The B2B sales process has undergone a substantial transformation over the last several years. With the proliferation of the web and its impact on increasingly self-sufficient B2B buyers, firms are relying more on marketing to deliver sales-ready leads than ever before.

In the past, the “vendor” controlled the process. They had the information and buyers were dependent upon sales (or business development) people, advertisements, product sheets and brochures to get that information. But times have changed, and today’s B2B buyers spend a lot of time online researching solutions, arming themselves with intelligence to help them make better purchasing decisions.

As mentioned in my previous post, today’s B2B buyers go through nearly 60% of the purchasing process before ever talking to sales. So what is your marketing doing to engage these buyers before they engage you? Here’s a list of 3 ways to engage buyers and better position your firm for the win.

1. Attract B2B buyers early on with the right kind of content

Content should play a critical role in engaging B2B buyers before they’re ready to speak with sales. But not just any content will work! What’s needed is customer-centric content—blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks, webinars, emails, social media posts and web pages—that focus on a prospect’s needs at each stage of the buying cycle.

Sales material is not top-of-funnel content
B2B buyers in the early stage of the sales cycle (top-of-funnel) are not looking for features and benefits, company information or why they should work with you and not your competitors. They’re trying to ascertain their needs, figure out what options exist and be as educated as possible before even thinking about who to buy from.

Focus on the needs and interests of prospects
Your content should speak to what B2B buyers are interested in and searching for online, instead of focusing on your products or services. Be sure to leverage buyer personas and create engaging content that identifies and addresses the problems, challenges, questions and information gaps your audience might have and provide them with valuable information about those topics.

2. Build lead generation into the DNA of your website

The brochure-style websites of the past are no longer effective at engaging today’s B2B buyer. What’s needed is a powerful, marketing-focused website that has lead generation and conversion strategy at its core. A large part of engaging B2B buyers early on in the sales cycle is lead generation: turning an unknown visitor into an identified lead. It’s essentially getting them to “raise their hand” and express some level of interest in your company.

Convert unknown visitors into identified leads
Once a prospect has identified a need, they begin to research for potential solutions or partners. They’re looking for information to help them make a better decision once they’re ready to purchase. And if you’ve attracted a prospect to your website through creating early-stage, top-of-funnel content, you need strategies in place to convert an unknown visitor into an identified lead.

The process of lead generation
So how do you make lead generation happen? First, you should create premium content such as eBooks, whitepapers, reports and webinars specifically to address a buyer’s needs in the interest and consideration stage of the buying cycle (middle-of-the-funnel). Next you’ll want to create compelling calls-to-action and place them in strategic locations throughout your website. These calls-to-action should drive visitors to offer-specific landing pages where they are given the opportunity to provide some basic contact information in exchange for the content offered.

3. Educate leads and push them closer to the sale with lead nurturing

Once you’ve identified a lead, now what? Just because they’ve registered for your webinar or downloaded a whitepaper doesn’t mean they’re ready to sign on the dotted line. In fact, studies suggest that between 30% to 50% of the leads that enter a pipeline represent future opportunities, but they’re not yet ready to buy. But according to a study, 66% of buyers indicated that “consistent and relevant communication provided by both sales and marketing organizations” is a key influence in choosing a solution provider.

Nurture relationships with leads who aren’t ready to buy
Lead nurturing is the process used to “nurture” relationships with leads who aren’t yet ready to buy, in order to win their business in the future when they are. One of the primary tactics is creating “drip” email campaigns related to the initial offer or topic of interest.  Leads receive a series of relevant, automated emails at scheduled intervals that will keep them engaged over an extended period of time, with the goal of moving them towards a purchase.

Be there when they’re ready to buy
Once a prospect has considered their options, they begin to narrow down the choices and ultimately determine who to buy from. By providing helpful information to potential buyers throughout the sales cycle that can better inform their decision, you’ll stay top of mind and be there when they’re finally ready to make a purchase.

B2B buyers have certainly changed the way sales and marketing is approached. Yes, it’s still about relationships, but leading firms are not waiting to be engaged by potential clients. Instead, they’re leveraging the power of content and technology to initiate and nurture relationships by engaging buyers early on in the sales process.

