social channels to:

  • Build  a social presence as a subject matter expert
  • Publish relevant content to address the needs and desires of their customers
  • Demonstrate expertise and establish credibility
  • Find and understand relevant contacts, and engage them in a personalized manner

What do the numbers say?

According to a 2012 Nielsen Social Media report, 65% of B2B buyers learn about brands, products, or services on social media; and the Corporate Executive Board – Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing 2012 whitepaper noted that B2B buyers now complete 57% of their journey online before they ever speak with a salesperson. As you can imagine, these numbers are growing.

Helping sales become smarter about who their customers are, where they are, and giving them the ability to directly participate in conversations earlier in the selling cycle is proving to be fertile ground for prospecting.

What do experts say?

Aberdeen recently published a whitepaper entitled, “Leveraging the Power of User Generated Content to Optimize Sales Results”, documenting their research findings and a number of best practices that businesses are using to incorporate social selling into their sales operations.

Social Selling is providing extraordinary opportunities for sales professionals around the world and large tech companies like Oracle, IBM, Salesforce and Microsoft are beginning to take note and implement social selling programs of their own.