It’s hard to believe, but we’re less than three weeks away from saying goodbye to 2014. Have you accomplished what you set out to achieve this year? Are you done planning for next year?
One of the important lessons I’ve learned over the last couple of decades building growth engines for businesses is that the trend is your friend. The more you can align your efforts with the dominant trends around you, the more likely that you will be successful.
As you wind down 2014 and prepare to rev up for 2015, here are the 7 B2B Sales & Marketing Trends you should be mindful of:
Intensification of The Zero Moment-of-Truth (ZMOT)
When Brian Halligan was announcing the new HubSpot CRM at Inbound 2014, his comments about how the sales world has changed really struck a chord with the audience. David Meerman Scott echoed those sentiments in his presentation and in his new book The New Rules of Sales & Service.
The bottom line is that the customer controls the game today, and if your sales, marketing and lead generation efforts haven’t completely transformed to how your customers think and act today, 2015 is going to be a painful year for you. To win, you must create compelling content and distribute it in a manner that allows your customer to access it when, how and where they want to. If they have to ask for it…you’ll lose.
The End of Inbound Marketing as a Competitive Advantage
I hate to say it, but Inbound is no longer a competitive advantage; it’s a ticket to play competitively. Forrester and The Sales Executive Council share that the customer does 66 – 90% of the buying process on their own (see the ZMOT trend).
As more and more companies adopt inbound approaches, the advantage is disappearing. For those that are already leveraging inbound, they’ll have to change their tactics to adjust for a more crowded field.
Increasingly prospects know what’s happening in the background when they arrive on a landing page and are asked to fill out a form. Your sales team will need to change their approaches to connect with and advance inbound opportunities. The bar is rising, and to drive growth you’ll need to invest in your process.
Utilization of SDRs to Accelerate The Sales Cycle
The B2B sales process is simply too complicated to be managed solely by individual salespeople. As I shared in a previous post, specialization is becoming increasingly important to the development of successful lead generation approaches.
In 2015 more companies, of more sizes and in more industries, will utilize sales development reps to accelerate sales cycles and enhance win rates (full disclosure: Imagine provides outsourced SDR services).
In 2013 HubSpot created the platform that allows companies to simply and easily customize a visitor’s web experience to align with what you already know about them and where they are in their buying journey. While this technology had existed for years with email, the ability to broaden the approach across your full digital strategy became a very valuable promise.
While 2014 saw a few companies really take advantage of that, we found that most organizations were still getting their heads around how to truly utilize the strategy to drive real results. The promise of personalization is a powerful one:
- Calls-to-action (CTAs) that are targeted have a 42% higher viewer-to-submission rate than standard CTAs (source: HubSpot).
- Marketers who are personalizing their web experiences see on average a 19% increase in sales (source: Monetale/eConsultancy).
- Emails that are personalized using a lead’s information get 14% higher click-through rates and 10% more conversions (source: Aberdeen Group).
2015 will be the year that full scale personalization hits the early majority. For those of you upset with the second trend in this list, your opportunity will lay in fully integrating personalization into your go-to-market strategy.
Curation As A Driver of Thought Leadership
There’s a lot of noise (and I don’t mean just the crap content) out there today. As more and more people are sharing their insights, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate the signal from the noise. While curation has always been a powerful tool, the demand for people who can create effective filters for their audience will increase in importance.
Major Progress In The Alignment of Marketing & Sales
Please note I say major progress, not full solution. Marketing and sales have always been fraught with conflict, and I don’t expect that to go away for some time. In actuality, some of that conflict is good.
However, the need for sales and marketing to get better aligned is absolutely crucial for those desiring consistency and predictability. As Frank Cespedes, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School said, “As more tools for lead generation and outbound marketing are productively blurring long-standing distinctions between marketing and sales responsibilities in many firms. As a result, companies are rethinking the Marketing/Sales interface.”
The Growing Importance of Sales Ops and Technology
I’ve always felt that the manufacturing line was a great analogy for the ideal sales and marketing process. Historically, the problem has been that the tools and technology didn’t exist for most companies to create such a process.
Not anymore (in the voice of Peter Sellers). As technology continues to advance and companies learn to integrate that technology into their efforts, the need for operations management will increase. 2015 will soon be looked at as the year that a new position – Head of Sales Operations – becomes a mainstream focus.
There you have it. My predictions into what will drive success in 2015 and beyond (in the voice of Buzz Lightyear). What am I missing? What do you think will drive your success?