It's that time of year when we begin to take stock of where we've been and where we're going. So during this brief window between my turkey coma ending and before the year-end holiday festivities begin, I've been thinking a lot about the state of marketing, particularly in the b-to-b tech space.
Plus, it's a Friday, and I thought the BtoBlog readers might like something lightweight as they head into their weekend. Below are some things I'm thankful for as a marketing leader, and a few that continue to make me cringe. Please share your marketing thanksgivings (and the opposites) in the comments.
- Talent: Yes, there's a severe talent shortage in the world of marketing, but that just makes me more appreciative of A-level talent whenever I see it. Note to marketing execs: If you haven't identified your rock stars—the people who do the work of 2-3 mere mortals—and developed a tailored plan for how to keep them engaged, be afraid. These people are beyond rare and, in this climate, they'll be gone if you don't take good care of them. Heck, I'll hire them!
- Analytics: I honestly don't know how big marketing decisions got made before the Web and the resulting torrent of data. But I know I'm not smart enough to market that way. The maturation of analytics throughout the customer lifecycle—whether it's social analytics, path analysis, LTV calculations or lead scoring— removes much of the guesswork. Put simply, marketing without an accurate, integrated view of your data means you can't bank your lessons or climb the learning curve as fast as your competitors.
- Alignment: There's something magical when all the organizational friction melts away and every group—from marketing to sales to product to operations—aligns around the same North Star and sprints in that shared direction. It doesn't happen often enough, and those periods of alignment don't last long enough. The reason, I believe, is because marketing leaders don't continually invest in the articulation of their brand North Star. So I'm thankful when all the tumblers align, and I'm committed to bringing that phenomenon about on a much more consistent basis.
- Startup life: Building a brand, a demand-gen engine, a team, from scratch is a big challenge and big fun. If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend you add it to your marketing bucket list.
- Relentless customers: Working with clients who push you every single day— testing apps for brands like Google, USA Today, Amazon and LinkedIn—forces us to stay current, keep pushing and never be satisfied. It can be relentless—like running a marathon as a series of sprints—but, if you believe in what you're doing, it's exhilarating. Like a coach or a teammate who pushes you to places you didn't think were attainable.
- The fluid state of social media: Social is easy to do moderately well, but very difficult to do great. And the social landscape—the tool sets, the possibilities, the expectations of users—is changing at a frenetic pace. It's enough to drive a marketing leader crazy, but it's these same challenges that make social such a great opportunity for my (and your) brand. Question: Are you personally spending enough time thinking about the evolving role of social in the never-ending conversation with your customers, prospects and general fans?
- Transparency: In modern marketing, there's less room to hide. Your brand is what your users say it is, every word and action is sharable (and never forgotten), and the digital world is increasingly small. Yes, that same transparency can come back and bite you. But once you come to grips with the fact that the era of pristine, perfect brands is long gone, you can build something more authentic, conversational and human. Yes, warts and all.
And, since I'm a pragmatist at heart, here are a few things that I'm not so thankful for:
- The dearth of analytics about mobile apps: uTest spends its days speaking with companies about their apps, how they're used and how they're perceived by users. My conclusion: Wow, mobile apps are a massive blind spot for brand owners, biz leaders and tech execs. I'm waiting not-so-patiently for this area of mobile to catch up to the rest of the apps economy. And, based upon my conversations with marketers, agencies and other execs, I'm not alone.
- Marketing automation tools: No offense to my friends at these firms, but it's time for someone to blow marketers' minds in this space. Web and mobile experiences are getting increasingly dynamic (driven by AJAX, HTML5, jQuery), yet far too many marketing automation tools are stuck in a page view-driven mindset. And, thus far, I haven't seen adequate support and integration for mobile Web or native apps. Given how important this space is, and the amount of time and money being spent on it, I don't hear nearly enough marketing execs who rave about their marketing automation system. And if I'm wrong, please correct me in the comments ... maybe I just need to find new marketing friends with whom to swap stories.
- The movement toward Agile development and continuous deployment: This one's odd for me to include, since companies moving to Agile has been extremely good for uTest’s Web and mobile app testing business. But the unpublicized byproduct of this shift to a never-ending stream of small releases to various segments of your user base is that it's made it incredibly difficult for product marketers to tell a coherent story around their product.
So what are you thankful for in the realm of b-to-b marketing? And which parts of the space do you think need a complete refresh in the next 12 months? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments.