Marketing Trends That Matter for Every Business

Seems that every conversation about marketing these days somehow raises interest in “what are the big trends in marketing?” and “what’s hot in marketing?”.  While some so-called trends may be fleeting, there are a number of recent and future trends that have or will change what and how we do marketing.

Here’s a list in no particular priority or sequence of the more frequent marketing activities and trends encountered on a daily basis:

Social Media – no question that social media has a huge impact on marketing and will continue to be one of the most prevalent trends in marketing for the foreseeable future.

Marketing Automation – there is growing interest and use of marketing automation software to plan, manage, execute and track marketing campaigns in a more structured, integrated and consistent manner.

Sales 2.0 – although there are many interpretations of what Sales 2.0 means, the primary aspects of this trend are the convergence of sales, marketing and customer collaboration using internet-based technologies and tools for improved performance.

– internet-based technologies, automation systems and database capabilities have vastly improved the availability of relevant and accurate data for analysis, performance measurement and management to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing.

Metrics – there has been an explosive increase in the definition and use of standardized marketing metrics over the past several years to measure marketing performance and results in a consistent and comparable manner.

– while still a nascent trend and technology, location-based media and marketing to deliver relevant content specific to a user / customer / buyer’s location will become an increasingly important and effective approach for reaching target audiences.

Mobile – mobile technologies continue to play a more prevalent role in everyone’s personal and business life.  As mobile capabilities continue to improve and evolve, and usage increases, marketing must reach their target audiences through mobile technologies.

Inbound Marketing
– the trend from traditional ‘push’ style outbound marketing approaches such as print advertising, direct mail, trade shows, email blasts, etc. continues to shift to more effective and measurable ‘pull’ style inbound marketing methods such as search, websites, content, social media, etc.

Content – buyers and customers want information and resources to make informed buying decisions.  Content marketing uses educational, informative and authoritative content delivered in multiple media formats such websites, newsletters, white papers, articles, videos, etc. for specific target audiences.

– is one of the most important tools and resources for marketers across all types of businesses.  Search Engine Marketing (SEM) has become a sophisticated marketing strategy encompassing both Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Paid Placement methods.

Integrated Marketing – persistent campaigns and consistent messaging across multiple channels such as websites, video, online and other media advertising, content and collateral.

Adaptive Brand Marketing – the shift from traditional command-and-control and/or hub-and-spoke approaches to collaborative approaches that include new technologies and social media.  See article ‘Adaptive Brand Marketing – More Than Just Four New Ps’ for more information.

Customer Loyalty – means that a customer desires to continue doing business with a company based on their positive experience and satisfaction.  Marketing is increasingly charged with measuring and improving customer loyalty, providing loyalty programs, and driving customer-specific campaigns to get more sales from existing customers.

– traditionally marketing primarily used demographics to define market and customer segmentation based on tangible characteristics.  The use of psychographics to define target audiences and market segments based on aspirational, opinions and value characteristics enables improved targeting and more relevant messaging.

What do you think about this list and what you’re seeing and experiencing?  Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2010 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

Get More Insights from Customers with These 4 Survey Questions

A previous article discussed limitations of typical surveys to produce valuable insights from customers.  The problem is that many surveys are constructed to get formulaic answers from customers, rather than letting them express opinions from their perspective.

Most surveys have multiple choice answers to questions because they are easy to score and analyze.  But a limited choice of predefined answers limits the opinions and feedback customers can provide when responding to a survey.  Questions with open-ended answers are more difficult to score, collate and analyze, but provide significantly better feedback, opinions and insights from the customers surveyed.

If you want to get really insightful information from your customers, try asking these 4 open-ended questions in a survey:

  1. What is one thing you think we do well and should keep doing?
    This question will help you identify what customers really like about doing business with you.  While you may have your own opinions on this, you may be surprised by customers’ opinions on what they consider as your big differentiator and/or unique value proposition.  You obviously want to keep doing these things and ensure continued focus on doing them well.
  2. What is one thing we do that you think needs improvement?
    This enables you to get real feedback on areas of your business that need improvement from a customer perspective.  Some of the customer responses may be unexpected, but this is truly valuable insight for improving your business relative to actual customer experiences and insights.
  3. What is one thing we do that we should stop doing?
    Businesses hardly ever ask their customers this question.  The problem is that many businesses do things because they think that’s what customers want, or because they’ve always done it, or because someone told them to do it, or it was someone’s cockamamie idea.  This could be something that a company spends resources on but has no or negative value for customers.  Answers to this question provide great insights for improving how you should work with customers.
  4. What is one thing we don’t do that we should do?
    There is no one better to ask than your customers – they’ve done business with many other related and unrelated companies and have seen good and bad business practices for how businesses deal with customers.  The feedback from this question can provide invaluable ideas for improving the experience for your customers and/or developing stronger competitive differentiation.
Some important points to bear in mind for using these questions in a survey:
  • Only ask for “one thing” in each question.  That makes it easy for customers to respond in an open-ended manner and not ramble on about all sorts of issues without giving you a succinct actionable response.
  • Don’t provide prompts or ideas on the type of things they should consider – you don’t want to lead them to any particular responses – keep it completely open-ended and spontaneous.
  • Customize the questions to your business or survey context but keep them short and easy to understand within the four primary areas of feedback indicated by the above questions.  The generic question wording shown above works well for many businesses.
  • Be sure to add relevant demographic and segmentation data questions for categorizing, analyzing and comparing results.
Have you tried these types of open-ended questions in surveys?  Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2010 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