Working on your leadership skills is never ending. Like many of you, I’ve had plenty of bosses and team leaders over the years. The mediocre ones are typically great people and mean well but sometimes just don’t take the extra steps necessary to truly lead. The great ones who do step up are the ones you’ll remember and learn from your whole career. And the not so good ones you try to forget yet, interestingly enough, you’ll learn from them, too.

You can be inspired in some way or another by all the leaders you work with and it’s something to remember as you take on a leadership position yourself – whether your leading a global company, a local non-profit or a team project. What’s important is that you set your intention for how you’d like to be remembered as a leader because people who report to you or work on your team will remember you, whether you believe that or not.

There are plenty of terrific leadership books available to help you develop your leadership skills no matter your age, position or title because it’s never too early or too late to learn. My favorites are any leadership or team book from John Maxwell, like his classic 21 Irrefutable Laws, or Multipliers by Liz Wiseman, or Give and Take by Adam Grant. I also enjoyed Clay Christensen’s book, The Innovator’s DNA, which talks about the difference between delivery and discovery people, for which I wrote about in my last post on leading innovation. Leaders tend to have the ability to deliver with a discovery attitude. I’m sure you have other favorite authors and personal leadership mentors – it’s important to check in with them no less than every three months or so.

In the meantime, the below comparison of leadership traits may provide a guide for you on what to observe in the leaders you follow and in your own leadership style. Like you, I’ve had some absolutely wonderful leaders in my life and I’m grateful that they took the time to help me along the way. They also showed me the difference in being a mediocre leader and a great leader, which summed up to having the courage to take a stand, to speak up, to question the status quo, to initiate or take action, or simply to help someone else move forward. “How can I help you?” is a terrific servant leadership question and it’s one worth asking of people again and again.

Here are a few not-so-good leadership traits:

  • Rarely shares what they’ve learned and can even be stingy with or purposely hold back information that would be of help to individual or team success (they’ll cite all sorts of reasons why you don’t need the information)
  • Takes credit for or are highly critical of ideas and initiatives of team members yet they contribute very few of their own; may even tell people that they’re good at a lot of things when they rarely take initiative in those areas
  • Manipulates situations or relationships, often behind the scenes, in order to manage to their desired outcome instead of creating the best outcome together
  • Typically more interested in their own success than the success of others; definitely erring too much on the side of narcissism (some are so far over the top that this behavior isn’t noticeable – they’re a pro at this)
  • Demands immediate respect usually based on their title or their perceived “power” level without a desire to earn it from their team
  • Acts like they can’t figure out why people don’t trust them and they are extra sensitive when others push back even slightly
  • Won’t encourage their direct reports, or give then permission or time off, to attend seminars, meetings or conferences in which they can grow, learn and meet new people; in addition to micro-managing, this is a sure sign of a control freak
  • Shows signs of insecurity in which they tend to live in the safer moment and are afraid to make mistakes or look bad; they often go to great lengths to protect their image
  • Often will ask people to work on projects and once the individual or team moves it along will ask them to stop working on it with no discussion about why
  • Often meets individually with each team member or requests that emails or documents are sent only to them; will often withhold feedback on projects or documents or even at annual review time – this can be especially true if the work or employee is exceptionally good
  • Surrounds themselves with junior staff members or “yes” people; rarely will they hire those who are smarter or have more experience than them, or who may question the system or challenge the status quo because that would rock their boat; if they make that mistake, they’ll find a way to rid themselves of that person by transferring them to a different department, making their lives miserable so that they leave or by finding some reason to fire them

Those traits don’t feel good, do they? That’s why it’s important to set your intention of the type of leader you’d like to be and work on more positive leadership traits. Good people can get caught up in the stress of the everyday workload and forget that others are looking to them to effectively lead the team.

So let’s talk about how to do that. Here are a few great leadership traits:

