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Marketing in the Digital Age: Trends to Watch in 2016

Remember 1995? That was the year we put ‘e’ in front of everything to signify that it was being done ‘electronically.’ eBusiness, eCRM, and eProcurement were all the rage.

Fast forward to 2016 and we’ve dropped the ‘e’ because doing things electronically has become the norm.  The same will happen with the term ‘Digital’ Marketing. Cisco’s CMO Karen Walker has said, “Marketing was the last function to be industrialised and the first function to be digitised.” Marching into the future, that means we’re no longer doing ‘Digital’ Marketing, we’re simply Marketing in a digital world.

As the term Digital Marketing dies and Marketing regains its place, what other trends will accelerate in 2016? Here are my thoughts

1. AIDA will become AIDAA

Our marketing text books teach us to drive customer engagement according to the AIDA model: attention, interest, desire, action.  In 2016 I’m adding an ‘a’ – for Advocacy!

Once a customer has purchased a product or a service from a company, the ultimate goal is to have that customer share the positive experience with peers. Why?  According to Edelman’s 2014 Trust Barometer, customers trust their peers more than any sales and marketing collateral – and even more than industry analysts.

Cisco has taken this message to heart and has officially made it part of our marketing team’s role and purpose – ”To inspire people to prefer, choose, and advocate Cisco.”  I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more about customer advocacy in 2016.

2. Customer data will improve the customer experience

Market leaders have always had rich customer data on their installed base and could predict future behaviour based on past bookings and external insight. We’ve now gained the ability to layer additional data based on what customers are doing online.  This is good news for marketers, obviously, because we can use customer intelligence to inform the customer journey.  But what’s more important is that it’s good news for the customer – because companies are able to use the information they collect to fine tune the customer experience.

This critical link between customer data and customer experience is echoed by Jeremy Bevan, Vice President of EMEAR Marketing at Cisco. In his blog post, “Is Customer Experience Your North Star?” Bevan implores marketers: “consumers have more purchasing muscle today than yesterday – they are firmly in the driving seat – so why are you not working harder to create the optimal customer experience?” Look for marketers to take Bevan’s challenge to heart in 2016.

3. The use of predictive analytics will explode

Not only do today’s customers want companies to react to the “digital footprint” they leave behind – they are put off when we don’t. As a recent Harvard Business Review report explains, “When marketers send customers a promotion for a product they already own or would never be interested in, they send a clear signal: We don’t know much about you, and we don’t much care.”

Predictive analytics provide the critical information marketers need to know their customers well and demonstrate that they care. A study conducted by Forrester Consulting revealed that most B2B marketing organisations (89 percent) see value in using predictive analytics to identify new opportunities and to better qualify leads. The more advanced users also realise upstream and downstream benefits: 97 percent analyse their best customers and understand how/why they buy; 92 percent optimise the marketing mix to reach the right types of buyers. The takeaway? In 2016, marketers who aren’t yet using predictive analytics will get on board – fast.

4.  The face of content marketing will change

Buyers are still using content to inform their digitally driven purchasing decisions, but it’s not the content of yesterday. To help buyers through the journey – and to spark conversations along the way – marketers are developing new forms of content marketing that are dynamic and personalised.  They’re highly visual.  They’re fun and humorous. What’s more, many of them are not even created solely by the marketing organisation. In 2016, we’ll see less content created by corporate marketing teams and agencies and more created by the folks that are closer to customers:  local marketing teams, company employees, and even users themselves. For more on this trend, see my blog post, “Content Marketing: It’s Getting Personal.”

5. Marketers will act more like publishers

Marketers are good at creating content, but we have traditionally worked in linear sprints that deliver programs like a website refresh or a marketing campaign. In 2016, as content marketing continues its reign, we’ll have to work as if we’re publishing a never-ending daily newspaper.  The hallmarks of this new approach?  Telling great stories to engage readers, using analytics to ensure that content is audience driven, and balancing breaking news with feature-length pieces.

This will not be an easy transition for marketers. We’ll have to get comfortable with paradoxes:  maintaining corporate oversight while enabling local personalisation; operating according to strict schedules while allowing for responsiveness; and balancing the quality of content against an incessant need for quantity.

6. Marketers will move from listening to responding in real-time

We’ve known for a while that it’s not good marketing to simply broadcast your viewpoint to prospective customers. Recently, we’ve been focused on listening to what our customers are telling us.  In 2016, we’ll need to respond to customers’ needs in real-time.

What will real-time marketing look like? According to a recent report from Wayin, a social intelligence company, 49% of respondents say real-time marketing is the ability to respond within minutes to an event – and 26% say it is the ability to respond within seconds. But here’s the really important bit:  98% of those surveyed (200 manager and executive-level marketers at companies with more than $100 million in revenue) say they see a positive revenue impact from their real-time marketing efforts. Speed pays – and in 2016, marketers will pull out all the stops to respond at lightening speeds.

