7 lessons B2B marketers have learned in 2011
The year’s not quite over, but the learning curve for B2B marketers has already been steep. Every year there are new trends and best practices that emerge, but recently that learning curve has required marketers to innovate and change faster than before.
This list is far from complete, but here are seven lessons astute B2B marketers have already taken to heart this year.
1. Lead nurturing may be more important than lead generation
Countless examples of nurturing existing, past or “dead” leads have led to significant new sales for B2B organizations. Many established companies are finding that nurturing their existing leads is more effective, less costly and more fruitful than spending more money on new leads. This is requiring new skill sets, new technology and new resources – but it’s delivering results far more efficiently.
2. Customer buying habits and motivations are still a mystery to most of us
We’re getting better at mapping our sales process to the way our customers buy, but we have a long way to go. Many B2B marketers are finally understanding this and investing time and effort to better understand the earlier motivations, needs and symptoms of taking action. This understanding leads to compelling new content, better product strategy and frictionless sales processes. We have much more to learn, but we’re making progress.
3. Content is the new currency that drives customer and sales acceleration
We used to spend most of our money on media placements and lists. Now that we can effectively create our own channels via our Web sites, blogs and social media, the content that fills those channels (and therefore drives engaged prospective customers) is extremely important. Investments in content development and leverage is accelerating at B2B companies worldwide.
4. Current customers can’t be neglected any longer
For years, B2B marketers have invested the vast majority of their resources on acquiring new customers. But the realities of fixed markets and new customer acquisition costs is driving more focus, resources and success with customer and retention marketing initiatives. This focus is increasing lifetime value, decreasing cost of service and improving margins.
5. Social media is required to have a positive ROI (and we have the tools to prove it)
It’s OK for new media to have a certain period of exploration before it’s measured in black-and-white ROI terms. Social media had that day, and now is required to have a measurable, positive ROI just like every other marketing initiative in a company’s toolbox. The proliferation of social media measurement tools continues, making it easier to measure the leading and lagging indicators of social media success on increased sales, market share and customer retention.
6. Sales, marketing and customer support need to tell the same story to be effective
Executing on this mandate is difficult, especially in large organizations. Most companies are still struggling with not only operationalizing this requirement, but making it work over time. Despite these difficulties, more B2B sales, marketing and customer service teams are (finally), proactively getting together to tell one story, work in the same customer lifecycle, and collaborate to deliver better results at a lower cost.
7. Old school marketing still works
Despite all of the innovations in content marketing, lead nurturing, technology-driven marketing and more, many of the same marketing strategies, channels and tactics are still working. Direct mail, telesales, trade shows – with the right strategy and execution they all still work. Many of today’s marketers are “relearning” this to the benefit of their organizations and sales pipelines.
So what did I miss? What have you learned this year that will carry over to make you more successful in 2012?