Wednesday, November 23, 2011

2012 Marketing Trends: Strategy and Practice

Let me first say that "no, you didn't miss a post". I've been working on my budget so my mind has been very much in 2012 instead of in the present where it belongs. As a result, I got to thinking about upcoming trends instead of leadership, so you get a trends post instead. I'm still going to do the leadership post, but it will be the next time around. I hope you'll forgive me.

Ralph Oliva recently presented the much-anticipated ISBM Trends 2012 Study: Business-To-Business Marketing Trends and Best Practices. He and the ISBM research group focus on capturing how B2B marketers think and feel about the future. The “Trends” study is a US-Based study that was initiated in 1997 and is conducted every two or three years. It comes out of the noted Institute for the Study of Business Markets at Penn State University. I've included the presentation at the end of this post.

The 2012 study identifies seven trends with two dominant themes: understanding and communicating (effectively) with customers; secondly, identifying opportunities for growth. Ralph Oliva discusses these trends in great depth in his presentation, “Business to Business Marketing Trends and Best Practice”, and in many cases points to background materials and readings which can provide a better understanding of the “narrative”. The top three dominated and are listed in order of importance.

The Top Three by a Landslide

  1. Value – The need to more effectively quantify and communicate value created for customers. The need is to “bring a more holistic value proposition to customers” in order to gain mind share and not just be evaluated on a per item quote with the competition. The onus is on the supplier to exhibit “enough value for customers to even make time to meet with you".

    ISBM Recommendations
    Value Merchants: Demonstrating and Documenting Superior Value in Business Markets (Kellogg; Kumar)
    Winning With Customers – A Playbook for B2B (Pigues; Valkyre)

  2. Voice of the Customer – Developing approaches to better understand what customers really need. This is where we, as marketers, need to become a sort of mind reader. We need to understand what customers need, beyond what they can articulate. It is on us to anticipate “the shift in the way customers do business.” Their business design is changing and we need to understand and accommodate that now. One response is to become better at “uncovering fundamental needs and creating exciting offerings that are not considered ‘me too’”.

    ISBM Recommendation
    PDMA Toolbook (Griffin)
  3. Growth – Finding, “sensing”, identifying and assessing new opportunities for growth. This is the new reality for B2B marketers. We are not going to return to the way things were. It’s time to focus on the future. As such, we should consider the following:
    • Where is the money and who’s my competition for it?
    • How do I achieve profitable growth in a difficult fiscal climate? Focus on the “new reality.”
    • What are my market expansion opportunities? Consider geography and new technology.
    • What am I doing to encourage organic growth? Encourage product and business development, and innovation and opportunity realization.
    ISBM Recommendations
    How to Grow When Markets Don’t (Slywotsky)
    The Upside

The Remaining Four

  1. Connections – Developing closer ties with customers, suppliers, channel partnerships, and Sales and Marketing. There are several characteristics that are rising in importance in the upcoming year.
    • Partnership Skills – the ability to identify when partnerships will be beneficial and who they should be formed with.
    • Delivering Customer Value – managing partners and expanding the company’s ecosystem.
    • Compete vs. Cooperate – deciding which way to go in order to maximize available resources.
    ISBM Recommendations
    Build, Fix or Terminate – The Distributor’s Guide to More Profitable Supplier Relations (Narus; Forest)
    Alliance Competence (Spekman)
  2. Emerging – Capitalize on new growth/emerging markets. This trend was positioned higher than ever before and has several new focuses.
    • Reassess global markets
    • Innovate globally
    • Understand cultural differences
    • Global harmonization of the offer
    • BRIC as an economic power
    ISBM Recommendation
    Global Tectonics: What Every Business Needs to Know (Ghadar)
  3. Balance – Balancing short-term requirements and long-term opportunities. The focus for balance includes:
    • Maximize today’s value while investing for tomorrow
    • Consider the firm’s short-term actions in terms of its long-term position
    • Transition to the “new reality”
    • Rebuild marketing organizations
    ISBM Recommendation
    DoingBoth – How Cisco Captures Today’s Profit and Drives Tomorrow’s Growth (Sidhu)

  4. Segmentation – Selecting the right set of customers for your business, and managing them effectively. Finally, there is segmentation. This remains a critical issue with emphasis placed on:
    • Selecting the right customer. Don’t let the economy return you to the mindset of “any customer is a good customer.”
    • Choose customers to whom differentiation matters.

The Implications

What it boils down to is there are some steps we, as marketers, can take in order to set ourselves up for success. Install the best tools for your sales team to quantify and communicate value. Learn and champion the real VOC. Look at the forest: look past the daily minutia to find growth opportunities. And get buy-in from the entire organization. Translate your markets and customers into terms everyone can understand.

Thanks again to ISBM and Ralph Oliva for the valuable information I was able to include in this blog.



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