Marketing Lessons Learned in 2014
Nothing Has Changed
As marketers, our purpose has always been to reach our target customers in an attempt to influence their thinking in favor of our products. Marketing has always been about persuasion. For decades marketing messages were delivered primarily through advertising channels including print, television, display, events and radio. Despite the fact that our world has long gone digital, each of these marketing channels is alive and well. I still receive a ton of promotional (physical) mail. I still see a ton of ads in newspapers, magazines and print newsletters. I still hear ads on the radio. And, I still see ads on television and billboards everywhere.
Maybe you don’t watch traditional television where ads appear. Maybe you don’t read physical newspapers or listen to traditional radio where ads air. But, millions of people do. And, if you work in a big city you probably see ads on buses, taxis and even sides of buildings that get exposed to a lot of people such as commuters.
The challenge for marketers has become finding the right mix of channels to reach your target audience in an environment where consumers are bombarded with marketing messages every day. Now, the big challenge for marketers is to find the right mix of owned, paid and earned marketing messages to reach the target customer.
Everything Has Changed
Now, I read my news on mobile devices. I listen to mostly ad free radio and podcasts. I pay little attention to the promotional mail in my pile of mail. I watch very little traditional television where the next Apple commercial might appear. I’m a digital guy.
The modern B2B buyer is likewise digitally savvy. When she’s not in meetings or neck deep in project work, she’s conducting research online or consuming content that educates, enlightens or entertains her in a way that is relevant to her work.
The B2B buyer is bifurcated. He still values making real human connections. He attends conferences, meetups and other events where the face to face connection happens. And, he also connects with others on LinkedIn in search of professional networking. He needs to stay informed, but his world is hyper busy. His dilemma is deadlines versus the need to stay informed on topics that help him do his job or find his next job.
Relevancy In The Moment
The modern business buyer has an 8 second attention span in the first digital touch. She knows what she needs and has no tolerance for an encounter with a brand’s message that isn’t 100% relevant in the moment. We’re living in the age of hyper realtime content marketing.
In 2015 brands should understand the difference between being found by a buyer in a search when he’s downstream in a purchase selection versus finding the buyer upstream when he’s gathering information. Brands who understand how to cater to both upstream and downstream contacts will perform best. The further upstream a brand can begin building awareness and trust with the business buyer, the better chance there is of creating a sales conversation.
The Savvy B2B Buyer
Another marketing lesson from 2014 is how the sales process has changed. Due to the fast pace demands of modern business, the buyer doesn’t have time or patience for traditional relationship building. The buyer uses LinkedIn to learn about a sales person’s credentials and to learn about how they help other buyers get results. The sales person’s LinkedIn profile that is optimized for a job search loses. The sales person’s LinkedIn profile that is optimized for their buyer wins. The savvy buyer studies recommendations on a sales person’s LinkedIn profile. He studies recommendations written by the sales person for others, not those written for the salesperson. The recommendations written by a salesperson can provide the savvy B2B buyer insights into that salesperson’s behavior with others in professional relationships.
The savvy B2B buyer is sometimes impatient. Frankly, I don’t blame her. She gets a lot of spam email. She is hyper busy. When she consumes content on relevant topics, she wants options. She may want to read a 1,000 word article on a relevant topic. But, she also needs to inform her boss. And, her boss doesn’t have time to read a lengthy article. She wants to forward him a one minute video with a comment about why she plans to explore this solution. The short video is all the executive needs. She needs multiple touches with content that serve her and her stakeholders. Brands who cater to her needs will perform better in 2015.
The modern B2B marketer builds a profile about her through marketing technology smart forms. She isn’t asked her name and email address a second time. Rather she is asked a question or two about her situation. The modern B2B marketer is scoring these engagements to determine the right moment in her journey to attempt a sales contact that has a high probability of being well timed, and well received.
So, while nothing has changed about the need for marketers to find and convert prospects, what has changed in 2014 is the importance of finding them upstream with multiple, hyper relevant touch points. Finding buyers downstream can be inefficient for both buyers and sellers.
In 2015 I expect this process to continue to become more scientific. Engagement scoring methods will evolve to deliver even more hyper targeted messages, with even more precise delivery data such as time of day, device and other nuances such as color preference and other personalization attributes.
Everyone’s in Marketing
The role of the non-sales employee has also evolved in 2014. The B2B salesperson can’t possibly go it alone. The buyer’s quest for highly relevant information needs to be satisfied by subject matter experts. Brands that develop a content plan that leverages the employees, and provide a governance plan which empowers them, as well as provides the necessary guardrails, are well positioned to develop effective employee advocates and active social selling participants.
If 2014 was the year of employee advocacy, 2015 will be the year of governance. An Altimeter report shows that only 16% of companies have a well understood and deployed social business governance plan in place. If marketers are going to improve their ability to find, engage and convert people that they serve, they must embrace employee advocacy and social selling best practices. Attempting this without the four Ps of social business governance is high risk.
Where are you on the employee advocacy journey? Do you have a governance plan? Do you have a documented content strategy that addresses the need of your hyper busy buyer? Can you deliver relevancy in the moment to your prospects? Are you prepared to find and engage your buyers upstream in 2015? These are key questions you should consider as you enter 2015.