  • Comfortable with setting a vision and championing a cause within the organization or department because they truly care
  • Authentic, full of goodness; one who genuinely wants to help people, the team and the company succeed; believes 100% in the company’s vision
  • Confident and competent yet humble; highly in tune with both their own strengths and weaknesses; they’re okay with being vulnerable at times
  • Sets team up for success each day by instructing, coaching and forgiving when things go wrong; has a “correct and continue” attitude
  • Willingly and openly shares knowledge and experiences for individual and team success yet continually learns themselves; they typically hire coaches and mentors to help them with their own leadership growth
  • Continual and open learner, teacher or trainer; shares, facilitates discussion and collaborates well with others to create and develop ideas and solutions
  • Pushes boundaries; they’re okay with being uncomfortable and in taking some risks, especially when striving to lead the team forward into new territory for growth and innovation
  • Lets strength of individual team members shine through, being genuinely happy with other people’s successes
  • Celebrates every win, no matter how small; often thanks and congratulates team members’ contributions
  • Understands they have to earn people’s respect and trust over time; a title or promotion alone doesn’t automatically demand it
  • Continually challenges the team to grow both professionally and personally; giving advice or allocating resources accordingly, prioritizing the growth of their people
  • Typically gives their team members more responsibility than they might think they can handle while shepherding them in the process
  • Genuinely interested in their team members’ career growth by preparing them for promotions, having them lead their own projects or showing them how to be a community leader; always looking for opportunities in which their own people can learn and grow even if outside the organization

I think you can see the difference between a good, well-respected leader and a not-so-good leader. I hope you’ll choose to continue to practice and develop your own authentic leadershipstyle in order to help other people and your organization succeed and grow exponentially. Effective leadership requires the “wax on, wax off” type of mastery; it’s definitely not learned overnight or by reading a book or two on leadership.

You can and should be highly competent at your craft whether it’s marketing, technology, higher education, science, healthcare, the ministry or any one of a number of hot professions today. But if you’re not developing your leadership skills in the process, then you’ll be left to wonder (with frustration, I might add) as to why people resist following you or why your best talent chooses to leave your team or your company and work elsewhere. If they leave, nine times out of 10 it’s because they don’t enjoy working for their direct supervisor or the company leader. It’s up to you. You can be the leader that people learn from, gravitate toward and remember positively for their entire career. Just like early childhood teachers, you just never know when you’ll be the one who will make a significant difference in someone’s life.

Google Plus is becoming a more important part of growing your business and making connections….even though you don’t feel like it is the trendy place to be. The question is this the year it becomes a real part of your company’s social media package instead of just an after thought?

Similar to Facebook and Twitter, Google Plus offers you the opportunity to create a business page to promote your business, organization or a specific product. The Google Plus community is growing in numbers and you can take advantage of a Google Plus page to get your business to a wider audience.

Why it should be a part of your company’s social media package

When you create a post on Google Plus, it creates a new web page just for your post. And, with that, a good chance the page will show up in Google search results, which could be enough reasons alone to take Google Plus posts seriously.

And more…

Google Plus is a social layer of Google that the company is merging into all its services. It is a way for people to share their thoughts, feelings and content across all Google products.

In 2013, Google search hosted roughly 79 percent to 81 percent of Internet searches in the U.S., according to StatCounter, in an article published in the Raleigh News Observer.

Launched in 2011, Google Plus has more than 300 million active monthly users, compared to 540 million active monthly users of Google services, according to statistics released last fall. Over the years, Google Plus users have evolved from tech geeks and social media marketers, to brands building their own Google Plus empires.

Two great Google Plus apps that will bring people in

1. Communities – allows groups around the world to share interests. Groups could be families, businesses, book clubs etc. Groups allow people to share new, ideas, and make new connections.

2. Hangouts – enables group meetings, discussion, or demonstrations. This feature is unique to Google Plus; Facebook and Twitter don’t offer this. Hangouts encourage sharing photos and messages anytime. Any Hangout can turn into a live video call with up to 10 friends or you can search for a contact to start a voice call from your computer. We’ve actually started using hangouts recently for internal meetings instead of conference calls.

If you link your Google Plus profile to your website, it has potential to display your recently published blog posts and news stories within the search results. Share your content and re-share quality content in your community.

So for us, Google Plus is likely to become a larger part of our overall social media package, the question is how quickly will others join.

Social Media Examiner released their 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report that surveyed over 2,800 marketers in order to understand how they are using social media to grow and promote their businesses. This post will share the highlights from the report.

Hopefully these results and analysis will help you to increase your impact on social media and improve your overall online marketing program. You may be surprised by some of the results.

Social media is important for business

According to the survey, 92% of marketers indicated social media is important for their business and 68% of marketers plan on increasing their use of blogging. Another trend we saw was that podcasting is on the rise and 21% plan to increase their podcasting activities.

