Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Our Most Popular Posts - 2016 Edition

This will be my last post of 2016, and I want to thank everyone who has spent some of his or her valuable time reading this blog. My goal for this blog has always been to provide content that readers will find to be thought-provoking and useful, and I've been immensely gratified by how this blog has been received. In 2016, our total pageviews more than doubled over the 2015 level.

For the past few years, I've used my last post of the year to share which posts have been most widely read. The ranking is based on cumulative total reads, so older posts obviously have a built-in advantage. So, in case you missed any of them, here are our five most popular posts:

  1. An Inconvenient Truth About B2B Demand Generation
  2. Why Content Marketing is the Best Way to Build the Brand
  3. Use an Importance-Performance Matrix to Get Marketing and Sales Talking
  4. Customer Experience is the New Competitive Battleground in B2B
  5. What Separates Top-Performing Marketers From the Field
Happy New Year, everyone!

Illustration courtesy of Republic of Korea via Flickr CC.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Where Is Marketing Spending Headed in 2017?

By this point, most B2B marketers are well into their planning for 2017, and it appears that many marketers will have healthy marketing budgets in the coming year. Several research studies have found that a majority of marketers are expecting their budgets to increase in 2017.

For example, in the August 2016 edition of The CMO Survey (sponsored by Deloitte, the American Marketing Association, and Duke University's Fuqua School of Business), respondents, on average, expected their marketing budgets to increase by 7.2% over the ensuing 12 months. While these results do not cover all of 2017, they still indicate that marketing budgets are likely to rise in the first several months of the coming year.

In the CMO Spend Survey 2016-2017 by Gartner, 57% of survey respondents said they expect their marketing budget to increase in 2017, while only 14% expect their marketing budget to decrease next year.

Where Will Spending Grow in 2017?

So, where will marketers be increasing their spending in 2017?

Marketing Technology - Given the growing dependence of marketing on technology, it shouldn't be surprising that marketers expect to be spending more on martech in 2017. In the State of Marketing Technology 2017 study by Walker Sands Communications and chiefmartec.com, 70% of survey respondents said they expect their marketing technology budget to increase slightly (50%) or greatly (20%) in 2017, and only 2% expect a decrease.

Content Marketing - Recent research also indicates that marketers will be spending more in 2017 on content development and content marketing. In the 2017 edition of the content marketing survey by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 70% of B2B respondents, and 73% of B2C respondents said they expect to create more content in 2017 than they did in 2016. On the specific issue of content marketing spending, 39% of B2B respondents, and 42% of B2C respondents said they expect their content marketing budget to increase over the next 12 months.

Account-Based Marketing - It also seems clear that marketers will be spending more in 2017 on account-based marketing activities and programs. The growing popularity of ABM is now well established, and research shows that B2B companies are investing more in their ABM efforts. In the 2016 State of Account Based Marketing (ABM) Study by SiriusDecisions, 27% of survey respondents said they were devoting between 11% and 30% of their total marketing budget to ABM. That was up from 19% in the 2015 edition of the study.

And fully 73% of the survey respondents in the SiriusDecisions study said they were spending more or significantly more on ABM in 2016, compared to 2015. It's likely that these spending patterns will continue in 2017, although the rate of spending growth may slow.

Predictive Analytics - In the B2B marketing world, the use of predictive analytics is closely tied to the use of ABM. Therefore, as more and more companies implement ABM, the use of predictive analytics is also likely to increase. In the 2016 Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing and Advertising, Gartner puts "Predictive B2B Marketing Analytics" at the peak of inflated expectations. Gartner has observed that the market for B2B predictive analytics remains immature, but the firm also says that "the return on investment is often so compelling that many B2B companies are likely to consider adoption over the next two or three years."

Image courtesy of Louise McLaren via Flickr CC.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Marketers Believe They are Closing the Technology Gap

U.S. marketers are increasing their spending on marketing technologies, most say they have adopted best-of-breed solutions (as opposed to all-in-one technology suites from a single vendor), and most also say they are doing a pretty good job of extracting value from their marketing technology investments.