With so much change predicted for 2016, how can marketers master it all? We can’t.  We’ll have to experiment, run the analytics, tinker with the formula, fail sometimes, and try again.  As Richard Tyler says so nicely, “The greatest risk is NOT doing something different, the greatest risk is staying doing the same thing.” If we wait for perfection, we’ll get left behind. Let’s dare to begin before we’re ready! Happy New Year!

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Content Marketing: It’s Getting Personal!

“Can you send me a brochure?” said nobody in 2015.

Static, print-driven content marketing is in its death throes. It is stiff, passive, one-dimensional.  It is literally and figuratively flat.  Taking its place is a rich crop of highly innovative, highly personalised content marketing strategies and tactics. What’s driving this content marketing evolution?  The buyer, of course.

The customer journey has changed in massive ways.

It is more digital, more research-driven, and more social than ever. Buyers are still using content to inform their digitally driven purchasing decisions, but it’s not the content of yesterday. As Jeremy Bevan, Vice President of Marketing for Cisco’s EMEAR region, explains in a recent blog post on content marketing: “Marketing has always featured content.  But what we have all woken up to is the fact that content must be authentic, relevant to your audience, and human if it is to stand any chance of being conversational.”

Marketers are cutting through the content clutter.

To help buyers through the journey – and to spark conversations along the way –marketers are developing new forms of content marketing that are dynamic and personalised. They’re highly visual. They’re fun and humorous. What’s more, many of them are not even created solely by the marketing organisation.

What’s hot in content marketing?

Let’s take a look at the new kids on the content block…

1. User generated content (UGC)

UGC is content that’s created by consumers or end users and is publically available to others consumers and end users.  It can take many forms – from photos and videos to reviews and forum posts.  A recent study by Ipsos MediaCT found that millennials are spending 30 percent of their media time engaging with UGC.  The study also found that this type of content is 50 percent more trusted and 35 percent more memorable than other types of media.

Two great examples of UGC are Cisco’s “Office of Life” and “Wish You Were Here” campaigns. Office of Life (#officeoflife) features people’s takes on weird and wonderful places to work outside of the office.

office of life

Wish You Were Here (#WYWH2015) is driven by salespeople who are competing for a trip to the Seychelles. Both campaigns harness the immense power of users to create original content to fuel marketing campaigns.

WYWH

UGC is a great option for adding an element of fun to your content marketing. Don’t underestimate the power of fun: if it gets your customer’s attention, they’re more likely to engage with your company.

2. Employee-shared content

In my blog on employee advocacy (Employee Advocacy: Marketing Engine of the Future?) I mentioned that employees’ social posts generate 8X more engagement than posts from their employer.  That’s because people are increasingly influenced by other people, not by corporations.  So put your employees front and centre and let them shine!

Cisco has done just that in its “I Chose Cisco” campaign (#ichosecisco) which features photos and videos from Cisco employees explaining why Cisco is a great place to work.

I chose Cisco

The campaign enables recruiting to reach its audience on a personal level. Cisco is a B2B company but in the end, we’re really a human to human (H2H) company made up of people who are talking to other people.

3. Hyper local content

In the old world, content was created at the corporate marketing level and pushed to the regions to translate and distribute. Today, locally created content is rising in importance.  Why? People living and working in a particular geography have the deepest insight into the wants and needs of others in the geography.

Case in point:  A series of videos produced by Cisco’s UK and Ireland marketing team (@ciscoUKI) that were inspired by the Rugby World Cup.  These videos were a huge hit because they capitalized on a local event that was highly relevant to people in the region.

Naked Man

Hyperlocal content works particularly well on social and mobile platforms.  But keep in mind that it can be tricky to create.  You’ll still need guidance from corporate marketing on messaging and creative frameworks. You’ll also need a local team that has the right combination of subject matter expertise, writing skills, and publishing experience.  But if you can get it right you’ll raise the content marketing roof in terms of engagement, relevance, and fun.

4. Content with personality

All the forms of content I mention above share a common thread:  they have personality.  However, savvy marketers are pushing the envelope even further by using content marketing techniques that speak personally to their buyers.  Check out this exchange between LauraEllen, Kit Kat, and Oreo.

Oreo and kit kat

What would you rather see?  An advertisement for Kit Kats and Oreos?  Or a fun, real-time conversation among these companies and one of their biggest fans?  Me too.