Do Your Surveys Really Produce Valuable Insights?

Like most marketers I’ve produced my fair share of surveys over the years.  And like many consumers / customers I’ve responded to a large number of surveys and abandoned some part way through.

The most frequent reason for abandonment is generally assumed to be excessive length of the survey.  But I think there’s another factor that plays a significant role in whether a respondent abandons a survey.  People are influenced to take a survey because they want to express their opinions on the issue.  But many surveys are constructed in such an inside-out manner that part way through the survey the respondent realizes that the questions and answer options don’t allow them to express their real opinion in the survey – so they abandon it.

How many times have you taken a survey and wished there were additional answer choices for the questions?

On the other side of the fence, marketers tend to construct surveys in order to achieve a specific set of results.  The questions and answer options are formulated in a manner that supports the specific outcome objective.  So the survey respondents provide responses based on the inside-out perspective of how the survey was constructed and the limited choice of inside-out answers.  Are the results from these types of surveys as insightful as they could be?

I would argue that most surveys don’t produce as much really valuable insights as thought because of the survey construction and inability for respondents to really express their opinion.  Some surveys will produce misleading results that companies use as the basis to make plans and take action.

One way to overcome this potential problem with surveys is to take more of an outside-in approach during the survey design, construction and testing process.  Involve a small representative group from your target survey audience (customers, prospective buyers, etc.) in the process.  Have them review the questions and answers to provide input from their perspective.  Have them do a test of the survey and provide feedback on suggested changes to better connect with the respondent’s perspective.

Taking these extra steps could produce markedly better surveys, lower abandonment rates, produce more trustworthy results and more valuable insights for your business.

I’ll share another approach for getting more valuable insights from customer and prospective buyer surveys in my next blog post.

What are your thoughts about the quality and relevance of surveys and how to improve the results and insights from surveys?  Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2010 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

Stealing Customers – Indicator of a Saturated Business Software Market?

A fundamental marketing strategy decision is whether to generate sales and business growth by developing and growing the target market or stealing customers from other vendors in an established market.  In saturated markets with no or low growth projections, the tendency would be to focus on stealing customers.

Recent marketing campaigns from a number of business software vendors primarily focus on stealing customers from other vendors.  Another major business software vendor just announced this type of campaign targeting a particular competitor.  Does this mean that the business software market is saturated with limited growth prospects or are there other factors influencing these decisions?

Reviewing 2009 revenue performance for business software vendors, there’s a distinct dichotomy between two classes of vendors:

  1. Legacy On-premises vendors showed significant and continuing declines in license revenues.
  2. SaaS vendors showed significant and continuing increases in subscription revenues.

So it’s no surprise that many of the legacy on-premises vendors’ current marketing and sales tactics focus on stealing customers from other vendors – usually other legacy on-premises vendors.  No question that SaaS vendors are taking customers from on-premises vendors, but that seems to be more a result of customers motivated by a more appealing value proposition and solutions that meet their current needs.

There is good anecdotal evidence that prompting companies to consider switching business software, expands the evaluation to consider all alternatives.  An unintended consequence of legacy on-premises vendors raiding each other’s customer bases is that they’re probably creating additional opportunities for SaaS vendors.

Discounting is usually considered as the last resort in sales negotiations.  Is stealing customers the last resort marketing and sales tactic for vendors who are unwilling or unable to contribute to the development and growth of target markets?  Several of the customer-stealing campaigns also include substantial channel and buyer incentives and discounts.

Projections from analysts and other research sources show positive market growth, development and expansion opportunities for business software in most market segments.  Vendors that create real value for customers relative to current needs are in the best position to pursue these opportunities.  Vendors that contribute to the growth, development and expansion of their markets will reap long-term rewards while vendors trying to steal customers as a short-term revenue tactic will continue to see long-term business declines.