These are a few of the findings of the State of Marketing Technology 2017 study by Walker Sands Communications (with contributions by Scott Brinker). This study was based on an online survey of 335 U.S. marketers that was fielded during September and October 2016. Walker Sands conducted a similar survey last year, which makes some year-over-year comparisons possible. While the Walker Sands research didn't focus exclusively on B2B marketers, it's likely that many of the study findings will apply to B2B companies.

When Walker Sands surveyed marketers last year, many were frustrated with the state of marketing technology at their company. Only 50% of respondents said their company was investing the right amount in marketing technology, and only 58% said their technology was up-to-date and adequate.

This year, surveyed marketers were much more positive. Seventy-one percent of respondents now believe that their company is investing the right amount in martech, and 69% said their technology is up-to-date and sufficient to help them do their jobs more effectively.

This positive attitude is reflected in budget expectations for 2017. Fifty percent of respondents said they expect their company's martech budget to increase slightly in 2017, and another 20% said their company's martech budget would increase greatly next year.

Marketers also believe that they are now facing fewer obstacles when it comes to adopting marketing technologies. The table below shows how participants in the 2016 and 2017 studies responded when they were asked:  "What's holding your company back from implementing new marketing technology?"

Despite the progress, however, over half (56%) of the respondents in the latest survey still believe that the martech landscape is evolving faster than their companies' implementation and use of marketing technology tools.

Over the past few years, it's become clear that marketing success depends on the effective use of technology. The Walker Sands research indicates that most marketers are doing a better job of adopting new technology tools, even if they can't completely keep up with the pace of martech innovation.

Top image courtesy of Grzegorz Jereczek via Flickr CC.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Key to Managing Customer Experience Success

Over the past few years, it's become abundantly clear that delivering outstanding experiences to existing and potential customers is critical for competitive success. There's a widespread recognition among marketers and other company leaders that customer experience has become a new basis of competition for B2B companies.

Numerous research studies have shown that company leaders now view customer experience as an important driver of revenue growth and competitive advantage. For example, in the B2B Digital Trends 2016-2017 report by Econsultancy (in association with Adobe), which was based on a survey of 1,141 B2B marketing, digital, and e-commerce professionals, respondents identified optimizing the customer experience as their most exciting opportunity in 2016 and for the next five years.

Several research studies have also clearly demonstrated that delivering great customer experiences drives superior financial performance. For example, annual research by Forrester has found a strong correlation between superior customer experience and superior revenue growth across more than a dozen industry groups.

But despite the undeniable importance of customer experience, and all of the recent attention it's received, there is compelling evidence that most B2B companies are still struggling to provide the kinds of experiences that their customers increasingly expect.

  • A recent report by Gallup stated that only 29% of B2B customers are strongly committed to the companies they do business with, which means that B2B companies are at some risk of losing 71% of their customers.
  • A 2015 survey of 1,350 B2B executives by Accenture found that only 23% of B2B companies excel at delivering great customer experiences, while the majority of B2B companies are "idling in customer experience mediocrity."
Part of the problem is that managing customer relationships is still a fragmented process in most B2B companies. In a recent survey of marketing professionals in 750 mid-size B2B companies, Gleanster Research divided the customer experience lifecycle into five stages and asked survey participants who "owned" each stage. Survey respondents said that marketing owned two stages (awareness and acquisition), sales owned two (conversion and expansion), and service owned one (retention).

The reality is, consistently providing great customer experiences is a complex, multi-faceted undertaking that involves several business functions in a company. But it's also true that if a company wants to achieve customer experience success, it must have a person (or function) who is responsible for coordinating the work involved in customer experience delivery.

In many ways, marketing is best suited to orchestrate the overall customer experience, but this will be a new type of role for most marketing leaders. To succeed, he or she must coordinate the work of several business functions that have operated more or less independently in the past.

In an earlier post, I discussed how marketing leaders can eliminate silos within the marketing function by building a team of teams. That strategy becomes essential when you need to tear down the walls that usually exist between marketing and other business functions that must work together effectively to achieve customer experience success.

Illustration courtesy of The United States Army Band via Flickr CC.