Revisiting My 3 Marketing Predictions: Climate Change Rose to the Top

I am going to be taking a break from posting for a bit. So, before I start my break, I thought I would revisit some marketing predictions I made earlier in the year.

I am going to be taking a break from posting for a bit. So, before I start my break, I thought I would revisit some marketing predictions I made earlier in the year.

My 3 Predictions

I never expected 2019 to totally transform marketing; but there is a major shift underway, with respect to the last prediction.

In my last post, I wrote about the recommendation from the Business Roundtable that companies think more broadly about the constituents they serve, including the planet. The vast majority of Americans believe that the climate crisis is real and there is a desire for real change. Climate worries are also causing consumers to rethink their consumption habits and businesses are responding.

How Am I Doing?

For me, these trends have not just been academic.

I recently went to a fast-casual style restaurant. My younger daughter likes to order the kid’s meal there, and it comes with a fairly rigid small plastic cup to fill up at the drink station. She has decided she wants less plastic in the world, so she asked for the adult paper cup, instead, and was willing to pay the difference. The cashier mentioned that this request was now very common, and they had let corporate know. My daughter received the paper cup, gratis.

In another example, I was at the airport and stopped at a sandwich chain. As I was handed my drink, I was asked if I wanted the lid and straw.

I am not alone, a recent study by Futera found that 88% of consumers wanted brands to help them live sustainably. The marketing implications for this trend are very interesting. Aside from a physical product or service, consumers are asking and paying for less. While it may not seem like much, a lid and a straw are big conveniences bundled into the price of a meal. Yet at the airport I was asked … do you want to take a small hit for the team? I happily took the hit and kept my drink close, until I finished it.

I generally keep my politics out of business, but climate change is not political to me. It is an existential threat, and most U.S. consumers agree.

Now, It’s Your Turn

As marketers, we need to think of ways to satisfy this growing need; and, fortuitously, consumers are willing to share the burden.

Here is my next prediction: Companies that do not change quickly will soon find themselves out of favor with a big segment of the market.

7 B2B Marketing Predictions for 2019

From chatbots to data-driven marketing, from the inevitable backlash against martech to the broadened use of social media, Ruth Stevens presents her seven predictions for what’s to come in 2019 for B2B marketers.

Crystal BallI am adding my voice to the chorus of observers who predict various developments in 2019 for B2B marketing. My policy is to avoid reflecting on my past predictions, which are likely unrealized and full of errors. Instead I shall boldly go forth, with my sense of what we are likely to see this year, and damn the torpedoes.  My B2B marketing predictions — seven in all — range from marcom to data. Your comments are welcome!

  1. B2B marketing communications become more human. Our field has long focused on selling to entities — accounts, buying groups, with rational, specific needs — and so we tend to stick to the facts. But it’s time to be more human. To talk to the buyers as individuals, in a language that moves them. So Forrester predicts, and I agree. I applaud Gyro for taking the initiative on some very interesting research around this topic. The study reveals the feelings business buyers seek in response to our offerings, feelings like confidence, optimism and accomplishment. Let’s give it to them!
  2. An inevitable backlash against martech. The backlash is already starting, but look for it to pick up. I wrote about this in 2014, saying we must not confuse marketing automation for marketing strategy. As martech grows, inevitably B2B marketers are realizing that it’s not the silver bullet they had hoped for. Justin Gray, founder of LeadMD, points out that only about 1% of deals can be tied to MA. We’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.
  3. Marketers will finally supply sales with the help they really need. My fervent wish, anyway. Tip of the hat to Gavin Finn, who eloquently explains this need in a recent Entrepreneur article. If we marketers are not helping sales communicate a differentiated value, producing truly effective content, and developing insight into the detailed needs of the buying group, we should all fire ourselves.
  4. Broaden the use of social media. Social is no longer a nice-to-have in B2B. It requires thoughtful strategy, real budget, and a keen integration with the rest of the marketing mix. Plus continued experimentation with new opportunities. Video will continue to grow. And B2B marketers will try new channels, like Quora, a place where people pose questions and get answers from other individuals. It’s ripe for business problems to be solved.
  5. Chatbots go mainstream. Perfect for B2B, chatbots serve global customers, around the clock, with fast, accurate and cheap service. This is all good.  But my favorite benefit for B2B marketers? Chatbots give you a third method for turning your website into a lead generator (after web form-fill and IP address identification). And the AI continues to improve, daily.
  6. Will CX be the B2B buzzword of 2019? Like ABM in 2017, and intent data in 2018. I’m predicting a surge of interest in the power of providing superior customer experiences — not limited to digital, but across all customer touchpoints in B2B. Think about it. We operate with a limited universe of customers and prospects. We are burdened with long sales cycles, but the payoff is high-ticket sales. We can’t afford to lose an account.  CX is the next competitive frontier.
  7. As ever, B2B success is undergirded by data. Marketers will continue to understand, and act upon the need for clean, complete and accurate data coverage of their market opportunity.  This is why Theresa Kushner and I published B2B Data-Driven Marketing, soon to be available via Kindle.  A new study from MX Group confirms: The Number 1 characteristic of top performing B2B firms is “Have good data.”  What’s Number 2?  “Have effective lead follow-up,” of course!