Facebook and LinkedIn were the two most important social networks for marketers. But only 43% of marketers feel like their Facebook efforts are working. We think that this is because it’s hard for marketers to see the ROI from Facebook, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Facebook is a great avenue to show your company’s personality and company culture. It can also give your company personality apart from your website that is business focused.

The benefits of social media marketing

The study showed that the top two perceived benefits of social media were increased exposure and increased website traffic. And 80% of respondents reported positive results. Eight-four percent of participants found that increased traffic occurred with as little as 6 hours per week invested in social media.

More than half of marketers who’ve been using social media for at least 3 years have seen it help them improve sales. However, 50% of all marketers in the survey had not seen social media marketing help them with improving sales. This shows that it takes time to build a presence and audience on social media. It also could have been because the companies lacked the tools to track sales.

Another benefit from social media was a gain in partnerships. More than half of marketers who’ve invested at least one year in social media reported that new partnerships were gained. In addition, 66% of marketers spending as little as 6 hours per work in social media saw lead generation benefits.

Marketers also saw improved search engine rankings from social media. This was especially true for marketers that had been using social media for one year or longer with 58% reporting a rise. This further proves that it’s important to commit to social media for the long term. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. While you might not see dramatic results right away, after a year of consistent posting, you should begin to see results if you are posting quality, targeted content for your audience.

Social Platforms to Use

Those just getting started with social media selected Facebook as their number-one choice, followed by Twitter and LinkedIn. While the more experienced social media marketers are on those three platforms, they were using more platforms consistently and had a higher focus on content creation (i.e. YouTube, blogging and podcasting).

When asked to choose the single most important social platform, 54% of marketers chose Facebook as the most important platform, followed by LinkedIn (17%), Twitter (12%) and then blogging (8%). When comparing B2B and B2C in choosing the most important social network, Facebook (68%) dominated in the B2C space while LinkedIn (33%) passed Facebook (31%) for B2B marketers.

Importance of original content

More than half of marketers (58%) selected original written content as their most important kind of content, followed by original visual assets (19%) and then original videos (12%). In addition, B2B marketers placed even more importance on original written content (65% compared to 52% of B2C marketers).

When looking to the next year, 81% of marketers plan to increase their use of original written content and 73% plan to increase their use of original videos. Marketers also want to learn more about creating original visual assets such as infographics, which are gaining popularity in the social media world.

The survey also asked about outsourcing. Surprisingly, the percentage of marketers that are outsourcing their social media has been steady over the past few years, staying around 30%. The two areas that marketers are outsourcing the most is design/development and content creation.

Looking ahead

Sixty-eight percent of marketers plan to increase their use of blogging in the next year. They also plan to increase their use of YouTube (67%), Twitter (67%), LinkedIn (64%) and Facebook (64%).

Google+ has been a much-debated social platform for some time, but 61% of marketers plan to increase their Google+ activity in the coming year. However, about 1 in 5 marketers do not plan to use Google+ at all.

Interestingly, even though only 6% of marketers currently use podcasting, a significant 21% plan to get involved more with it this year, which is a three-fold increase. This is likely fueled by the global adoption of smartphones, Apple’s introduction of CarPlay and major auto manufacturers opening up the dashboard to third-party apps.

This survey shows how content marketing and social media marketing are important components of a marketing strategy. Marketers are using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as the top platforms and looking to continue to create original content.

I was talking with a small group of marketing colleagues this week and one of the topics on the table for discussion was innovation. The conversation ran the gambit with frustration stemming from how to:

  • get senior leaders to focus on innovation strategy
  • innovate across teams with fewer silos
  • infuse more brand marketing strategy in earlier stages of product development.

One colleague’s company that dealt in consumer products had implemented an annual, comprehensive strategic planning process that her product managers religiously abided by, likely because the plan completion was tied to individual goals and compensation.

Another colleague’s company, strictly global B2B sales with custom product formulations, didn’t have an annual process and primarily let customer demand dictate innovation. The challenge was that he had 100 customers spread over 9 product leaders who always put customer calls and needs first, and those leaders never seemed to prioritize strategic planning.

In the course of the conversation, those two colleagues learned several things from each other such as:

  • While their products are drastically different, their go-to-market timeframes are surprisingly similar, both in the 12-15 month window
  • Strategic planning and innovation, within product or marketing, go hand-in-hand
  • If strategic plans are done properly and regularly, they change more than they stay the same because considerable attention is being given to all aspects of the business.