While stealing customers has always been a customer acquisition tactic in the software industry, the current focus on stealing customers as a primary marketing and sales tactic by so many business software vendors is unprecedented.

What are your thoughts about the marketing and sales tactic of stealing customers and how this relates to the current state of the business software market?  Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2010 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

Are Businesses Measuring the Right Social Media Metrics?

The results from a recent survey done by MarketingSherpa caught my attention.  They asked over 2,000 marketers what metrics they use to monitor and measure the impact of using social media – here are the results courtesy of MarketingSherpa:
Social metrics chart from MarketingSherpa
Three significant observations about these survey results caught my attention:

  1. The top 2 metrics are about presence – number of visitors and network size.  These are interesting data for analysis and market intelligence that could produce tangible results for targeted campaigns.  While having a large number of social media visitors and followers doesn’t necessarily translate into business results, it appears that companies are currently primarily focused on establishing and building their social media presence.
  2. The 3rd and 4th highest ranked metrics are about reputation – no question that brand, product and company reputation are huge considerations for social media and should be diligently monitored and measured.  The surprise is that only 56% and 50% respectively use these metrics which means that almost half of the companies surveyed don’t know what social media commentary and sentiment is expressed about their brand, product or company.
  3. Leads generated only ranks 6th with 48% monitoring and measuring this outcome from their social media activities.  This is an alarming observation for me.  Marketing shouldn’t do anything unless it eventually supports and/or produces sales for the company.  Presence and reputation are all important contributors for supporting and producing sales, but leads generated is a more tangible measure that everyone in the company understands.  But more than half don’t bother to measure this!
The sole purpose of marketing is to sell more to more people, more often and at higher prices. There is no other reason to do it. ~ Sergio Zyman

The results of these types of surveys can be interpreted in many different ways depending on one’s perspective.  The results of this survey are very similar to my own observations and anecdotal information.  Maybe it’s an evolutionary process that will shift focus and measurement to more tangible outcomes over time.  It will be interesting to see the results of this same survey in subsequent years.

How does this survey correlate with your social media monitoring and measures?  What observations do you have about this?  Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2010 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

Adaptive Brand Marketing – More Than Just Four New Ps

Forrester Research published a research paper titled ‘Adaptive Brand Marketing – Rethinking Your Approach To Brands In The Digital Age’ in October 2009. Much of the subsequent comments and discussions about this paper concentrate on the proposed four new Ps of Adaptive Brand Marketing that will shift the brand marketer’s focus from the original four Ps to deal with new realities:

  1. Permission – better understanding of whether and how someone wants to engage so that marketers engage and communicate according to buyer and customer preferences.
  2. Proximity – moving away from the “one-size-fits-all” approach to more closely connect with local markets and specific consumer / buyer / customer groups.
  3. Perception – in using the social Web for marketing the marketer should respect the distinction between a person’s social and commercial personas and not try to make or use social connections for commercial purposes.
  4. Participation – there is no central command and control for communities on the social Web. Marketers should facilitate and participate with communities of consumers / customers for developing trust, loyalty and advocacy.

However, there are much more interesting and important concepts and proposals in this paper than the four new Ps that have received most of the attention.

Much of the traditional marketing approaches are based on a command-and-control and/or hub-and-spoke approach where marketing exercises complete control over all things related to marketing. However, in today’s interconnected world of social media, globalization and 24/7 always-on communications, control has shifted to consumers and customers who are more informed and more engaged to find the best deals on their terms.

Some of the principles of Adaptive Brand Marketing in this report that should be of particular interest to most marketers are:
  • Channels – rather than deciding on channel strategy from the inside-out in traditional approaches, channel design (part of the Place P in the original 4 Ps) is determined from the outside-in by first understanding the needs and behaviors of prospective customers.
  • Intelligence – in traditional approaches most marketing intelligence comes from formal research sources. Today, the intelligence from other sources such as social media, online communities, websites, eCommerce activities, customer interactions, etc. are more current, dynamic and possibly more important.
  • Spending and Planning – traditionally these decisions are annual events with possible quarterly adjustments. No more – marketing spending and planning decisions should be a daily event based on the availability of dynamic, real-time data in unprecedented volume and detail.
  • Brand and Segment – traditional approaches relied primarily on taking a brand to the masses. New media and marketing capabilities now enable taking a brand in specific contexts to multiple different segments with common shared attributes for each segment.

There is much more to this report that marketers should consider about how they operate in the current and evolving environment and adapting their marketing approach to their customer and market environments.

Have you reviewed the Forrester ‘Adaptive Brand Marketing’ report and implemented any of the recommendations? Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2010 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

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