Happy 2019 to us all.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog. 

3 Wild Marketing Predictions for 2018

All year I’ve felt like marketing was a roller coaster clicking to the top of very high hill, about to plunge down into unknown loops and curves at freefall speed. It’s just a matter of what changes and when. Here are three marketing predictions for the channels I think will change the most in 2018.

All year, this industry has felt like a roller coaster clicking to the top of very high hill, about to plunge down into unknown loops and curves at freefall speed. I see technology cycles turning, and with them change is going to come to the channels marketers rely on the most. It’s just a matter of what changes and when. Here are three marketing predictions for the channels I think will change the most in 2018.

1. Email Starts to Slip

Email is one of the most important marketing channels. Just about all Target Marketing readers rely on it for their marketing, and most said they were increasing spending on it in 2017. It’s the cornerstone of marketing automation, lead nurturing, and pretty much all loyalty marketing.

What would marketers do if a significant number of consumers stopped checking their email?

It’s a scary thought … But look at your own email habits and tell me you’re not at least a little bit worried about it.

I get more email than ever before, and honestly read less. I bet you feel the same. Talking to marketers, I’ve heard a few times now that email, although still totally viable for marketing, is starting to get a little bit weaker. I’ve heard marketers say open rates are slipping, along with clickthroughs and conversions.

I think this is the year we’ll begin to see significant weakness in email as a marketing channel, and marketers will get serious about looking at other options that might replace it. (for example, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatApp.)

2. Non-text Search Becomes a Force

The only marketing channel that challenges the ubiquity of email is search. SEO and paid search ads are both absolutely essential to online marketing today … and they are both completely based in the current world of text search as we know it.

Amazon’s three best sellers in electronics this holiday season are the Echo smart speaker based on the Alexa voice assistant, the Echo Dot based on that same Alexa voice assistant, and the Fire TV Stick with Alexa voice remote. And there are a bunch of other smart speakers and voice assistants waiting to be unwrapped Christmas morning.

These devices are used extensively for search, interpreting the user’s speech with AI to go find the right answer. Those answers are far more limited than a page full of search results, though. Generally you just hear AI’s pick for your top result.

As this kind of voice-based interaction becomes more mainstream, it is going to have a huge impact on the search ecosystem.Image-based search is also coming online, and could have an even bigger impact.

I don’t know exactly what those changes will look like, but it’s certainly going to constrict search results, and perhaps dramatically alter how paid search ads are delivered. And the AI behind those results could be even more important than we’re expecting.

3. We’ll Begin Writing to Convince AI Gatekeepers

We keep thinking of artificial intelligence as something marketers are going to use to optimize marketing. But, when you look at applications like voice assistants, it becomes clear that AI is going to play a huge role in “optimizing” the information audiences consume.

This role may not be too different to the role Google plays today, but there’s an entire SEO industry dedicated to convincing Google that your content belongs fairly high up the search engine results page. The fight to “convince” this kind of gate keeper is only going to get more intense when the algorithm is a natural-language learning machine that’s only going to output the one result it thinks works best.

Right now, many writers feel challenged to write for their readers and optimize for search at the same time. We may soon find ourselves optimizing language to make that text AI friendly as well.


2016: What Did I Know?

Very early this year, I set down a series of predictions for what we’d see in 2016. Now that the run of the year is mostly behind us, it’s time to find out: What did I know?

