The Consumer Revolution forces organizations to rethink the way they engage with customers. The explosion of mobile and smart devices, unified communications and an insatiable appetite for social channels (and apps dedicated to engage within them), has forever changed the terms of engagement. Continue reading “Why businesses MUST enable multi-channel customer interactions”
Lets be honest, there is nothing new about predicting the year ahead. By now you’ve no doubt encountered many projections for how our industry will evolve between now and December.
In the spirit of full disclosure, the goal of my commentary is to commit my own thoughts “for the record” so that I can return to these strategy KPI benchmarks later for measurement. Too many times have I said to myself “I predicted that” but had nothing in writing to validate my internal boasts. Enough said. Here is my list:
Google+ will gain serious momentum as an important B2B social channel
Omit Google+ at your own peril. As Google continues to refine search algorithms with emphasis on defining and empowering the semantic web, Google+ will emerge as a key channel for B2B research, digital conversations and audience engagement. It will fill the gap between personal conversations on Facebook and professional engagement on LinkedIn.
Organizations will begin to recognize the need to restructure for digital content creation and multi-channel delivery
Execution of digital marketing message, content and program strategies require more integrated team planning and execution. Traditional twentieth century organization structures were designed to market via non-digital processes and media. These legacy org structures represent silos and obstacles to capitalize on new tools, media and channels and blended digital strategies. The emphasis on measurement and improved marketing ROI will force organizations to recognize the need for structural re-alignment. Not much change will occur in 2014 but the conversation will escalate.
The document-first approach to content creation will begin its decline as the content strategies adopt a content engineering approach to optimize for multiple channels and media
Creating a white paper and then having a discussion about additional ways to leverage or “repurpose” the document is not enough. Repurposing of flagship documents, webinars, etc. will be replaced by a process that strategically plans and designs for multi-channel digital distribution rather than retro-development of a single tactic. While this won’t yet gain significant momentum, the conversation will evolve away from repurposing to strategic multi-purposing and execution in the planning stage.
Momentum for the Marketing Technologist and Data Scientist will soar
The importance of technology and user experience in any digital engagement cannot be ignored. As technology is now the delivery path for content, services and applications, achieving meaningful, audience-valued interactions will require greater collaboration and alignment between IT, marketing and other groups. Combined with the need to capture business value from volumes of data and continued pressure for meaningful marketing metrics, these two roles will be instrumental in the maturity of these goals while acting as liaisons between the traditional CMO v. CIO non-conversation.
Video will receive a greater percentage of marketing budget and will grow as a preferred communication media.
Video has reached the precipice of business acceptance. It is recognized as a powerful communications tool, but it has yet to be leveraged in practice. Barriers limiting daily video use such as the networks ability to deliver quality video, ease of adoption and creation, and user experience are falling. Video as the “killer app” is ready to assume a dominant role in business communications in ways most do not yet see.
APIs and digital platform consolidation will emerge as vital to content strategy
Context and rationalization of content aligned with both audience personas and the sales cycle are important competitive differentiators for business. To connect ‘the right’ resources that bring contextual value to the marketing mix will place increased emphasis on APIs. Consolidation of disconnected information and content sources will take time but the trend will be to recognize the need and begin a process of integration not previously acknowledged.
Curation will grow, but successful integration within messaging and content will remain dormant
There is too much content to manage and consume. Period. Automation of the process has matured and gained momentum, but only a very small minority will go the extra mile to truly optimize and integrate it within their content creation and delivery strategies.
Social listening will become a budget line item
Business is social. Social listening will soon be deemed a requirement, not an option. Recognizing that peer-to-peer conversations impact every target audience and with the integration of social into customer service platforms, listening will be emphasized. The challenge for B2B will be timely response due to lack of strategy and structure.
Apps will proliferate and have a significant impact on experience design and will influence web interface design
I see this everywhere already so maybe it’s not a fair prediction, but mobile apps have forced digital designers to jump out of their interface design box. This is long over-due and I’m thankful to mobile for a better user experience and more visual delivery of digital content. Many thanks to Apple and Ideo in particular for igniting this evolution.
Engagement goals will lead to more B2B focus and emphasis on brand communities.
