New year, same problems, similar trends. The problem for business to business (b2b) marketers consistently is demand generation and each year, businesses take the time to build on what they have been previously working with.
The current statistic is that business to business buyers go through 70%-90% of the buyer journey before speaking with a vendor and as our customers evolve further and embrace digital channels as part of the research and buying cycle, they become more in control. In 2016, businesses need to keep a clear focus on the needs of their customers-a group that's diverse and fragmented, with high expectations and little patience for anyone who can't keep up.
Here's a look at digital trends and directions that will drive conversations and conversions in 2016.
This step inevitably falls into the hands of marketing to take the digital lead. Technology has transformed the way we buy. It continues to replace outdated sales tactics and just like before the phone or email were widely accepted, and it goes without saying that not every sales person will adapt easily to every facet of the process. However, things are moving fast and if you don't have a sales process that includes Social Selling then you must create a strategy. Marketing and sales needs to work together to help embrace social selling benefits such as shortened sales cycles; leveraging networks; personal brand building; reputation management; lead generation; and further adapting the 360 degree approach by being where your customers are. Traditional selling is all about trying to close a transaction. Done well, social selling is all about creating B2B sales seduction with the goal of drawing the prospect closer to you so that you can convince them that you or your solution is the most desirable option available to them.
Every industry has a big data opportunity. Big data, which includes social and unstructured data, is a goldmine for marketers who are looking to generate demand. Until recently, many marketers shielded away from big data because they lacked the skills to translate it into meaningful actions. However, with marketing sciences on the rise, tools are coming to the marketplace that make mining and managing data easier. We are continuing to explore the power of metrics and how we can leverage information to make better-informed decisions and to truly understand the effectiveness and impact of demand generation efforts. Intuition no longer cuts it, as campaigns become an ongoing process of testing and improving practices based on data. There is information available on your target market, when they are likely to purchase, what content they are looking for, and what problems they need solved. In 2016, we are guaranteed to see further incorporation of big data and analytics into marketing decisions.
Customer experience has been receiving a lot of attention over the last few years and 2016 will not be any different. Ultimately this refers to combination of people, process and technology to understand, anticipate and consistently deliver exceptional personalized experiences across all touch points. The underlying rock for this basis is the company message and content - the more relevant the content and the message to your buyer, the more likely they are to purchase and convert. Fundamentally, in order to get your customer's attention - you need to have something interesting and relevant to say. It may sounds like a broken record, but content is still king-even more so given the deterioration of interruptive tactics. In 2016, context will be a stronger factor than ever before as we continue to experience content and platform overload. A DemandGen report shows that for 65% of buyers, the winning vendor's content had a significant impact on purchase decision, and 68% have increased the amount of content used to research and evaluate their purchases. Whether it's engaging with customers online, tracking the customer journey, measuring sentiment and working with sales on customized ready messaging, we all need to be consistent and efficient.
As business units continue to blend and work closely together in modernizing the way we operate, sales will rely on marketing for more data on customers. It is marketing's job to providing sales with insights into buyer motivations, behaviour, and activity to help boost results. Prior to approaching a prospect, or following up with an open inquiry, sales needs to have the data to make educated decisions. How are prospects engaging with the website? What are they interested in? How much time are they spending online? Are there individuals from the same department looking at the same section on a website? This comes down to buyer insights, predictive analytics and proactive content support as the world of digital and offline is further blended. In b2b, marketing is a business development role and the goal is to ensure that every sales rep has the required knowledge, insights, content and processes to optimize every interaction with prospects and clients. In today's complex buyer's journey and the evolving role of the sales function demands that marketing does more than simply help their firms generate new demand. They also need to be focused on helping to convert those leads into opportunities and opportunities into revenue. Digital enablement forces marketing to get into the minds of sales people and think about their sales process and approach, in addition to the decision process of the buyer.
As the number of people who browse on mobile devices has surpassed desktop users with content remaining the most important aspect of demand generation, there is no doubt that mobile needs to be considered in 2016. Recently Google confirmed their algorithm that instantly improves the ranking of smartphone-friendly landing pages on search results and while it may not always be a straight forward solution with b2b; at a minimum, this means a mobile-optimized and responsive website. On the more mature scale for demand generation, this should include custom apps and mobile-targeted campaigns.
The last year has brought a lot of change, but these trends also prove that the driving factors aren't new, they've just grown up. Happy 2016.