This year will see technology, digital content, mobile devices and social networks seamlessly work together to transform b-to-b brand experiences and enable significant improvements in sales effectiveness. These trends are already taking hold and will accelerate at lightning speed as brands and the salespeople who represent them stand to gain or lose their place in the market depending on how fast (and how intelligently) they embrace them. Sales and marketing cooperation will be even more important in this highly competitive environment.
Here are seven key trends to watch in the new year:
Tablet apps will accelerate sales effectiveness: Tablet apps will become a primary catalyst for improving the effectiveness of sales. This will allow b-to-b salespeople to access the latest company content, pitch material, product information and customer testimonials to have more nimble and compelling live interactions with customers and prospects. Using the apps during in-person meetings will have a dramatic impact on the overall brand experience the salesperson delivers.
Mobile adoption will speed response time: Tablet and smartphone apps will accelerate response time between customers/prospects and sales/service reps, giving reps the ability to immediately respond with the right content.
Marketers will need to raise the bar on digital content: The quantity and quality of digital content—video, thought leadership, company content—will rapidly rise as demand and viewership increase. Marketers will be challenged to effectively produce and curate high-quality content that represents their companies' value propositions for a variety of owned, earned and paid media.
Evergreen presence and more dependence on owned and earned media channels: Instead of time-based campaigns, marketers will invest more in providing an evergreen brand presence that supports both sales and customers/prospects with value 365 days a year. As such, there will be more dependence on cost-effective earned and owned media channels to supplement paid ones.
Social scales from networking to conversation and commerce: Social networks will move beyond networking venues and influence b-to-b buyers, who look at social channels to vet potential partners, explore opportunities and resolve business dilemmas. B-to-b marketers will need to take more aggressive, active roles in social networks to contribute meaningful content.
Live events will become 365-day digital events: While the importance of live events will not wane, the overall experience will be transformed digitally so that access to presentations and other event activities will be professionally reproduced to provide richer and broader access to the content.
B-to-b ROI automation will drive accountability: Return on investment will be better defined thanks to marketing automation and analytics that tap into transparent, real-time digital channels and enable b-to-b marketing programs to be more accountable in driving sales.
Dennis Reilly is senior VP-business director at global integrated brand agency Digitas, New York. He can be reached at Dennis.Reilly@digitas.com.