By C. Edward Brice, Author of Marketing-Gimbal Blog
Well I’m glad the last half of 2008 is over. It was a wakeup call to everyone and I’m sure we have all dusted off our “Recession Marketing” Playbooks. If you’re like me you are facing the stark reality of doing more with less in 2009. In that context I thought I would share my forecast for the Top 10 2009 B2B Marketing Trends:
1.Database Marketing Takes Center Stage:
While we should all be focused on enhancing and enriching our databases the need for more targeted segmentation and messaging will put a renewed emphasis on this old tactical area that can be ignored or even forgotten. I predict a renewed zeal on enriching our customer bases to enable more targeted messaging and segmentation. In addition we will need to draw upon our in-house prospecting database more than ever before, and we will need to have the proper tools in place to enable more effective segmentation.
2.The Tipping Point for Virtual Events:
We have all been experimenting with virtual events, and most of us have made the ever ready webinar a standard part of our marketing repertoire. What I’m talking about is going one step further and really committing to virtual events where you actually represent a virtual event environment that will integrate a variety of rich media formats. I recently read where physical event attendance will be down by 60-70% this year and just look at the number of companies already canceling user conferences. I would bet companies like Unisfair do very well in 2009. The technology, bandwidth, and conditioning of the prospect experience have all come to a point where virtual events could be the preferred format going forward.
3.Social Media Takes Hold in B2B Marketing:
The use of social media will become a more prevalent part of most B2B marketing strategies. It has to be. The value of creating a two way communication channel between you and your customers is too great to ignore any longer. You want an ROI for social media? Here’s one. It’s free, it syndicates your content, it makes you more searchable, it helps you to learn more about your customer, it helps your prospects learn more about you and so on. If I read one more twitter post about how you’re trying to figure out a strategy and an ROI on social media I’m going to shoot myself. Just Do It.
4.Content Marketing is the Differentiating Factor:
At the end of the day when I get asked, "what’s really changed about marketing" , the one thing I say is that in the 21st century marketing is really about content publishing. We must create content that our prospects perceive as valuable across each stage of their buying cycle. We need to syndicate that content to support thought leadership, brand awareness, and inquiry generation; we must always update the content to keep our SEO high etc. At the end of the day it’s about content. Notice how your meetings become more about topics that you can publish on versus events, and advertising. If you’re not producing relevant value added content for your ecosystem that is searchable and syndicated across social networks you might as well close up shop today.
5.Marketing Automation Continues to Make Inroads:
As the pressure to drive operational efficiencies grows for marketers we will be required to look more and more at marketing automation technologies above and beyond just core CRM. I’m referring to those systems (i.e. Marketo & Eloqua) that can define and automate nurturing workflows, implicitly and explicitly score leads, and integrate marketing analytics for a better view of our ROI and conversion rates. The reality is that most companies today that use these systems are really just using the email automation capabilities of these advanced platforms. Most are not utilizing the powerful segmentation platforms that these systems provide. In addition most B2B marketing departments will quickly find that their current level of skill sets will have a hard time leveraging these systems as it’s more about workflow versus pretty graphics. The hard reality will be that you really need a segmentation stragey that is relevant and supported by your data to really extract value from these systems. However I expect these systems to gain momentum in 2009 and by the end of 2010 they will be fairly common and required to be competitive. I will say that more affordable and flexible licensing models will need to be explored by the automation vendors.
6.No Inquiry Left Behind:
In 2009 the marketing mantra becomes “No inquiry left behind”. We must all do a better job at managing inquires/leads and scoring them before passing to sales. This process becomes ever more important in a recessionary environment where conversion rates, inquiries, and leads accepted by sales all have to optimized continuously to get the performance we need especially with reduced budgets.
7.The Death of Print Advertising:
I’m tired of all the media produced research saying that you really need to optimize both print and online for effective brand awareness. In 2009 with ever less B2B print mediums to go around we will all realize that it’s really about optimizing our content across the buying cycle and driving people back to our website where we will embody our brand experience to build relationships and demand conversion. In short I see most of our awareness mix shifting entirely to online media channels, social media, and context based SEO. Besides how many more books are going to stop publishing and become blogs anyway?
The best marketing in the world doesn’t matter if your sales force can’t convert. I would expect that more focus is applied to looking at the sales cycle side by side with the buying cycle and asking the question: What is my standardized sales content offering? Sales will need marketing more than ever in 2009 in order to provide relevant selling content and to optimize the sales cycle.
9.Focus on Installed Base Marketing:
A tough economy will put increased emphasis on marketing into the installed base customer set and driving cross-sell up sell. In fact if times get really tough the companies that best leverage their installed base for business will survive and thrive. In tough times people buy from whom they know and trust and businesses aren’t any different. If you’re selling tech you’re in for a long haul in growing new business in 2009. Leverage your installed base well and your new business will be whip cream and cherries on top of your demand Sunday.
10.Green Is In:
You may say that this was a trend back in 2008 but I really see it continuing with gusto as marketers realize that there are hard value propositions with going green. Every product management team should investigate if they can do things within their existing technology set that can drive better power consumption, or reduced waste. This can be a big winner in a tough economy, and besides everybody feels good about it.
C. Edward Brice serves as Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Lumension Security.A seasoned industry veteran, Mr. Brice has more than 18 years marketing experience in developing new markets and businesses for evolving technology in business application software, networking services, digital storage , satellite navigation, wireless communication, and intelligent transportation systems. He is also the author of Marketing-Gimbal, a blog about the latest internet marketing hysteria.