Business has recognized the value of social channels and is now committed to respond. Two trends are inevitable – brand community growth and increased emphasis on measurable KPIs of this activity.
Branded communities will be the natural strategy for most mid-sized and large B2Bs. Why? Because most these brands find it hard not to focus on themselves and because it will be easier for them to manage KPIs in communities they control. The majority will not gain much traction however, because users will gravitate to communities of interest and not communities of brand.
What do you think? please share thoughts and comments.
“CIOs and CMOs should know enough about each other’s field of expertise to be interchangeable” according to Jim Davis, SAS’s global marketing chief in a recent CMO.com article.
I had to read that statement more than once.
After considering this concept further, I thought to myself why don’t we also add the CFO, COO and CEO into that prototype and include a couple of engineering PhD’s and legal counsel. Now that is an executive persona. Clone them into a board of “Mini-Me’s.”
Think of the synergy in that boardroom. No hidden agendas, no bitter debates or personality conflicts. The enterprise now has complete strategic alignment across operations, product development, IT, marketing and sales. Dream team.
Don’t get me wrong; Mr. Davis makes many important points. As a former CIO his emphasis on technology is no surprise. To be clear, I agree with the majority of his opinions. I just don’t’ agree that the CMO and CIO roles could be interchangeable.
In fact, it’s not that I completely reject the ideal of that concept. It’s just not realistic. Culturally speaking, no one sits at more distant ends of the boardroom than the CIO and CMO, assuming of course that the CMO has a seat. Their training, skills, experiences, and often personalities, are polar opposites.
Technology is a tool; it’s not the solution to marketing’s mission. There is no debate about the unprecedented potential it represents as a production, delivery and measurement mechanism, but to confuse marketing with technology is naïve and doomed to failure. And B2B technology vendors are often the worst offenders.
Marketing has become distracted by technology and automation.
Marketing is ultimately about awareness, communication, persuasion, and audience experience. It begins with a compelling message and story that delivers unique differentiation that your audience cares about. To quote Leo Burnett, effective messaging “does not just circulate information. It penetrates the public mind with desires and belief.” It is human, empathetic, and most of all, memorable.
These basic building blocks do not come in a box. The technology and the applications – they are tactical tools for delivery and measurement. Ultimately success is measured in terms of customer acquisition and retention, not the size and quality of your database or email open rates.
As a technology marketing and content strategist, I agree with Mr. Davis’ philosophy at the tactical and execution level. Marketing does need a better understanding of what’s in the technology box, and how they can use it. But do not become distracted by it. Without simple, memorable, inviting messages, it will not achieve the objective. Garbage in, garbage out, it’s just being distributed more efficiently.
The CMO and CIO are not interchangeable, but the evolution of digital technology does require that their roles and objectives be synchronized and complimentary. The digital age has also created at least one shared reality – it has forever changed the IT and marketing roles. The changes these executives have seen in the past 15 years are unprecedented, turning both their professional worlds upside down.
To succeed as business leaders in this new age, the CMO and CIO will need to transcend isolated and historic roles. As digital interactions and devices continue to mature, the two business groups will become inseparable in the customer experience conversation. Marketing and IT will represent a new business ecosystem that will ultimately be defined and measured by customer experience.
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome additions to this conversation.
Change is hard. “An A+ for stating the obvious” you are thinking to yourself?
B2B marketing is stuck in “old ways”. Like any generalization, there are exceptions, but they remain the minority. I’ll explain.
Business thrives on process. From process comes efficiency, which is a critical element of success. Consider FedEx and the UPS. Process is their competitive advantage and they have embraced new techniques, structures and core processes to capitalize on fundamental shifts in technology, audience needs and service models. They are winning big because of it.
Process is key to efficiency but a process based on an old set of rules is disaster. In many ways this is the status of B2B marketing.
Marketing is about message, content and audience reach. B2B is adapting to the audience reach part of the model. But it needs deeper analysis. Marketing has not adapted to the message and content processes required to truly capitalize on new distribution models and audience consumption preferences.
The Internet and “digital” has forever changed how buyers evaluate and make purchase decisions. In response, Marketing no longer prints collateral but publishes PDF’s on their websites. Many have adopted “marketing automation” tools to leverage their database. Some discovered video, audio podcasts, eBooks. The list goes on.