Whether your company is a well-known consumer brand, a behind-the-scenes B2B supplier to major brands, a small business or a non-profit association, you can learn how to develop and improve innovation techniques within your company by simply ensuring there is continual focus and genuine interest in both the process and outcomes.

Here are three ways to encourage innovation at your company:

  1. Adopt an innovator’s mindset. One of the best books on this subject is The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the five skills of disruptive innovators by Jeff Dyer, Hall Gregersen and Clay Christensen. In the book, the authors point out the differences between “delivery” and “discovery” people. Delivery people tend to ensure the client gets what they need when they need it. Discovery people tend to have a more innovative mindset. While both are needed, many companies hire for and encourage delivery skills over discovery skills. The authors propose utilizing a model for generating innovative ideas that includes courage, behavior skills (questioning, observing, networking and experimenting), and cognitive skills to synthesize novel inputs for associational thinking.
  2. Foster collaboration. Sounds easy, but it often can be a challenge in large companies or small. In order to remove silos between product and marketing (many times there’s just a handoff from one to the other), or within any other groups within the company for that matter, you must foster a culture of collaboration. Harvard Business Review’s Spring 2014 OnPoint magazine issue covers the topic, “Collaboration That Works.” It’s a special newsstand issue that I found at my local Barnes & Noble. And a terrific collection of HBR articles that speak to both the pros and cons of collaboration, as well as how to be a collaborative leader, how to foster collective creativity, and how to accept and actively manage conflict which is needed for innovation.
  3. Understand strategic planning is an evolutionary process. Misconceptions still exist about strategic planning, and I know this because I’ve witnessed them. It is common to see companies struggle with the process because they think it requires gigantic effort and feel it is painful for all involved – when it can be just the opposite!I’m not saying it doesn’t take focus but it is now less about certainties and more about probabilities, as stated in a recent Forbes article by Greg Satell on The Evolution of Strategy. And, as early as 2003, Toastmasters International acknowledged this trend of always being “in a state of thinking strategically” and “incorporating the concept of nimbleness” into the organizations’ thinking. The bottom line here is that you don’t need to develop a gigantic strategic plan that people will shove on a shelf and never read or use once it’s complete. That doesn’t help in today’s fast-paced, digital world. A simple one-page plan that includes desired outcomes or opportunities with high-level strategies, tactics and KPIs may be all that is needed to get you started, no matter the organization’s size. Or, just forget all that and use Opportunity Statements instead, as John P. Kotter points out in this HBR article entitled Forget the Strategy PowerPoint.

Your company’s strategic planning frustrations may be similar to those of my colleagues or you just may want to know the best way to get started. Remembering these 3 techniques – adopting an innovator’s mindset, using effective collaboration and understanding that the strategic planning and innovation process is evolutionary and not static – will not only help reduce internal frustrations but encourage a healthy dose of enthusiasm about a participative and ongoing process for you to lead the organization forward in a sustainable way.

Many B2B firms find themselves surrounded by the massive changes that have taken place—and are still taking place—in the world of business. And these changes have given birth to a new marketing ecosystem that requires new strategies, tactics and a customer-centric approach.

For decades, B2B marketing has been vastly different than B2C marketing and with good reason. B2B tends to be less transactional and more about building long-term relationships—especially for firms with big-ticket products and services and long sales cycles. But while relationships are still front and center, the truth is, leading firms are initiating and nurturing relationships differently than they have in the past.

Is your B2B firm still relying on the same strategies and tactics that you’ve been using for decades? If so, due to some key changes, your marketing strategy might be in need of a transformation.  So here are some compelling reasons for change.

It’s a brave new (digital) world

There’s no doubt the world around us is becoming increasingly more digital every day. Think about it, when you want to research a company, find out about a product, look for an answer to a question or find out almost anything, what do you do? You go to Google, Yahoo, Bing or some other search engine. We’ve become a very web-centric culture, in both our personal and business lives.

Your website is your front door

When you want to learn about a potential client, vendor or even a competitor, the first thing you do is visit their website. And every day there are potential clients visiting your website doing research and vetting your firm. So your website can no longer be just an online brochure. It needs to be the hub of your marketing efforts and a tool for sales and business development.