Very early this year, I set down a series of predictions for what we’d see in 2016. Now that the run of the year is mostly behind us, it’s time to find out: What did I know?

1. Social media advertising is going to get bigger and bigger. I’m not saying that just because of the size of the networks or the time Americans spend on them. The real tipping point factor here is the ability to target your message to a small audience, and deliver it pretty accurately just to them.

Tribalism is one of the more important factors influencing all media today: People want to see only things they want and/or agree with, and the ability to build a custom social circle that filters news and conversations they’re exposed to reinforces this. To maximize the effectiveness of ads, and minimize the chance for a faux pas turns into a major PR disaster (I’m looking at you, Bloomingdale’s “spiked eggnog” ad), advertisers should be trying to capitalize on those same mechanisms.

The social networks, with their in-platform targeting options, are going to benefit from that development.

Frankly, i think predicting that social media advertising was going to get bigger was basically cheating. Of course it was going to get bigger.

socialmediaadvertisingBut I think I tuned a bit more into my inner Nostradamus with the bit about Tribalism. That played out like a Ocean’s 11 bank heist throughout the course of the 2016 election. It got so bad that fake news out-performed real news across Facebook this year.

Tribalism is a powerful force. People care about reinforcing their beliefs so much that it far outweighs facts or proof. With that in mind, I’m starting to wonder what marketing could look like in what you might call a “post-truth world.”

2. More marketers are going to use personas, they’re going to use more of them, and they’re going to get more sophisticated. Again, this is about targeting and understanding your audience. As marketers move further away from campaign-based strategies and deeper into personalized, ongoing marketing, the ability to optimize ads, offers, landing pages and whole websites to a segment of your audience is essential to successful execution.

The growth of individual-level data for targeting and personalization isn’t going to replace the need to do a lot of strategizing and optimization at a segment level (i.e., personas). The ability to build useful personas, include more factors in them (especially behavioral factors), and use those insights to boost ROI is going to be a major factor in the success of online marketing.

I think I might have been behind the state of the art on this one. Personas are important to marketing, but I feel like the growth area has really been on moving beyond personas and using machine learning to do things like find look-alikes or identify buying behaviors.

3. Google updates are going to cause less chaos. Google’s aim in refining its algorithms has become pretty clear: Google wants to give searchers what they want. If you deliver web pages that satisfy the person who entered that search query, you’re likely to continue to do well with Google. If you’re manipulating your site to get more SEO traction, you’re likely to take a hit at some point in the future.

Don’t aim for where Google is today, aim for where it’s going: Make search visitors happy.

I haven’t had to describe what i mean by the term “Google Ball” all year (a reference to “Calvin Ball” from Calvin and Hobbes, where Calvin changes the rules every time to suit him), so I think this one worked out pretty well. AMP is a big deal, of course, and page load speed in general has been emphasized, but I don’t think we’ve seen anything as disruptive as Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird.

Google is big business now, and unpredictability is bad for big businesses. I think Google is trying to shed its reputation for volatile rules changes and give website owners a more stable rules set they can count on.

4. You’re going to see more brand marketing in online direct marketing spaces. This ties into No. 1 a little bit, too. From banner ads to email and content marketing, a lot of online marketing evolved around direct marketing tactics and the call to action. I think you’re going to see more of that online marketing done as a way to promote brand content that in the past would have become a TV ad spot. The Ford In Focus videos Melissa talked about yesterday are a part of this trend. So is Red Bull’s content marketing.

This is a recognition of the content marketing fact that you need to earn time with your audience by giving them something they want to watch instead of constantly interrupting them. These types of content could have smaller audiences online, but they’re getting much more attention from the audiences they do attract. And the content can be targeted to those audiences can be targeted more effectively.

In essence, target marketing is becoming more important, even if it’s a little less direct than it used to be.

Every year, it gets harder to draw a line where direct marketing ends and brand marketing begins. But I don’t think the branding role has significantly moved online or displaced CTA-focused online ads.

The exception to that doesn’t come in the online ad space, but in the continued growth in content marketing and targeted distribution of that content.

So there’s my moment of accountability for 2016! How do you think I did? Are those predictions pretty much in line with what you saw? Are they what you expect to see in 2017? Let me know in the comments.