Mark Wilson of Sybase talks trends for 2010

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Mark Wilson, VP-corporate marketing at database technology company Sybase, has learned a lot about marketing in a recession, particularly when it comes to being frugal.

Like other b-to-b marketers, he and his marketing team faced budget cuts last year and developed ways of doing more with less. In the following interview with BtoB, he shares his views on leading trends for 2010, as well as lessons learned during the recession.

BtoB: What are some of the top trends you expect for b-to-b marketing in 2010?

Wilson: The first one is economic. What we're seeing is a cautious recovery. In terms of tech spending, that will go up about 4%, and that is coming off of it contracting about 8% last year. Between Goldman Sachs, Gartner and IDC, everyone has it in the range of 3% to 5%.

If you look at that growth, it is the nondiscretionary budgets that will come back in a pretty healthy way. The discretionary budgets will come back a little bit more slowly.

What we also see for 2010 is a more systematic approach to social media.

Everyone has put their toes in the water, including us, with social media over the past two years. In 2010, people will be a lot smarter because they will know what works and what hasn't worked with social media.

Another area that will be a top trend is content marketing. Everyone will be smarter about the content they're putting out. They know that it's a lot more cost-effective to use social media and, as a result of a lot of new technologies, it is very efficient to create a message and get it out. The key will be making sure you have very high-quality content.

BtoB: How has the recession changed the way companies will operate in the future?

Wilson: All the cost models for marketing have changed in this recession, and I really think they won't go back to where they were. As a result of a lot more focus on what things cost, as well as all of these new technologies around Web 2.0 and social media, they have all brought the cost models down in terms of how you go out and engage an audience, as well as how you create content. That content could be a blog or a video or a tweet or a newsletter or a podcast or a webcast.

All of the mechanisms to create and distribute that content have come down in a huge way. It will never go back in terms of how expensive it used to be.

Another significant change that happened in the recession is people really having to justify quantitatively their marketing programs. I think that the analytics people have [developed] from this recession will continue on. People will be a lot smarter about how they measure their performance.

The good thing about a recession is that it gets everyone to be laser-focused on what they need to get done and how they will move the business forward. That is good in lean times. When everything is growing, people can be a little bit sloppy in terms of their marketing. So I hope that as a result of this recession, with people being a lot smarter about how they plan and a lot smarter about how they execute, that will continue on. But fundamentally, I think it's never been a better time to be a marketer. Marketers can be a lot more productive in terms of focusing on original ideas.

BtoB: What's the next big thing with social media?

Wilson: I think it is putting a lot more math to social media. Everybody believes in social media and sees how it can be a good idea. The challenge of what's going to happen with social media in 2010 is that enterprises, particularly in b-to-b, will say, “How is social media creating leads for me?” So everyone is going to be focused on the ROI of social media, and everyone will have a very systematic approach to looking at how it really affects their business.

There are a lot of tools that will come out in terms of the ability to measure it, as well as strategize about how you're going to build a social media plan.

BtoB: What are your top marketing priorities for next year?

Wilson: Our top marketing priority is lead generation. We have aggressive growth goals, and we will need to make sure we have the pipeline to support that. So the biggest thing is going to be lead generation, particularly around integrated marketing programs that go after discretionary budgets.

The second thing is overall marketing campaigns to win key market segments. We put a lot of focus around that over the last two years, and we feel that we've gotten positive returns from it. We will continue to execute those types of integrated marketing campaigns. In fact, anything that is not part of an integrated marketing campaign, we will really look to figure out how we take that out of the mix.

We will also put greater investment around our Web site and how we drive people to our Web site.

BtoB: How will you allocate your marketing budget in 2010?

Wilson: We will increase online. The one area of online that will be less is paid search, but for everything else there will be more investment in online. Print is pretty flat from 2009, and events will go down. We'll do more online events and virtual trade shows, and we'll participate less in physical trade shows.

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