1) Data is Free, Relationships are Not: As contact data becomes more and more available, approaching free in many cases, the value of the relationship will increase. As part of a continuing trend, the ability of your audience to block, prevent, and ignore communications that they don’t desire will increase, with reduces the value of the data (who they are), and increases the value of the relationship (their perception of you). Marketers who think this way, and truly work to provide valuable information to their audience, will do well.
2) Relationships, Education, and Nurturing: The trend in data becoming free (prediction 1) will work in parallel with a trend in information, of relevance to buyers, being expected to be free. Buying relationships will be more and more built on a foundation of buyer education, and the B2B organizations who can educate and nurture prospective buyers over time, without annoying them will win. This means an investment not just in the rich educational content, but also in systems to automatically understand buyer interest and deliver (or have discovered) educational content appropriate to the buyer’s next step.
3) A Degree in Marketing Engineering?: As marketing shifts towards a discipline whereby prospective buyers are understood based on their behavior, and the right content, according to where they are in their buying cycles, is delivered, marketing skills become more operational, process, and data oriented. Marketing hiring will swing towards backgrounds that have these data, operations, and process skills more so than copy and creative skills. Marketing education likely won’t change in this regard during 2010, but the initial discussions will start.
4) Mobile Thinking vs Mobile Devices: Every year in living memory has been talked about as the year that mobile will become big. I think that this coming year will finally see that claim begin to disappear. Sort of. Now that various devices such as the iPhone, are truly able to support a rich, interactive, graphical environment, interacting with your audience in places where they are mobile becomes very possible, but the device, and mobile-specific technology, almost becomes irrelevant. Thinking about what will motivate an audience to act, when they are at a show, see a poster, or are at a venue, how they can connect (text message, or short URL), and what the interaction should be will become part of many B2B marketers’ thinking. Specific mobile technologies, however, will not move beyond niche applications.
5) Brand Promise/Reality Gap Reduction: The trend that social media kicked into high gear in 2009 will continue into 2010; any organization that has a significant gap between their brand promise, and their brand reality will have that gap mercilessly exposed through social media and community-created content. 2010 will see aggressive adoption of basic listening techniques by marketers in order to understand where they are falling short. The gaps here will lead to a much broader discussion of what “brand” means to a B2B organization, that goes beyond logos, taglines, and colors.
6) Marketing Owns The Brand: 2010 may see some very early reshuffling of the decks in terms of what Marketing owns. Social media (prediction 5) will broaden the discussion of “brand” from logos and taglines to the full offering including service and product. A few very early examples will arise of organizations in B2B who have changed their definition of the Marketing team to truly provide them with greatly enhanced ownership or influence into the product/solution areas of the business as well as the services areas around it, as those are both critical to overall company brand and reputation. We likely won’t see mainstream shifts in this ownership until 2011 or beyond.
7) Follow me, Friend me, or List me: in 2010 we’ll see a dramatic shift in the definitions of influence in social media as we move from raw counts (like Followers or Friends) which are almost entirely ignorable, and to a model that comes one step closer to true influence. Each social media site will implement things differently, but an “inner circle” model of people who one actually pays attention to, versus just being a connection, will rapidly grow in relevance. Social media sites that do this well will balance the need for public awareness of how influential a person is (how many inner circles, they are part of) without making it so public that it is widely manipulated or gamed (like Twitter follower counts, for example).
8) Information Discovery Measurements: As marketers begin to cede control of the messages they push out, and begin to act more like publishers without assuming control of the distribution, they will begin to look for measurements of information discovery as their key driver. How, where, and from whom, did an individual discover information relevant to key stages in her buying process. Rather than measure individual outbound campaigns, measuring the likelihood of individual messages to be discovered, ideally through sharing and forwarding, will become more key to marketers.
9) Social Activity, Lead Scoring, and Lead Nurturing: As buyers begin to get more and more of the messages, information, and education through their peers, and through social media, these channels will quickly grow in their relevance to lead scoring and lead nurturing approaches. Awareness of how an individual discovered a message, where, and from whom (prediction 8) will feature very prominently in the lead scoring and lead nurturing routines of leading marketers.
10) Digital Body Language vs. the Discovery Call: As buyers gather most, if not all, of their early information (prediction 2) on the vendors they are considering speaking with online, the role of the salesperson’s “discovery call” shrinks and changes. In 2010, in sales organizations, we will see a rapid recognition of the new reality that buyers are less willing to take an initial call from a vendor salesperson with an assumption of only exchanging basic information. If sales people want to engage with buyers they will need to read buyers’ digital body language, and ensure that they are able to add more value than Google on the initial sales call. If sales teams do not have access to this information they will begin to push their marketing teams to provide it.
What do you think? Are these predictions likely to happen? I look forward to your thoughts on these.