Is 2019 finally the year to make use of your existing marketing tools?

Rather than looking at the cutting-edge trends in marketing tools and methodology, take the time to get retrospective and take a second look at what you already have at your disposal, writes Kieron McCann of Cognifide 

This is not an article on predictions - those happen in December. This is an article partially about retrospection, but also about a call to action. As we start the last year of the decade, I’ve been looking back at what has been happening in digital marketing over the last 10 years. Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves how far we’ve come in some areas, and to kick ourselves at how little progress we’ve made in others.

2009's marketing predictions, 10 years on

A review of predictions for marketing in 2010 by marketing luminaries around the world reminds us that in December 2009 the following things were top of mind:

  • Social media was becoming ‘a thing’ that marketers should take notice of - Twitter had racked up 18 million users and Google+ was going to revolutionise B2B social(!). Some smart cookies were even beginning to suspect that social might not actually be ‘free’. Today we know that it is neither free in the sense of money, nor liberty.
  • Search engine optimisation was pretty important. I guess it still is, but it’s certainly not as much of a task as it was in the days when you knew how it worked!
  • Mobile marketing was also ‘a thing’ and some people were talking about m-commerce. The iPhone 3GS was wiping the floor with the Nokia N97 and the Blackberry Storm. 
  • ‘Content Marketing’ was starting to build momentum - brands and marketers could become publishers of their own content! 
  • Blogging with comments was a new tool to engage with audiences as websites were becoming 'two way'.
  • Email marketing was still the most effective tool out there (plus ça change).
  • Tools were emerging that could automate marketing and measure ROI as we were still in the grip of the financial crisis. That was back when we had a loose idea of what marketing automation was before it became 3000 vendors claiming the nebulous space somewhere between email autoresponders and, well, everything.
  • Video marketing was ‘hot’ - did you know you could even create your own online or mobile video content!

For each of these trends and more, there has been a proliferation of digital tools. It seems the last decade has been an ever-accelerating carousel of new technologies and digital marketing software gizmos, and collectively we’ve been investing in all of them.  

What many of us haven’t been doing is knitting them together into a cohesive experience. Marketing has become a Russian Doll - sitting in its silo, and within that silo are a series of other siloes, some looking at content, some looking at web, some looking at mobile, apps, email, automation, search, content, etc. 

As marketers in 2019, we need to think less about the tools. We need to think more about how we are going to use them to deliver a consistent and continuous customer experience throughout the customer lifecycle. 

Tech vendors take notice

As B2B marketers, we often look across at our B2C colleagues and their massive budgets with envy. But perhaps the pendulum is swinging our way. Certainly, it appears that the tech vendors have taken notice. Adobe’s acquisition of Marketo towards the end of last year for a monster $4.75 billion has signalled that a major B2C vendor has started to take notice of B2B.  

Maybe 2019 is the year where we stop thinking about technology in isolation, but as only one element of a kaleidoscope of capabilities needed to deliver exceptional customer experience. Perhaps this is the year that the way we work becomes more important than the tools we work with. The way in which marketing teams are organised is changing. Agile marketing approaches mean our approach is starting to become much more longitudinal, with specific ‘experience features’ being completely managed by small, multidisciplinary teams throughout the customer lifecycle.

Taking ownership of business goals

In B2B we build deep insight into our clients and, hopefully, we work with them over a period of years, or even decades. We have a swag of tools at our disposal, from content management systems, through to advanced analytics tools and marketing automation systems. We also tend to work collaboratively with sales, and customer service and billing. Well, ok, perhaps we could do a bit more there!

When everyone has the same tools in their armoury, then people, skills, data, analytics and ways of working become more important. In 2019, we marketers need to be lifting our heads up and thinking hard about how we are going to take ownership of delivering the strategic goals of our businesses. We need to think about the role that customer experience plays in delivering on those goals and think about the capabilities we need across our organisation to deliver on those experiences. This covers both the technical platforms and data we use, but also the people and business processes we need in place to really get the most out of them.

Or I could be wrong. We could just continue to buy the latest shiny toys, carry on working the way we have always worked and I’ll be back to remind us where we’ve been in 2029. I hear AI is going to be really big this year...