Two years ago this month, I published a post here titled Five Ways to Improve Your Marketing in 2012. With the end of 2013 now only a month away, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this topic with 2014 in mind. How much of what I wrote in 2011 is still relevant, and what would I change about (or add to) my 2011 post.
In my earlier post, I made five recommendations:
- Develop a marketing strategy
- Shift primary responsibility for lead generation from sales to marketing
- Increase the number of leads you acquire via inbound marketing
- Develop and implement a sound lead management process
- Implement a content marketing strategy
These recommendations are as valid today as they were two years ago, although I believe that the number of B2B companies using some or all of these practices has increased substantially over the past two years.
So, what are the most critical actions that B2B marketers should take in 2014 to boost marketing performance? There are several plausible answers to this question, but I suggest that two actions stand out in importance. In this post, I’ll discuss why technology has become all but essential for effective B2B marketing in 2014, and my next post will describe how marketing content must change in 2014.
Why Marketing Technology is Essential
I don’t write frequently in this blog about marketing technology for a couple of reasons. First, there are many other good sources of information on that topic. In addition, the hype surrounding marketing technology can easily create the erroneous impression that technology is a “silver bullet” that will automatically improve marketing and sales performance.
It’s clear, however, that marketing and technology are deeply entwined and that it’s now practically impossible to build and execute effective marketing programs without the use of technology. For example, unless you’re working with a very small number of prospects, it’s extremely difficult and highly inefficient to run sophisticated lead nurturing programs without the right technology tools.
B2B marketing automation (aka lead management) software enables companies to execute personalized and behavior-driven lead nurturing programs. These technologies also typically enable extensive data collection regarding lead behavior and the use of automated lead scoring systems. B2B marketing automation solutions are typically integrated with CRM solutions, and this combination of technologies can significantly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of both marketing and sales efforts.
The good news is, both marketing automation solutions and CRM solutions are now widely available as hosted solutions, they are relatively easy to use, and they are affordable for most B2B companies. These factors, combined with the pressing need to improve marketing performance, have made B2B marketing automation software extremely popular. David Raab, a widely-respected marketing automation industry analyst, estimates that revenues from the sale of B2B marketing automation software will reach $750 million in 2013, and the market has been growing at about 50% per year for the past several years.
If you don’t have the internal skills needed to successfully implement a marketing automation solution, you should consider working with a marketing services firm that can use these technologies to execute marketing programs on your behalf.
Marketing technology is not a panacea, but it will be essential for effective B2B marketing in 2014.