(This was one of the most popular articles written in 2017. It is profoundly applicable to this year – 2018. Buyer insights into how buyers make choices and decisions remain critical.)
Many executives, particularly Chief Marketing Officers, are in constant pursuit of understanding changing buyer behaviors and markets. Which, for the most part, remains an elusive and challenging endeavor. In the past ten plus years, we have seen a tumultuous upheaval in both the world of buyers and how marketing is adapting.
As business leaders and marketing leaders look ahead to the future, the ever-expanding global digital economy will undoubtedly cause further disruption. Charting a course for future growth becoming increasingly difficult. Despite the advent of an overflowing introduction of new marketing approaches, acronyms, and concepts in the past decade, the ability to plan remains an inherent struggle for many organizations.
The introduction of new approaches on how to perfect marketing has been astronomical in the past decade. Creating fragmented and non-cohesive marketing being performed as companies shift their efforts to the newest and latest approaches hyped. Sometimes resembling how an elementary after-school soccer game looks where we see 20 kids chasing a soccer ball instead of a structured soccer game.
How should business leaders and CMOs look towards the future, then?
3 Forces Business And Marketing Leaders Will Need To Address
The expansive global economy and the digital engine shaping it are causing three major forces business and marketing leaders will have to understand and address in the next ten years. Three major forces which are changing buyers and markets in ways we could not have predicted just a decade ago. These forces business and marketing leaders will need to be competent at are:
- Increased understanding of behavioral concepts related to buyer choices and decisions
- Expanding their understanding of shifting desired digital engagements sought by buyers
- Developing data intelligence strategies allowing them to respond to buyer behavioral trends
These three major forces create three essential questions business and marketing leaders will need to answer going forward:
- How do we uncover deeper buyer insights into how choices and decisions are being made?
- How do we engage and create experiences with buyers in the digital world of today and tomorrow?
- How do we use data analytics and intelligence to be responsive to shifting buyer behaviors?
Integrated Versus Fragmented
While these three major forces have become increasingly evident, one stark deficiency remains. Meeting these challenges remain fragmented and non-cohesive as alluded to above. For example, many companies tend to adopt different labeled marketing approaches each year, whether it be content marketing, customer experience, account-based marketing, or the many others that have cropped up. Yet, they are not tied to nor integrated into specific buyer insights and data intelligence support systems. Thus, creating an unavoidable “soup du jour” cycle taking place each year as business and marketing plans are formulated.
To break this cycle, business and marketing leaders will need to adopt a new insights-based paradigm and system. Whereby there is a natural and organic flow to meeting the challenges these three forces present.
The New Marketing Planning Cycle
Staying ahead of the curve in changing buyer behaviors and market environments will require a robust cycle incorporating these three elements. While many companies have engaged in one or all three critical areas, the struggle is in creating a cycle that informs. However subtle this struggle may be, its’ impact is significant.
Business and marketing leaders will need to move from seeing these areas as marketing “to do” tasks to one of a marketing cycle informed by insights. Where insights are involved and embedded in planning, engagement, and analytics. In other words, companies should avoid treating each area as “one-off” tasks to perform.
Understanding Decisions Is The Focal Point
Particularly for B2B Marketing, it is important to not lose sight of what is at the focal point of marketing and sales. That is – buyer decisions. The hyper-speed by which change is occurring in buyer behaviors, digital transformation, and in marketing, in general, may feel like a hurricane. However, in the eye of this hurricane is the core of what matters. The buyer decision.
These critical forces are tethered to understanding behavioral choices and decisions in three ways:
- Understanding Choices and Decisions Drivers – buyer insights in today’s digital age should be centered on understanding the behavioral aspects of understanding the multiple choices buyers make and how they impact buying decisions. Many buyer choices and decisions involve underlying and often hidden goals and motivations. Buyer personas are intended to convey buyer insights specific to these underlying and often below the surface goals and motivations.
- Increasing Buyer Engagement in a Digital World – what is important to not lose sight of, especially with the trendy label of the “buyer’s journey”, is that our understanding is specific to the buying decision. New digital technologies have caused significant disruption of the buyer decision journey. Creating challenges for businesses on how to engage buyers in every step of their buyer decision journey. The aim for marketers lies in integrating buyer insights into engagement strategies that are tied to a rich understanding of the buyer decision journey.
- Monitoring Buyer Engagement and Buyer Decisions With Data Analytics and Intelligence – the ability to collect and analyze data on buyers have grown exponentially in the past decade. Data analytics and intelligence can serve the purpose of continuously monitoring how buyers engage and shifting buyer decisions. Consistently examining the buyer insights and buyer engagement strategies link.
The business and marketing leaders of the modern 21st Century will need to become proficient in each of these three major forces impacting the future of marketing. While the rapidity of changing buyers and markets can create chaos, prudent executives are not losing sight of the eye of the storm. Recognizing that a focus on meeting the challenges these three driving forces present is what matters. And, in a way that cuts through the noise and hype of today and helps them to chart the future.
(What follows is a refreshing take on the future of marketing by the futurist Patrick Dixon. The key is to have the right level of insights to focus on the little data.)