Your audience is social

Social media’s use in B2B marketing has been met with much skepticism. But social media is no longer just for celebrities and consumer product companies. Today, it has become a dominant component of our daily lives and that dominance has found its way into the business world as well. A study from Hubspot found that 53% of B2B companies surveyed had acquired a customer from LinkedIn and 43% had acquired a customer through Facebook.  Social media provides B2B firms with opportunities to connect and engage with prospects and customers, distribute content and drive web traffic.

B2B buyers have changed

Today’s B2B buyers have become incredibly savvy and self-sufficient, researching online—often extensively—before making a purchasing decision. According to a DemandGen Report, 78% of B2B buyers start their research with a web search. A smaller but still significant number (50%) said they turn to social media and peer reviews. Your prospects are researching solutions, looking at their options and educating themselves as much as they can to inform their decisions.

And here’s the big change: much of this research is taking place before they ever pick up the phone or submit a contact request on your website. Studies from the Corporate Executive Board Company have found that today’s B2B buyers go through nearly 60% of the purchasing process before ever talking to sales. So what is your marketing strategy doing to engage these buyers before they engage you?

B2C is impacting B2B

All the brand interactions and experiences your prospects and customers have as consumers are starting to impact their expectations for B2B marketing as well. They expect personalization and customization. They expect to receive emails and marketing messages that are relevant to their needs and interests. They expect easy-to-use, helpful and mobile-friendly websites. The bar has been raised and your audience is now expecting marketing from you that is helpful and adds value to their lives.

It’s now a pull strategy

In light of all these changes, innovative marketers are responding and adapting.  So what we’ve been seeing for the last few years is pretty substantial—a fundamental shift in how companies approach sales and marketing. It’s moving away from primarily a push strategy and more toward a pull strategy. Instead of the typical “Hey, look at me” marketing approach, pushing company-focused messages and content to prospects, you actually communicate in such a way that they’re attracted to you.

Prospects now seek you out. They give you their time and listen, because what you’re saying has value to them. And this is really the heart and soul of what content marketing is all about—publishing content that focuses on the prospect and customer and what they are actually interested in, as opposed to talking about your company and what you sell.

Changing tactics and shifts in budgets

And with this shift, marketers across all industries are shifting their budgets away from traditional methods (such as purchased lists, cold calling and promotional advertising) that have been the bread and butter of their marketing plans, and they’re moving towards more innovative and customer-centric methods (such as content marketing). The goal is to create marketing that your prospects and customers find relevant, useful and helpful—leading to increased sales and customer retention.

So how is your B2B firm’s marketing efforts adapting to the realities of the new marketing ecosystem? If you’re not on top of these changes and not adapting your marketing efforts to meet the demands of the new marketing ecosystem, then you’re missing out on an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. And your firm is slowly being written off and passed over for more relevant firms.

Using search, to draw more traffic to your site is one of the smartest things any business can do. However within search there are two broad strategies than while using similar buyer behaviors are completely different.

The first Pay Per Click Marketing and is used successfully by many companies looking to quickly build traffic to their site and hopefully deliver new customers.

The second approach is equally powerful but different. Content Marketing Strategy uses information like blogs, eBooks, and Whitepapers to draw in buyers who are searching for answers to the problems or challenges they face.

Again both approaches work in the right situation, but which one is right for your company? In a word, depends.

How to Choose if Pay Per Click Marketing or a Content Marketing Strategy is right for your company

Like any strategic choice the process has to start with a clear understanding of what is the problem you are trying to solve.

1. I need traffic for my site immediately

Pay Per Click Marketing has the advantage of being a fast to implement and fast to see if your campaign will yield results. Getting a campaign up and live can happen in a matter of hours from keyword research to live ads. This is very attractive if you need to move the needle quickly. The challenge is with this speed comes cost and the need to monitor closely to ensure you’re getting the most out of your investment.

Winner: Pay Per Click Marketing

2. My site is a consumer ecommerce site

Ecommerce sites not only need traffic to their website, but they need traffic from people with immediate purchase intent. Pay Per Click Marketing is a perfect fit for this situation. Buyers clicking on a PPC ad typically have a strong intent to purchase. You just need to be in front of them at the moment of their interest. Since the cost per click can be tracked, you can measure the ROI almost immediately.