Knowing what makes your audience tick is critical to developing content that they respond to. This is true no matter what your business or industry – whether you’re B2B or B2C, selling products or services, supply chain software or spaghetti sauce.  Case in point:  A blog post from SnapApp, “6 Boring Companies Making Amazing Content,” showcases content marketing campaigns from less-than-sexy companies like McKinsey and General Electric.  If they can do it, so can you.

So it’s time to step up. Give consumers and employees a voice. Get out of the traditional marketing comfort zone. I know it feels risky, but the pay-off is huge. If you demonstrate that you “get” your buyers, and enable them to interact with you in real-time ways you are one step closer to having long-time loyal customers.

Are you using more personalised content marketing approaches to make a bigger impact with your audiences?  I’d love to hear your stories!

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Marketing Velocity – Hit the Gas or the Brakes?

Where is marketing going?  Just a few years ago it was “relatively easy” to reach audiences through traditional vehicles like TV, radio and display… remember those days?  It just took a healthy advertising budget and you were on your way to millions of units sold!  The Mad Men days are behind us, but that doesn’t mean they are gone.  In fact, quite the opposite, now as marketers we have to be even more creative, more cunning and way more in tune with the tastes of audiences.

Attention spans are limited to 140-characters… (Have I lost you already?) People want to be fed stories that intersect at the junction of the right content, at the right time, and all on the right vehicle.  To the marketer this sounds more the like corner of “isn’t going to happen,” and “is it 5pm yet?”  But it doesn’t have to be that way!  Don’t despair.  While we don’t have all the answers for partners, we want to help you get there!  After all, your success as marketers and reaching your customers ultimately helps us too!

Enter from stage left … a rejuvenated Marketing Velocity.

While many partners are aware of Marketing Velocity as an award winning event Cisco has offered throughout the year and most recently with Partner Summit 2015.  We have checked the rear view mirror and are punching the proverbial gas.  Marketing is changing at such an incredible rate of speed (pun intended), that Marketing Velocity has to match. But, not how you might think.  The goal of the Marketing Velocity program is to enlighten, educate and arm you to succeed in reaching your customers.  This is something that an annual event could not provide at such a high rate of speed.

Cisco Marketing eLearning

We have expanded the Marketing Velocity eLearning with new courses.  You are no longer required to take multiple courses to receive certification.  With Marketing eLearning courses, we simply want to provide you with great content to enhance the way you market today.  We have segmented eLearning into four buckets for ease:

Marketing Fundamentals – courses designed to help you market effectively, from the basics to more advanced skills

Marketing with Cisco – train yourself on how to implement Cisco technologies, Partner Marketing Central and other Cisco generated marketing capabilities

Revenue Marketing – access courses on this growing marketing endeavor to help you increase sales that you may have never thought of before

Digital Marketing – bring your skills up to speed with the latest in Social Media, Web and marketing automation techniques

As if that’s not enough!  Partners have expressed how much they enjoy the caliber of speakers offered during the Marketing Velocity event.  Now we have created a speaker series offered year round.  The Marketing Velocity On-the-Air webcast series enlists the advice of industry experts.  Get guidance from the industries’ best, like Jay Baer, the most retweeted man on the web amongst digital marketers, insight from a little search company called Google, and other webcasts on new marketing techniques to the power of analytics.

Still not enough good stuff?  This is the icing on the cake…

Hub

How about an always-on content hub that pulls marketing best practices from across the Web?  The Marketing Velocity Hub has been created to align Cisco marketing campaigns with best practices.  The Hub also gives you easy access to Marketing eLearning and the On-the-Air webcasts.  We think of this as an information board and welcome your feedback in the Marketing Velocity Community.  We want to hear from you, especially related to what you see as best practices – what we might be missing and what we might be doing right.

Now is your time, we just want to help you step on the gas!

Here is a quick list of links mentioned above:

We always love to hear feedback. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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The Five Take-Aways of Content Marketing

I was recently on a panel entitled “It’s 12 o’clock. Do you know where your buyers are?”at the In2 Summit and the question of the panel immediately struck me as already answered long ago. The topic: does content marketing work and can you reach the right people? One of my fellow panelists, Mark Stouse, VP of global communications and customer connect at BMC Software said something that really hit home. According to him one of our biggest issues as communicators right now is trust. At first I didn’t understand what he meant but then realized he is absolutely right. With social media there is a lot of noise, so our goal is to stand out and gain our audience trust. We can do this with the content we create and by engaging with them on the social channels they are on. Read More »

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Content Marketing (Made Easy)

Content is one thing. Marketing is another. The two are straightforward on their own but significantly more complex when combined. What we do at TechWiseTV is content marketing. But its still a work in progress.

My friend Amy Lewis (@commsninja) tweeted an article by Tracy Vides on ‘How Content Marketing is Ruining your Business”

Got me thinking about how we really have to work on the marriage between these two terms.

Read More »

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