Kieron McCann
Kieron McCann 28 February 2019

Is it finally time to make use of the marketing tools you already have?

As we start the last year of the decade, it’s a good time to look back at the last ten years and observe what has been happening in digital marketing. Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves how far we’ve come in some areas, and to kick ourselves at how little progress we’ve made in others

Predictions for marketing in 2010 by luminaries around the world remind us that in 2009 the following things were top of mind:

  • Social media was becoming ‘a thing’ that marketers should take notice of - Twitter had racked up 18 million users and Google+ was going to revolutionise B2B social (!). Some smart cookies were even beginning to suspect that social might not actually be ‘free’. Today we know that it is neither free in the sense of money, nor liberty.
  • Search engine optimisation was pretty important. I guess it still is, but it’s certainly not as much of a task as it was in the days when you knew how it worked!
  • Mobile marketing was also ‘a thing’ and some people were talking about m-commerce. The iPhone 3GS was wiping the floor with the Nokia N97 and the Blackberry Storm.
  • Content Marketing’ was starting to build momentum - brands and marketers could become publishers of their own content!
  • Websites were becoming ‘two way’ and blogging with comments was a new tool to engage with audiences.
  • Email marketing was still the most effective tool out there (plus ça change)
  • We were still in the grip of the financial crisis and tools were emerging that could automate marketing and measure ROI. That was back when we had a loose idea of what Marketing Automation was, before it became 3000 vendors claiming the nebulous space somewhere between email autoresponders and, well, everything.
  • Video marketing was ‘hot’ - did you know you could even create your own online or mobile video content!

For each of these trends and more, there has been a proliferation of digital tools. It seems the last decade has been an ever-accelerating carousel of new technologies and digital marketing software gizmos, and collectively we’ve been investing in all of them. 

What many of us haven’t been doing is knitting them together into a cohesive experience. Marketing has become a Russian Doll - sitting in its silo, and within that silo are a series of other siloes, some looking at content, some looking at web, some looking at mobile, apps, email, automation, search, content etc.

As modern-day marketers we need to think less about the tools. We need to think more about how we are going to use them to deliver a consistent and continuous customer experience throughout the customer lifecycle.                                            

As B2B marketers we often look across at our B2C colleagues and their massive budgets with envy. But perhaps the pendulum is swinging our way. Certainly, it appears that the tech vendors have taken notice. Adobe’s acquisition of Marketo towards the end of last year for a monster US$4.75 billion has signalled that a major B2C vendor has started to take notice of B2B. 

We need to stop thinking about technology in isolation, but as only one element of a kaleidoscope of capabilities needed to deliver exceptional customer experience. Perhaps this is the year that the way we work becomes more important than the tools we work with. The way in which marketing teams are organised is changing. Agile marketing approaches mean our approach is starting to become much more longitudinal, with specific ‘experience features’ being completely managed by small, multidisciplinary teams, throughout the customer lifecycle.

In B2B we build deep insight into our clients and, hopefully, we work with them over a period of years, or even decades. We have a swag of tools at our disposal, from content management systems, through to advanced analytics tools and marketing automation systems. We also tend to work collaboratively with sales, and customer service and billing. Well, ok, perhaps we could do a bit more there!

When everyone has the same tools in their armoury, then people, skills, data, analytics and ways of working become more important. We marketers need to be lifting our heads up and thinking hard about how we are going to take ownership of delivering the strategic goals of our businesses. We need to think about the role that customer experience plays in delivering on those goals and think about the capabilities we need across our organisation to deliver on those experiences. This covers both the technical platforms and data we use, but also the people and business processes we need in place to really get the most out of them.

Or I could be wrong. We could just continue to buy the latest shiny toys, carry on working the way we have always worked and I’ll be back to remind us where we’ve been in 2029. I hear AI is going to be really big this year...

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