“Inbound marketing is more effective than outbound marketing.”
Sound like a quote from a recent marketing article? It’s actually a key takeaway from my doctoral thesis, published back in 2008 and entitled, “How Companies Use Customer Insight to Drive Customer Acquisition, Development, and Retention.”
No, I’m not Nostradamus, nor do I have a crystal ball. But, for a long time, I have been watching the signs that B2B buyers’ needs and patterns are changing.
Today, buyers – not sellers – are firmly in the driver’s seat. In fact, according to a recent DemandGen Buyer Behaviour report, almost half of buyers create a short-list of potential vendors and a third conduct initial research on solution options before the first communication with a sales rep. (For more on the evolution of buyer behaviour, see my blog post: Smarketing: A Sales and Marketing Love Story)
How are buyers conducting this research? Through search engines, vendor websites, and social media sites.
Hence the tipping point for inbound marketing. But what comes next? Here’s how I see the marketing landscape changing over the next 12 – 18 months:
1. Social media will gain traction in new ways
Social media is playing an increased role in marketing and buyers are now connecting to sellers via social channels rather than just browsing. DemandGen reports that 72% of respondents said they used social media to research the solution purchase.
This total is unchanged since 2013. What HAS changed is that there is a 57% increase in buyers connecting directly with potential solution providers via social networking channels. So they’re no longer just browsing social channels to do research, they’re using social channels to connect directly with sellers.
2. Marketers will adjust their budgets accordingly
In reaction to buyer behaviour, marketers will continue to adjust their spend on inbound marketing. Sirius Decisions predicted back in 2013 that there would be a slight increase from 51% to 53% spent on inbound marketing by 2015. But what’s really interesting is the portion spent on social media: a big bump up from 36% to 44%.
3. Traditional sales and marketing roles will be turned on their heads
We used to say, “Marketing opens the door and sales charges through it to close the deal.” Today, social media is driving role reversals within sales and marketing functions.
Increasingly, marketers are learning more about customers through their digital footprint and social media usage. We’re using real-time, behavioural data and analytics to complete a 360 view of the customer. And we’re leveraging this deep customer insight to close deals – because we’re able to make the right offer through the right channel at the right time.
Conversely, salespeople are now using social selling techniques to open doors with clients and prospects. They’re using social channels to connect, start conversations, and share knowledge and content. These nurturing techniques are paying off. According to a recent Social Media and Sales Quota Survey, more than 40% of salespeople say they have closed between two and five deals as a result of social media.
4. Revenue Marketing will become Profit Marketing
Using Revenue Marketing principles, sales and marketing have begun to ensure that marketing strategies align with sales and business objectives to generate a measurable return to the bottom line.
But that’s just step one. As marketing shifts from a cost centre to a revenue centre, there is a deeper realization of the fact that not all customers are created equal. Inbound marketing tends to generate more new customer logos than outbound marketing. Based on lifetime customer value, new customers could be more desirable to a company which could translate into more importance placed on inbound techniques.
5. Employee advocacy will fuel marketing
Although traditional advertising techniques (like TV advertising) are on the decline, social media makes it possible for employees to be a company’s best brand champions. Employee advocacy programs empower a company’s employees to support the goals of the brand using content and employee-owned social channels. This approach can have a huge impact on marketing and sales. According to Dynamic Signal, a digital marketing company, “Your employees are already on social all the time. And since people trust their social connections more than marketing messages, you can increase brand awareness by 14x and sales leads by 25%.” (Stay tuned for more on this topic in an upcoming blog post).
When will these 5 trends reach their tipping points? Last time my crystal ball looked 7 years ahead so let’s set it at 5 years this time – 2020! Watch this space….
Are you seeing sales and marketing changes in your markets and geographies? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.