Your 6 Most Important Marketing Questions for 2017
It’s a new year, so we’re all making big, big plans for 2017. But as we all know, any forward-looking plan has to take into account a look backward at what worked, and what didn’t. No news there. We all want to spend our time on tasks that have the most impact, not on busywork.
Here are the most critical questions to ask to make sure your marketing department isn’t just busy, but is effective.
What’s your Marketing TechStack?
This is one of my favorites. The fact is that if your marketing team isn’t embracing and adopting new software tools as part of their strategy to engage, you’re being left behind. Email is getting stale; websites and landing pages are often formulaic; a company’s competitive advantage rests as much on the advanced marketing analytics and engagement tools as it does on product, price, and channel – the traditional pillars of marketing. Remember what Gartner Group said: 2017 is the year that the Chief Marketing Officer’s budget will surpass the CIO.
Are your marketing tools keeping pace?
What percentage of opportunities come from digital marketing, and what percentage come from sales prospecting?
If you look at those numbers from the past few years, it’s likely you’ll see your sales force struggling to find new opportunities. With more and more engineers and prospects doing early stage research online, and with many analysts saying 90% of the sales process is OVER before a prospect ever calls a salesperson, you need new and updated tactics and software to make your sales team more effective. CRM is the cornerstone here; if it’s not integrated into your marketing approach, you’re ceding market share to competitors that are using effectively – today – to find your customers.
It’s finally time for the violent disagreement that characterizes the relationship between sales and marketing to evolve to violent alignment. If that’s not the case in your company, but it is the case for your competitor, you lose. Game over. Customers will find you themselves, online. Or they’ll find your competitors, and you’ll never even know about it.
In an environment where people often no longer even have phones on their desks, the older methods of selling just no longer apply. Your search and content programs must be stronger than ever. And your marketing lead funnel must be tightly integrated with your sales CRM funnel.
Will half our content budget be spent on video this year?
At the recent HubSpot Inbound marketing conference, one of the speakers noted that video was taking over web content and encouraged attendees to move aggressively to video production with half your content budget allocated to it. Wow, that’s a sea of change, particularly for our agency’s client base, which tends to be oriented toward technical marketing to engineers. Engineers like charts and graphs and spreadsheets, right? Videos won’t be popular among engineers, right?
Not so right. I’m not talking about puff pieces about a company’s anniversary or yet another CEO interview. Rather, when we do a tutorial video in front of a white board or a piece of equipment, with one technical speaker talking to another, the views and shares are strong. They’re especially strong when we boost it with a Facebook boost ad. So there’s an appetite for video, clearly.
One of our client CEOs (an engineer) said to me that he clearly prefers watching video to learn something, that it communicates more to him in a shorter amount of time. Another client (another engineer) said he can read much faster than watching a video. Perhaps the second client’s age, approach 60, had something to do with his preference for a white paper instead of video.
At the end of the day, the answer isn’t one or the other, it’s both. We don’t get to choose what format works, our prospects and customers do. So the best approach is one that’s integrated, a video that links to a white paper for more details, a white paper online with an embedded video to demonstrate a product or technique.
The mantra holds true: content that “helps me do my job better" drives brand and leads, no matter the format.
Are we still dragging our feet on social media?
It’s time to stop the debate about social media. Google says it’s important to do and measures social engagement in determining whether our websites deserve to be ranked. So right there that’s a reason enough for b-to-b marketers to jump in with both feet, rather than drag your feet.
Here’s another reason: Google generates 3.5 billion searches a day. It’s the big dog. But Facebook gets 2 billion searches a day, according to TechCrunch. One writer says it’s time for us to realize social media has become conversation media, an important philosophy switch. Who doesn’t want to have more conversations with your prospects? The corollary question for social media strategy, though: are you staffed for conversations? Or just “me-oriented” posting?
What percentage of our database include Millennials?
If the 2016 presidential election taught us anything (now THERE’S a potential blog post!) it taught us that stereotyping whole groups of people can lead to false assumptions. The assumption that Millennials are newbies from college who don’t have much influence is probably not a complete picture of this ever-more-important generation.
- One out of five Millennials is the top decision-maker in his or her department or company.
- 46% of all b-to-b searches on Google today are made by Millennials.
Many company databases we work on show an alarming lack of customer names and prospects in their 20s-30s. If you’re not aggressively growing this number, your company will lose relevance to competitors that do a better job of finding, engaging and building brand loyalty among these current and future buyers.
What’s our Amazon Strategy?
Amazon has made a big push into b-to-b, and many clients are seeing growth in revenue here, as well as on their own website shopping carts. Actually, in many respects the game is over: 55% of product searches begin on Amazon, and Google is actually seeing this volume decline in favor of Amazon!
It’s common to shy away from this because of concerns about channel conflict. Those are real. But it’s equally real that half the country has Amazon Prime, and we’re all used to (and often prefer) just buying something online with a quick click. The easiest technology tool always wins; the easiest website always wins. And the easiest overall customer experience always wins. Whether you push online ordering of your products via Amazon or your own website, push it in 2017. Make life easy for your customer, and let them buy when and whereEVER they want.
So what’s the common theme?
Be present online. Find new technology tools that make EVERYTHING EASY. And make sure your content meets the golden rule of b-to-b: will reading/watching this “help me do my job better?”
For more ideas on 2017 budgeting and b-to-b marketing trends, our newest eBook can spark some ideas and discussion topics with your marketing team.