With a new year on the horizon, marketers are thinking about what trends are coming down the pipe. We invited a select group of thought leaders to gaze into the future and give their demand generation predictions for 2011. The results were wide-ranging and not always in agreement. Without further ado, here are six demand generation predictions for the next year.
Increased deployment of eMarketing Strategies requires that marketers get as close to prospects as possible to generate demand. The challenge with online marketing is that visibility into prospect behaviors must gain more context than an open or a click. Marketers need technology that enables them to discern patterns of content consumption that indicate progression across stages of the buying process-as well as tipping points for sales-ready
transition. Marketers without that intelligence will be unable address the challenge of high-quality lead generation as well as lack the accountability to prove their contribution to revenues.
Most smart marketers have embraced the notion that they need to be publishing content to both attract and educate customers. Of course, not any old content will fit the bill. Rather, the content a company produces must be valuable, relevant, interesting, enjoyable, and sometimes a little fun. It’s a challenge to produce the right kind of content that will resonate best with your customers, and 2011 will be the year that businesses meet that challenge, and focus on producing content that rules.
Content that rules doesn’t try to sell. Rather, it creates value for your customers by positioning you as a reliable and valuable source of vendor-agnostic information. So your content shares a resource, solves a problem, helps your customers do their jobs better, improves their lives, or makes them smarter, wittier, better-looking, taller, better networked, cooler, or more enlightened, with better backhands, and cuter kids…. In other words, it’s high value to your customers, meeting whatever needs they have. B2B companies today will be most effective in 2011 if they approach all of their content according to this rule: Share or Solve, don’t Shill.
Social media is poised to have an impact on demand generation, but to what extent is still undetermined. Common sense would tell us, however, that the potential for demand gen already is there: Twitter, Facebook fan pages, and LinkedIn groups all speak to self-identified “hand raisers” who already are interested in particular topics. A careful interaction with them is sure to uncover many who are ready to take the next step in conversion, e.g., seeing a demo, attending a webinar, even talking to a sales person or technician. In addition, these general social sites now also offer advertising units, usually served in the context of the conversation or via search. This seems to me to be a much more potent way to serve “behaviorally targeted” ads than merely tracking web visits via cookies. The people who will see these ads are already interested in the topic and are actively engaged. Thus, seeing a subtle ad may not be considered an intrusion, and may turn out to have much higher click-through and conversion rates than behavioral, retargeting, or other forms of contextual ads. We await statistics showing this.
Smart companies will start to realize that there’s really no such thing as a social media “expert”. Those who offer quick fixes to business where social media is concerned are not part of the solution, but the problem. Building relationships takes time and every staff member must get some level of training to be prepared to interact with consumers online because it’s going to happen. What companies need is someone who can not only offer different levels of training to their employees as required, but also help them identify and empower those in their companies who possess the personality traits that thrive in a social media environment and be effective social company representatives. Social media corporate advocates and evangelists are born, not made.
Marketing automation is nearing a tipping point already, I believe. CSO Insights found that quota achievement is at an all time low, and almost 9 out of 10 companies raised quotas. Jim Dickie of CSO Insights said this is like raising the high jump bar to 6 ‘ 7” when they could not clear 6′ 4″. This is a recipe for failure, according to Jim.
When you think about it, if the standard prescriptions for improving revenue, like raising quotas, is no longer working, companies will be forced to look for new ways to improve revenue. Invariably, their attention will turn to marketing automation software vendors. Specifically, CEOs will pressure marketing heads to solve the problem, and, in their search for a solution, they’ll turn to marketing automation and it will hit the mainstream, becoming a “must have.”
If we think in terms of the “hype cycle”, then B2B marketing automation is due for a letdown. We’ll start to hear more stories of failed implementations, which in this market would simply mean people aren’t getting enough value from the systems and stop using them. That would specifically translate into higher churn rates (lower renewals) for on-demand vendors. This will trigger and be accompanied by the usual “is marketing automation dead/ necessary/a waste of time” articles and analyst reports. Presumably the result will be a more realistic understanding of the need for better process management and better data integration — things that B2B marketing automation vendors have mostly left up to channel partners. The smart ones will beef up their professional services to deliver those aspects of the solution themselves. This will make it harder for smaller firms to compete, accelerating the consolidation.