Winner: Pay Per Click Marketing

3. I sell my product through an internal sales team

Products or services sold through sales teams typically involve a longer research and decision process by the buyer before they’re ready to purchase. This is the perfect scenario for using a Content Marketing Strategy to help nurture the buyer. Due to this strategy’s strengths in allowing the buyer to discover how your company is positioned to provide the best solution, it’s perfect leading up to their engagement with your sales team.

Winner: Content Marketing Strategy

4. My business depends on understanding the customer and finding the right solution for their needs

Many businesses use a “Solution Selling” approach to help their buyer by providing value and understanding the problem the prospect is looking to solve. Using a Content Marketing Strategy ties directly to this solutions first approach and can be best integrated with the sales team’s solution approach.

Winner: Content Marketing Strategy

Choosing the right search marketing approach for your business depend on your buyer, their needs and timelines. If your buyer has a short, fast to the purchase decision process then Pay Per Click Marketing could be right for you.

If your buyer’s decision process is longer and more detailed, then a Content Marketing Strategy could be your best option as it can help nurture buyer from suspect, to prospect, to opportunity, to customer.

As we move through 2014, we expect the pace of change in marketing to only continue to accelerate. It seems like you can’t leave your desk these days to grab a cup of coffee without coming back to another change–a new marketing software entrant, an acquisition announcement, a major shift in consumer behavior, or an advance in marketing analytics. However, there are a few broader trends and patterns that have emerged. Here are 5 trends I believe will continue to have a significant impact on digital marketing in the new year.

#1 – Rise of Marketing Technologists

CMOs will increase hiring of marketing technologist and marketing operations roles.

The growing importance of software to almost every facet of marketing is giving rise to a new role in many companies: the Chief Marketing Technology Officer. A cross between the traditional Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Technology Officer roles, the CMTO provides strategic guidance to how to best take advantage of the growing number of marketing technologies. These include traditional technologies such as customer relationship management as well as analytics, marketing automation, mobile marketing and social media marketing. Marketing technologists and marketing operations pros bring technology and analytics skills as well as deep marketing skills.

#2 – Trust and the Social Era

Businesses will invest in ways to measure and increase levels of trust with their customers.

In the past decade, behavioral economists have changed the way we look at consumer buying behavior. The image of the consumer making unfettered “rational” choices has given way to a greater understanding of economic activity and the many “irrational” factors that influence purchase decisions. We’ve learned that economic life is pervaded by culture and also depends on moral bonds of social trust. Today, companies with strong brands are winning in the marketplace because they understand a simple yet profound truth: that the social capital represented by trust is just as important as physical capital. In the Social Era, cultivating trust is one of the most important activities that companies pursue.

#3 – Advanced Marketing Analytics

Progressive firms will invest in predictive analytics, prospect scoring and defining customer lifetime value. 

The world is quickly being divided into the “haves” and “have nots” of marketing analytics. Firms that have moved toward data-driven marketing will continue to develop and advance their analytics capabilities. In 2014, we’ll see more marketing organizations move beyond traditional web analytics and into true marketing analytics and marketing intelligence capabilities. This will include advances in the ability to predict responses, understand customers, and quantify the lifetime value of different customer segments.

#4 – Marketing Agility

Marketing organizations will shift a greater portion of their budgets into “test and learn” and agile marketing tactics.

Agile is a discipline picked up from software developers and it’s being applied to marketing teams. Agile teams follow core principles that shape the way they work. Those principles include:

  • a bias toward action;
  • responding to change;
  • emphasis on collaboration (people and their interactions) and,
  • iterative work cycles that deliver something of value.

Companies are finding that the best way to approach the integration of creativity and analytics is through agile marketing techniques. Many are investing 30 percent or more of their marketing budgets into these types of “test and learn” tactics. With agile marketing, teams of creative and analytics pros work together to create ideas and then use data to inform and test as they are introduced.

#5 – Smarter Content Marketing

Marketers will improve their content marketing programs by using data to target content to specific segments and evaluate content effectiveness. 

Content marketing will continue to be a focus for many marketers in 2014. However, many will turn their attention to improving the quality of content rather than creating more and more of it. Central to this effort will be the use of data and analytics to better target specific content and to evaluate how well each piece of content is performing. Marketers will improve their ability to provide the right content, at the right time, via the right channels to the right customer segments.