Sixty-five million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth. Today, the only place we get to see them is in skeleton form in museums. It’s hard to fathom why such gigantic creatures didn’t survive. While there are numerous hypotheses about why they’re no longer with us, one common explanation is that biological changes made them less competitive with other organisms.
I believe we’re going through a similar “biological change” in marketing. As marketers, we must evolve with the massive change that’s sweeping our industry or risk being replaced with more nimble, modern marketers. Let’s look at four ways in which individuals and companies are changing — changes that mandate that marketers adapt.
1) Social Media Uprising
Early skeptics thought of social media as little more than a teenage fad. Today, nearly every buyer is relying on one or more social channels to connect with potential vendors, research solution alternatives, and dialogue with other users. In the past, marketing organizations could focus on providing a comprehensive website, building in thorough search engine optimization and delivering compelling email. Now, marketers must build and maintain an interconnected web of platforms to effectively communicate with their customers and potential buyers.
Marketers must also make their presence known on an ever-expanding list of platforms beyond Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, including YouTube, Foursquare, Flickr, Google+, blogs (company and complementary outside blogs) and Pinterest. This list will continue to expand, so savvy marketers must keep their fingers on the pulse of social channels. It’s also important that marketers track social interactions to properly record lead sources and revenue attribution. I still hear some marketers say that their potential buyers are not active on social media, or that they don’t have the time or budget to participate. I would suggest that these marketers are at risk of gradually becoming extinct.
2) Self-Service Mentality
With the social media uprising, there’s an exploding amount of content available that potential buyers can use to research products, services, companies and more. Before all this information was available on the Web, buyers contacted potential vendors and established a relationship with sales. Reps were responsible for educating potential buyers on the market, solution alternatives, purchasing and implementation steps. These potential buyers were completely dependent on their reps to act as the conduit of information.
Now, the tables have turned, as stated in a recent IBM CMO Study: “The empowered customer is now in control of the customer relationship.” The customer decides who, what, where, why and how they reach out to potential vendors. According to a survey from the Marketing Leadership Roundtable, on average, customers are 57 percent through the buying cycle before they’re willing to make first serious contact with a sales rep. This is a profound shift in buyer behavior. Marketers must step up to mind the gap and take on responsibility for nurturing warm leads that are not yet ready for a sales resource.
3) Solution Availability
For decades, most companies have implemented numerous versions of accounting systems, order entry and customer management systems. Today, we’re enjoying an era of the first generation of marketing technology designed to automate many vital functions. Marketing automation platforms enable marketers to plan, execute and measure a vast array of marketing activities.
The beauty of marketing automation systems is that they allow marketing departments to scale to communicate with individual customers and prospective buyers in a highly personalized and customized manner, based on their needs, where they are in the buying cycle and their specific characteristics. Companies must move quickly to implement marketing automation platforms for their marketing departments or risk being trapped with systems that cannot move beyond one-size-fits-all marketing messages and tactics. According to IDC, an average of 8.7 percent of marketing budgets will be spent on IT in 2012.
4) Smartphones and Tablet Proliferation
For years, the primary devices that mattered to marketers were the large screens of desktop and laptop computers. Now, marketers must plan, act and operate on a large interconnected web of platforms that include smartphones and tablets. Buyers are on the move, making all sorts of critical decisions by reading, processing, forwarding and, yes, even deleting information from these devices.
According to ABI research, 80 percent of smartphone owners check their email on their smartphones. Marketers must adapt by designing websites, landing pages, Web forms and emails by first considering the small screen sizes found on mobile devices and tablets. Marketers must evaluate every website and email to make sure that the content is properly rendered on the various device form factors.
Avoiding the Dinosaur Syndrome: Tips for Staying Relevant with Modern Marketing
While these shifts present new challenges, they need not be as daunting as, say, plunging meteorites or volcanic eruptions. Savvy marketers can adapt to the changing marketplace by simply:
- Embracing social media. Make sure you’re inviting a two-way dialogue with customers and prospects, and not just shouting the latest marketing message.
- Exploring new social channels. Stay on top of emerging trends in social channels. Dip your toe into new social sites to understand how they work, who’s participating and how they could help you connect with new buyers. (Read how B2B marketers can use location-based marketing.)
- Focusing on content for the entire buying cycle. Document a typical buyer’s journey from the time they’re considering a change, evaluating alternative solutions, making a decision and becoming an advocate. Make sure you have high-quality content to offer your audience throughout the various buying cycle stages.
- Implementing a marketing automation platform. If you already have a marketing automation system, make sure you’re adopting the full feature set available, taking advantage of the vendor’s training and certification programs.
- Designing and testing for all platforms. Make sure you’re considering how your content and offers will render on all the major tablets and smart phones.
Don’t go the way of the dinosaur. Instead, take these steps and you’ll survive and thrive in the new age of marketing.
1) Blog: “15 Incremental Steps to Digital Marketing Success”
2) Tip Sheet: “10 Email Creative Tips for Boosting ROI, Opens and Clicks”
3) Blog: “Lead Nurturing the Social Way”