From Customer Interactions to Emotional Engagement: 5 Trends Shaping Marketing

Our world is nothing like our “father’s Oldsmobile.” Change is a constant yet those four words do not adequately capture what is going on. We are in the midst of a world shift that will forever change our and the lives of our grandchildren.

The shift is not about a faster more fluid global world or the rise of new technology, it is more profound than that. We, individuals and organizations, are losing our separateness and becoming a collective. The catalyst as well as what binds us together is technology.

Call it the Internet of Things (IoT) or the connected economy, the bottom-line is that technology binds us – individuals, communities, economies – together and is reshaping how we value and define relationships. What affects one, affects us all.

For marketers this is an exciting and terrifying time. We understand the customer in ways that was unimaginable in the past. We’re moving beyond customer interactions to emotional engagement. With new depths of data and analytics marketers can guide every corner of their entire organization on how, when and with what to create meaningful emotional connections with B2B and B2C customers. We continue to automate repetitive process and data intensive tasks and empower machines to make routine decisions so we can get out of the weeds. Our time is better spent on things like long-term strategy, social responsibility, and consciously with intent defining how we want our world to be in 2020 and beyond.

Technology coupled with the rise of customer has set an irreversible course forward that is redefining marketing and what it means – to customers, marketers and the C-Suite. To understand where we are in this transformation we need to understand how we got to this point.

I had the pleasure of interviewing a number of B2B CMOs from Fortune 10 down to Fortune 2000 companies at the request of Marketo who funded this research. The interview focused on the most significant trends that shaped marketing today as well as those on the horizon that CMOs are closely watching.

These five trends that shaped the state of marketing today:

1. Social media mainstreams

Social media is pervasive and has been embraced by B2B and B2C buyers as a key mechanism for taking full control of their brand relationships. The ease with which buyers can reach their peers has forever changed the influencer landscape. Brands and sales teams are increasing losing their role as trusted sources of knowledge. Both are increasingly viewed as a commodity. What drives a customer to purchase from a brand is not price, product or brand cache but their reputation within the buyer’s social graph, past experience and their ability to build value-based human-to-human relationship.

Buyers give more credibility and weight to the opinions and advice of their peers than they do to brand content, media relations or campaigns. That reliance on peers, easy access to customers and digital sites like G2 Crowd has all but obsoleted traditional industry analysts and media relations. The effect has been a complete redefinition of how trust is built and who communicates brand messages. Increasingly it is not the brand but customers, peers, communities and thought leaders that define positioning, messaging and the company’s reputation. Savvy marketers have embraced these trends by shifting their marketing culture, skill sets, programs and investments to be customer-aligned.

2. Death of outbound marketing

There has been over the past two years the steady decline in the effectiveness of outbound marketing. CMOs are finding that over 50 percent of their leads come from inbound marketing activities and they are shifting spend accordingly. Inbound marketing is more effective in pulling buyers to the brand and through their journeys though all would agree the practice remains nascent.

A significant portion of the early stages of the buyer’s journey is driven by buyer self-discovery – from understanding the problem, alternative solution approaches, outcomes their peers have realized and best practices. Brands have realized that the awareness-attraction-engagement cycle needs to be redefined to educate-enable-engage. The result of this trend has dramatically reshaped marketing team competencies.

3. Marketing’s street cred, finally

Marketing has struggled for decades to be seen as a value-adding member at the board table. Being seen as a cost center, the “colors” or “party team”, or the blamer for when things go wrong gets old real fast. Gaining street cred with peers and boards has been a major focus for CMOs. Technology has not only improved marketing execution but data driven decision outcomes as well.

Marketing automation, ERM, CRM and predictive analytics technology are enabling CMOs and their marketing teams to significantly improve their ability to credibly and transparently measure and report on marketing-attributable revenue and ROI. The ability to measure and predict how various marketing activities will perform and be able to adjust on the fly based on detailed insight into how buyers are reacting to marketing campaigns is the baseline to success. A number of CMOs have invested heavily in building very detailed market models that predict the yield from spend in various categories. Being able to confidently (and accurately) forecast pipeline and booked revenue from B2B marketing spend is changing the perception of marketing. Challenges remain in achieving full customer lifecycle visibility and using data science to advance customer engagement.

4. The link between employee and customer satisfaction

Organization theorists have long touted the importance of employee satisfaction. Yet CMOs have only recently recognized the strength of the linkage between employee engagement and customer satisfaction and loyalty. To that end, programs have been implemented, often in partnership with Human Resources, to keep employees up-to-date on company developments, news and product information. That information comes in many forms ranging from product announcements, knowledge bases, technical information, and financial news to real-time customer feedback.

CMOs are realizing that employee engagement and satisfaction doesn’t come from free lunches, Friday beers and fussball but from making sure that employees have meaning, mattering and belonging. The data shows there is a direct correlation between how happy, informed and trusted an employee is and the satisfaction of the customer they interact with. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the contact center, field maintenance, sales, marketing or finance – the linkage is real. This trend has focused organizations on equipping employees with the information and insights they need to better understand and respond to customer needs and expectations.

5. Only talk about revenue

Some things haven’t changed, namely B2B Boards of Directors and CEOs continue to only be interested in revenue pipeline metrics. While CMOs have made great strides forward in accounting for the revenue impact from marketing spend, Boards and CEOs have little interest in understanding the softer attributes that impact revenue such as reputation, reach and customer experience.

The frustration for CMOs is that the conversation has so narrowed that neither understand the power of marketing or how the discipline’s dramatic changes impacts how companies spot and respond to opportunities. Having been burnt in the past by pushing non-financial issues, CMOs are sticking to the script.

There were a number of surprises from these interviews. One was that the sophistication of an organization’s marketing was not defined by company size, budget or CMO’s vision but by their customers. Regardless of company size, progressive CMOs are constrained by how comfortable their customers and Boards of Directors are with new methods of engagement.

These past trends have dramatically reshaped what marketing means today and what it will look like in the future. Everything from competencies, organization structure, reporting metrics to how CMOs keep their organizations agile and healthy is being rethought.

The future of marketing is exciting as well as challenging. CMOs are faced with the duality of managing breakneck pace of change within their customer segments and marketing practices while educating their peers and boards on the new role of marketing, revenue impact of customer alignment and the value marketing brings to the table.

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