I'll leave the prognostications to others, but I will offer a list. I have five recommendations for improving your marketing efforts in 2012.
Before you do anything else, develop a marketing strategy.
You've heard this one before, so I won't repeat all of the reasons that strategy is necessary for success. At its most basic level, marketing strategy is a simple thing for most B2B companies. First, you need to identify all of the significant ways that your product or service can create value for customers and identify the kinds of companies that can obtain the greatest value by purchasing and using your product or service. Second, you need to determine the best ways for communicating your value propositions to potential buyers. This step includes the selection of marketing tactics and channels and the creation of marketing messages. Companies tend to spend most of their time and attention on step two, but step one is even more important. I discussed the "value identification" aspect of marketing strategy in an earlier post titled How to Make Difficult Marketing Questions Easier to Answer.
Shift primary responsibility for lead generation from sales to marketing.
I've explained my rationale for this recommendation in two earlier posts - Stop Depending on Your Salespeople to Generate Leads and Why Marketing Should Take the Lead in Lead Generation. I don't contend that traditional sales prospecting doesn't work at all or that you should completely abandon it. I do contend that traditional sales prospecting is an inefficient use of resources and that you should strive to become less dependent on it.
Increase the number of leads acquired via inbound marketing.
There is little doubt that inbound marketing has become the tactic of choice for lead acquisition. Buyers now control the buying process, and they are performing research and gathering information about products and services on their own, usually via the Web. Therefore, traditional outbound lead acquisition techniques such as direct mail and e-mail don't work as well as they once did. It's just good sense to make yourself easy to find when a prospect begins looking for the kind of solution you provide. Research firm SiriusDecisions says that 80% of new sales leads will come from inbound marketing by 2015. Your objective for 2012 should be to substantially increase the number of leads and the percentage of total leads acquired via inbound marketing.
Develop and implement a sound lead management process.
Consider these facts: (1) Acquiring new leads is becoming increasingly difficult. (2) 50%-75% of new leads are qualified but not ready to buy. (3) Up to 70% of these lukewarm leads will eventually buy from someone. Put these facts together and one thing is clear - leads are valuable and must be managed with care. An effective lead management process will address several key issues, including lead nurturing, lead scoring, and marketing and sales alignment. A well-designed lead management process will enable you to maximize the sales you obtain from your pool of leads.
Implement a content marketing program.
Having and using the right kind of content is now essential for B2B marketing success. By "the right kind of content," I mean marketing content that is:
- Primarily educational and non-promotional
- Customized for the types of buyers you sell to
- Customized for where the potential buyer is in his or her buying process
That's my list. Do you have other plans to improve your marketing in 2012?