By Michael De Boer

The day after Labor Day traditionally means the end of summer and the peak season for the next years business planning. For those of you who are responsible for setting your CY 2016 marketing and sales plans - the landscape is vastly different from what it was just last year. Never before in my career have I witnessed this kind of upheaval in the strategies, tactics, tools and systems that need to be part of a successful sales and marketing plan.

No surprise here. Like everything else in our lives lately, it is technology that is driving these changes. We are now all digital/all the time and the data that we have at our finger tips has opened up new ways of gaining customers through the integration of marketing automation, CRM and intent monitoring through data/predictive analytics. If you are not moving your sales and marketing efforts in this direction, now is the time to start. I guarantee you that the best and the brightest minds in business are following this path.

Forrester has stated that we are now in the age of the customer.”  Buyers expect and demand to find all the product information, use cases and user reviews needed to make an informed purchase online prior to making a decision. Even in B2B, approximately 80% of buying decisions are done online - prior to reaching out to a potential vendor. This means that marketers need to be serving up relevant content to buyers as they travel along the path to purchase.

A good example of this new paradigm was an example I heard on NPR recently. The CMO of a luxury car company was stating how the dealership used to be where the rubber met the road (pun intended) for closing sales. Today a buyer enters the dealership having spent a considerable time researching their options. They know the car they want, what features and how much they will pay for it. For the most part, the sales staff at the dealership has now become simply an order taker. Marketing now owns a much larger piece of the sales funnel than sales.

Content marketing has become the hot topic in the past few years as it takes a large amount of searchable written and video pieces of content to attract and convert customers. However, the content needs to be integrated into CRM and Marketing Automation platforms that manage and serve up relevant information at various stages of the old, proverbial sales funnel. Another powerful tool that is now gaining traction is Intent Monitoring via the use of Big Data and Predictive Analytics. It is now possible to see and identify who is in market for your product or service before they hit your site or reach out to a sales person.

My advice for your 2016 planning is that if you expect better or equal results from implementing your same old, tired traditional sales and marketing tactics you will be deeply disappointed. As Bob Dylan said, the times they are a changingand success will go to those who adapt and move with the changes. Plan accordingly.

 

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