Sales and Marketing Software

Forget 2014 Marketing Predictions

Forget 2014 Marketing Predictions - Instead Focus on Marketing Imperatives

By Bob Johnson, VP & Principal Analyst


I’ve read through many predictions for the coming year about marketing and sales, but feel that in reality making predictions is meaningless unless marketers address several foundational requirements. So predict all you want, but what really is important is a few key imperatives.

We are overrun with talk about content marketing, the importance of challenger sales techniques, and the impact of big data on marketing to and reaching the customer. Stop listening and get busy with a focus on three imperatives because without them nothing else matters.   These imperatives come down to three words: alignment, relevance and research.

1. Alignment is about how well your value propositions, offering and approach match buyer preferences. From our research we see value propositions are frequently miss-stated, missing or misaligned with what buyers consider important (up to 30% of digital assets fail to touch on them). According to Lisa Dennis, President of Knowledgence Associates and author of the book360 Degrees of the Customer, marketers have a very inconsistent understanding of value propositions and need to think of several success keys:

“Buyers too often mistake features and functions for value propositions,” according to Lisa.  “After assessing thousands of pieces of content and working with technology vendors for over 15 years on value proposition development, it’s clear that we need a reality check on what a value proposition is and what it is not.”

Many technology value propositions are not distinct, are thinly veiled advertisements, and generally end up sounding the same. “The key is to map your value propositions to your differentiators, ones that actually matter to your target audience.”  Dennis continues, “in every workshop we do, we see that how teams define value tend to be generic, not defensible and worse yet, can’t be quantified in any way.  The best value propositions are formed from an outward-in perspective – how the buyer would see it, how they would describe it, and why it is important to them.”

Lisa concludes, “Too many value propositions are “one-size-fits-all” rather than targeted to key targets (titles/roles) or segments.  Further, they focus solely on the product or service, not the goal, objective or issue the buyer is focused on addressing.  Getting the attention of the buyer requires the value proposition to be totally focused on them, not on the vendor’s wares.”

2. Relevance is about how you approach the buyer, on their terms. It comes down to content and conversations.  For standard digital content, it is critical to understand where buyers go looking for it, what topics they prefer and the content types and formats they most often want to consume. Otherwise, you spend good money after bad, creating assets that go unused by prospects or sales, with no pass-along to other people and fail to generate qualified lead opportunities.

The same goes for conversations. Haven’t you had enough with the Field of Dreams mentality to build blog discussions where you speak mostly to yourself or a small circle of friends? Vendors and agencies complain about driving traffic via social media but they’re often on the wrong roads (platforms) and stop at places (communities) where the wrong people hang out.  It is akin to dropping into a biker bar in a leisure suit. You’ll be ignored or worse.

3. Research is the underpinning of number one and two. The successful vendors and agencies get it, while others base their value and content decisions on common sense, gut-feel efforts that are misguided and wasteful. So how much research on the voice of the buyer have you conducted this year on your target audience? I challenge you to be able to tell what the top five content type preferences are for your buyers and how their needs change in each buying stage.  And for conversations, the same holds true. You need to understand where they go, why they go there, what they look for and talk about. Then you have to know where to take them, otherwise your attempt at conversation is a monologue with no path to continue or learn.

You must understand buyer content and conversation preferences and something of great importance is to understand the questions they need to answer at each stage of the buying process. Many vendors are claiming a major focus on thought leadership right now, but most don’t have any idea what that means other than vapid statements about being an innovator, having great vision, the best partner or worse yet, best-in-class. Who cares? Certainly not buyers who want to self-educate before they engage because too often any engagement is a thinly veiled or direct sales pitch. You’ll never get to “Go” if you don’t know.

So get your value aligned with buyers, create content that is sufficiently relevant to the IT and business function constituents, and base what you set out to do on the voice of the buyer, not on the little voice in your head. For 2014, get in the shoes of the prospect and customer and stay there!


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Bob Johnson

VP & Principal Analyst, IDG Connect

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