If you're in marketing today, you likely have mixed emotions. The power of digital technology has unleashed performance-marketing opportunities providing data, analytics and ROI metrics that have many marketers jumping for joy. At the same time, the ever-increasing number of platforms, systems, applications, acronyms and sheer complexity of marketing's current state has some, if not most, marketers crawling under their desks into the fetal position and sobbing like small children. Welcome to marketing's new era where technology has ushered in extraordinary new capabilities and mind-numbing complexity.
At Business.com, our engagement with the small-to-medium business market provides us with a unique vantage point on how buyers and sellers engage online and how to better harness today's marketing technology and turn complexity into better marketing performance. Here are 4 tips for dealing with marketing complexity.
1. Marketing is Always On. If you have a website, your marketing needs to be real-time and always on. Some 15 years after the launch of the commercial Internet this seems obvious, but it is still a challenge for many companies.
- Offer fresh content, well-optimized landing pages and a clear process for serving and engaging customers and prospects.
- Develop a plan for your website that provides practical content that serves your customers information needs and positions your brand, products and services.
- Engage with and listen to your prospects and customers via your blogs and your social media presence so customers can connect with your company, your employees and other customers. Set up a clear process and schedule for monitoring your company social networks, blogs and community forums so you can respond to requests or concerns ASAP.
- Make it easy for customers to buy from you. Give your customers easy, simple ways to learn more, contact a sales rep and better understand the range of products and services you offer.
2. Simplify. When a technology research company starts predicting that "In 5 years CMO's will be buying more technology than CIO's," you can be sure that the hype cycle has set in. Clearly marketing is going through a technological revolution; marketing and technology have become inextricably intertwined. At the same time, we have hit a tipping point in the complexity of advertising and marketing technology. New terminologies like DSP, DMP, RTB, Native Advertising, InStream Advertising, Ad Networks, Retargeting Networks, Marketing Automation, and a staggering number of new platforms, systems and applications have made the technology marketers daily world a land mine of complexity. This increase in complexity can result in increased costs, reduced ROI and can distract marketers from the critical fundamentals of marketing. As a modern marketer, simplify your approach, by myopically focusing on your core customers and prospects, defining and articulating your core value proposition, and engaging your customer throughout their buying journey. Don't get caught up in the hype! Marketing has had multiple technology revolutions and ultimately marketing will master this one as well. Anyone who tells you that "You have to have the latest ad technology" or "You're late to the game with real-time bidding" or "programmatic buying" is simply trying to sell you something.
3. Follow the Marketing Funnel. Successful marketing moves along a continuum known as the "Marketing Funnel." From awareness to engagement to education and purchase, effective marketing engages the buyer along the key juncture points in the purchase process. Business products and service buyers are looking to discover, learn about and ultimately purchase the products and services they need for their businesses. Your marketing efforts need to mirror this journey and help the buyer through the marketing funnel, taking them from a prospect to a customer as they do so. Given that the marketing funnel is a continuum, you also need to engage customers where they are in the process, not simply where you would like them to be. If a prospect wants to go from clicking on your banner ad to speaking with a sales rep at your company, give them that opportunity. If a current customer wants to have more information on a product or service they haven't yet bought and wants to download a whitepaper to learn more, give it to them. Today, the ability to provide prospects and customers with the exact type of information they need, when they need it, that maps to who they are and where they are in the buying process is easier than it has been in the past.
4. Turn Prospects into Subscribers, Then into Customers. Being ready when a customer wants to engage with your business is key in marketing. The fact is, however, that 70% of business buyers have made up their mind on who they want to buy from before they engage with sellers. In fact, a recent study by Market Probe International shows that 7 out of 10 SMB purchasers follow the company on Twitter before making a purchase. You need to be reaching buyers at the top of the marketing funnel when they are in their discovery phase. Then, engage them when they are in their learning phase. The best way to do this is to provide them a whitepaper or other form of content marketing that assists them in the learning process. This in turn allows you to create a subscriber out of your prospects and nurture them along the buying process by supplying them with more information.