Communications teams are blogging and tweeting all day long to capitalize on the power of social media. Many new tools, formats and media are being used, all powerful and with tremendous reach.
But here’s the thing. Few marketing and communications teams are working together to consider the synergy of each effort, or the content required to support each channel. The activities are related and inter-dependent upon each other, though they are often not executed as such.
Engagement is the new buzzword in marketing. Engage with customers, prospects, and partners. “We need to engage online. Establish a conversation.” But for many organizations the teams responsible for customer engagement are not truly engaged with each other. They talk, have meetings and conference calls, but they are not engaged. Why?
Old habits. The approach to content creation, communication, and the structure of organizations has not evolved. B2B has historically undervalued creative, message and content, and they have not yet recognized the need to adapt the process of creating content. One team creates collateral, another press and media communications, and a third owns marketing automation. Other teams own the web, video, and training. Each is focused set of deliverables but not the coordination or relationships of the messages they are delivering.
Unless co-developed, creating a PDF whitepaper to publish on the web and writing a blog post for LinkedIn, without a strategy to leverage their inter-dependencies is not a new approach, just a new distribution method.
Would love to hear your own opinions on this.
Remember this early debate when social media first emerged as a B2B marketing channel? Since appearing on marketing’s radar, the question of who should ‘own’ social media within the business has echoed across small and large enterprises everywhere. Here is my take – It is the wrong question.
The correct question is this. How should enterprise marketing structures, strategies and processes adapt to the content demands of social media and new rules for audience engagement, enabled by ubiquitous information and all things digital – the web, social media, search engines, etc?
Traditional marketing structures of most enterprises today are outdated. They evolved to meet traditional marketing media. Now they must evolve again to address the new rules of inbound and outbound marketing, press and analyst behaviors, customer expectations and most of all, shifting buy cycle trends. Here’s why.
Let’s explore the traditional B2B model, formed around collateral and interruption-based media of the 20th century. The typical structure was defined as:
Marketing (brand, collateral, advertising, direct mail, promotions) and
- Communications (PR, Analyst relations, media relations).
The term mar-com took root and the web didn’t exist.
Customer awareness was delivered in the form of advertising; information was the role of collateral, trade press and particularly sales, touching customers early in the buying cycle.
Communications handled press and analyst activities by phone, snail mail, PR newswires, and in person. Personal relationships were as important to press and media people as they were to sales. Content was important, dominated by collateral and press releases, perhaps an occasional advertorial. Deeper content produced separately by product management came in the form of manuals and user guides, training educated sales and supported customer product knowledge, all often developed outside of marketing’s view.
Compare that to the digital world we live in today. The web provides people with access to ubiquitous information in almost any form. Customers expect it. It’s no longer about finding customers but making sure customers find you. Customers are now controlling the conversation via the web and social media, and sales touches the customer much later in the buying cycle. Why? Because buyers don’t need to rely on a salesperson for information as they once did. In fact most buyers don’t even want to talk to sales until they’ve already researched and made numerous decisions about what solution provider is likely to meet their needs.
So what does this mean for today’s marketing teams?
It is now the customer’s expectation (and marketing’s responsibility) to produce much greater volumes of content. Content to address a wider audience, in many additional forms and optimized for search to compete with hundreds of thousands of competing information resources. This is the evolution of what is known today as “Content Marketing”. And, we haven’t even begun yet the discussion of social media and how that can be executed by the business, except by inference as it is directly connected.
Call it the perfect storm. On one hand we have much greater demand for content and information enabled by the web and expected by customers. On the other hand, few marketing organizations have seen a corresponding increase in resources to satisfy the insatiable demand. In fact, the recession has reduced most marketing budgets and resources.
Why is the debate about who should own Social Media the wrong question? Because without re-evaluating what we consider to be content, how we produce it, manage it, and scale it, enterprise marketing and communications cannot meet the demands social media and other digital channels present to create a successful marketing engagement, and still fulfill the current definitions of their day jobs.
The answer to the original question? We all must own it. So how does business organize to support it strategically and tactically?