Late last year, leading analyst firm IDC predicted that businesses’ marketing budgets will increasingly reallocate funds- with a third of today’s “awareness” budget being redirected to later stages in the buyer journey by 2019.
We think that this represents both a challenge and an opportunity for marketers –as they strive to adapt their way of working to meet the changing demands of the market. The good news is that this shift is in part driven by the astonishing amount of information that is available to everyone online. This means that both B2B and B2C potential customers, are today much more likely to educate themselves about a market and potential solutions before reaching out to possible providers (According to the CEB’s publication of “The Challenger Customer”, the number is as high as 57 percent in the B2B market). As a result, prospects are undertaking much of the awareness raising process themselves – as they seek out information about the options available to them. As a result, the first contact with a prospect today is often much later in their journey than was common in the past.
In parallel, marketers are under increasing pressure to demonstrate a return on investment for any given campaign. And it is, of course, far easier to demonstrate the value of efforts that directly generate leads compared to putting a dollar value on the more nebulous concept of awareness.
There are however additional consequences of these changes that need to be taken into account. For example, when you consider that, according to IDC, technology companies currently spend nearly half their budgets on awareness, you start to appreciate the extent of the disruption ahead for their marketers.
Some of that change will have to be in terms of mindset: rather than focusing on building awareness, the new watchword is engagement. And what you need to get people engaged is meaningful, relevant content. It’s no longer about a few corporate ads that can be shared across many different formats and channels. As potential buyers now have multiple different routes to finding information, the focus has to be on ensuring that you are able to offer a diverse selection of content that will appeal to them, regardless of how far they have progressed in their journey. Of course, there’s still room for your key messages in this content, just in different form.
The most important starting point for your new content is that it must be more authentic and personal. The sweeping phrases you used in your brand building aren’t going to cut it anymore. There’ll most likely already be a lot of information about your business out in the wild, so your opportunity is to complement it by highlighting what you stand for, what makes the company tick – your prospects will be interested in your views on the market you operate in, and the challenges your industry is facing.
As the marketing department is forced to release its grip on the multiple channels of communications with the outside world, as many more employees become the communication front line, it’s more important than ever to be transparent and honest. This in turn means empowering and equipping staff to be able to engage in a meaningful way.
The key to managing this growing complexity will be the ability to link the right content with the right prospect at the right time. Once you’ve identified your total market, it’s important to map the content for the buyer journey against each stage. (We talk about how to do that here). This provides you with the framework and methodology to focus less on awareness raising, and more on the parts of the customer journey that bring you closer to active engagement with your target audiences and to make marketing actively contribute to the lead pipeline.