Few professions can match marketing in terms of dynamism. In the span of just a year, it’s ordinary, even expected, for paradigms to shift, new technologies to emerge, and a new set of skills to spring into demand.
Tasked with monitoring, adjusting, and predicting these changes is the Chief Marketing Officer. They bear the ultimate responsibility of sorting out the signal from the noise and identifying which trends are worthy of company resources now, which may be worth investing in later, and which are simply jargon dressed up as relevance.
What are CMOs doing at the end of 2015? They’re planning their budgets for 2016, of course.
Predicated on industry research and marketing prowess, TechnologyAdvice has identified five areas CMOs will prioritize for 2016. You can use these strategies to anticipate the year to come in marketing, and compare them to your designs and goals for 2016.
1. Expanding Digital Personalization
Just as employee expectations for business technology changed in response to the iPhone, companies like Google, Amazon, and Netflix have redefined the general public’s expectations for media and marketing.
This means consumers have much less tolerance for irrelevance. Perhaps the only way to break through the barrage of competing marketing messages is to personalize the experience for the customer.
Between 70 and 94 percent of marketers have experienced an increase in KPIs thanks to personalization
Personalization is not brand new. In 2013, marketers had already identified the practice as vital to business performance. However, the theoretical power of digital personalization was held back by the practical realities of technology.
Even now, most personalization is conveyed through email merge fields and drip marketing campaigns. Still, VentureBeat found that between 70 and 94 percent of marketers have realized an increase in KPIs thanks to personalization.
This type of personalization relies on if-then rules to trigger personalized content and it’s restricted to “known” contacts who have a profile in the marketing automation and CRM platform. But this field is a rapidly evolving one, and platforms like Demandbase and Terminus are introducing the means to personalize on a predictive level and with “unknown” contacts through paid search and display ads.
Similarly, other software is tackling on-site personalization, where profiles of customers can be constructed within seconds based on their on-site behavior. Though this technology remains nascent, it does signal the next wave of personalization — a signal CMOs are already anticipating.
2. Developing Advocates Through Customer Experience
Despite their best efforts, marketers will never be able to match the persuasiveness a colleague, personal connection, or industry peer can wield in recommending products or services.
So, marketers are doing the next best thing — using their customers to promote their brand. Known as advocate marketing, this practice relies on mobilizing customers to spread the word about your business, thereby delivering a far more powerful endorsement than any message originating from marketing ever could.
As evidence, consider that 97 percent of IT buyers relied on peer recommendations and rating and reviews (presumably from peers) during the buying process for software. Further, notice that Slack, perhaps the fastest growing B2B SaaS product in history, has an entire Twitter page dedicated to receiving positive feedback from customers. It’s not a coincidence.
However, advocacy doesn’t come without work on the front end. Customers are willing to pay for a superior experience and satisfactory relationship with a company, and when properly motivated, they’re willing to publicly support that company too.
Tasked with company growth, CMOs are starting to invest in advocacy. The end of the year is the perfect time to scout potential advocates because much of the business world (or some, at least?) take a deep breath during the closing quarter.
3. Becoming More Social and More Mobile
Given that CMOs are increasingly tasked with showing sustainable revenue contributions to the bottom line, it may seem strange that an increased investment in social is on the horizon. After all, social doesn’t have an enviable reputation in terms of ROI.
Yet, 65 percent of CMOs ranked social as the highest area of investment in 2015, and that trend looks set to continue in 2016. Even marketers that have innovation budgets are spending some of that money on real-time social analytics.
The motivation becomes clearer when you consider the capabilities of the personalization systems listed above.
True multi-channel marketing reach is still in development for the majority of marketers, but the combination of retargeting and data management platforms (Terminus and DemandBase) to personalize social ads based on past behavior or predictability is perhaps the most tightly aligned example of multi-channel personalization widely available.
As for mobile, The CMO Survey predicts a 160 percent increase in mobile over the next three years, and it’s not difficult to explain why. Powerful mobile devices are becoming ubiquitous in developed countries, and certain channels, like social and email, translate extremely well to the smaller devices.
Investing in the mobile user experience is simply becoming par for the course.
4. Proving Revenue Contribution
Marketing was once a field dominated by creative prowess. Now it’s an industry striving to prove its worth to a generation of CFOs who have leapfrogged their CMO colleagues in line for CEO succession.
And they want proof that the myriad strategies marketers use are influencing more than the number of Likes or Tweets new blog posts earn. They want legitimate contributions to company revenue.
Sadly, marketers have yet to meet this standard — or at least prove it with numbers. The CMO Survey found a paltry 36 percent of respondents could quantitatively showcase the impact of marketing spend on the business bottom line over the short term. Only 26 percent could over the long term.
The movement toward a more revenue-centric marketing department has manifested in an increase in sales and marketing alignment — a strategy powered mainly by the integration of CRMs and marketing automation.
Better alignment with sales is the most logical step for marketers in search of revenue contribution. 59 percent of companies that surpassed their revenue goals have a defined sales enablement function.
In an increasingly data-driven world, CMOs will adapt by honing marketing’s revenue generating capabilities. To prepare for 2016, it’s important for CMOs to audit the efforts from this year through a revenue-centric lens.
Which programs paid off? Which simmered before ultimately petering out? These are must-know data points for 2016.
5. Developing or Hiring Analytics Skills to Interpret All That Data
The term data-driven is spouted so much that it’s nearly hackneyed. Fortunately, that short piece of alliteration describes a universal truth about marketing: it’s all becoming guided by data.
CMOs can’t get enough of it. The CMO Survey reports that investment in analytics will increase by 66 percent in the next three years. However, CMOs may be disappointed in their investment, because marketing departments often lack the technicians necessary to interpret all the data being collected. Research by McKinsey & Company estimates a tremendous dearth of managers in American businesses with the ability to properly utilize data analytics.
Perhaps this is why so few marketing departments are able to prove their quantitative contribution to the business’s coffers. Either way, the personalization consumers crave is reliant on the precise application of data. Additionally, the rate of which CMOs are acquiring software platforms also necessitates a larger population of data-savvy employees.
It’s already hot, but the need for data literate marketers will only go up in the coming year. CMOs are looking to acquire budget for more analytics software as well as more people to operate those systems.
The CMO’s responsibilities and concerns extend beyond the strategies on this list but expect investments in these areas to grow markedly in the next year. How do these priorities compare to your plans for 2016?