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Marketers know the ground is shifting under their feet -- but, for some, reality still needs to sink in when it comes to how to make technology purchases that reflect this changing universe.
So, what's changed, exactly? According to experts, the web has made marketers' jobs much more difficult. Now they have to deal with consumers who have already done research online and know about pricing, features and other product information. Marketing and selling to an increasingly savvy and discerning audience requires new tactics, such as more personalization and customer segmentation, better and more informative content (through the use of inbound marketing), comprehensive omnichannel capabilities, more social media monitoring tools, location-based tools, and, of course, better analytics on campaign effectiveness.
Organizations that don't have marketing software tools at the ready are likely to produce tone-deaf, ineffective campaigns that fall flat. Without these tools, it's difficult to influence the decision-making of buyers, 67% of whom have already researched what to buy online by the time that they're ready to purchase.
And now that there is a buying team, reaching decision-makers is also more complex. Previously, the buying team was made up of just the CIO and another technologist. Today, these teams include business users who can weigh in on their requirements and the usability of the technology.
Technology is only part of the answer
One answer to these developments, and a key to developing a new marketing software tools strategy, has been the advent of account-based marketing (ABM), or tools to identify members of the buying team and to establish triggers that indicate a company is ready to buy. This enables sales and marketing to reach out to members of the buying team at the right time and with the knowledge that they are decision-makers. Much has been made of software tools like ABM because they are seen as ways to eliminate the cold call and take the guesswork out of targeting the right audience of prospects and existing customers.
Inbound marketing and social monitoring have to be paired with ABM. Organizations need to cultivate prospects and existing customers throughout their journey; from initial education through purchase, to upgrade or purchase of ongoing services.
Tactics like inbound marketing can help you educate consumers about your offerings and help you stay top of mind until they are ready to buy. But keep in mind that inbound marketing works only insofar as the content is compelling and informative, and is not just celebrating a given vendor's products.
Social monitoring tools are also critical to gauging buyers' and prospects' interests and readiness to buy. Though, as this past year's presidential election indicated, gauging public sentiment through analytics tools can send organizations wayward. Survey data may provide additional indicators about buying readiness.
Ultimately, technology can go only so far. So if you think the solution is just buying better technology, hold up. According to recent Nucleus Research data, marketing automation software brings a 15% increase in sales productivity and a 12% reduction in marketing overhead. At the same time, according to data from SiriusDecisions, 85% of business-to-business marketers said they were not using their marketing automation software to its full potential.
So what's the answer to this predicament: Is it to buy, or not to buy? According to experts, buying new marketing tools is only part of the equation. Companies need to think about their existing marketing and sales infrastructure, their in-house skill sets and resources, and their own operations before they purchase technology suites. It's not just a question of upgrading marketing software tools – it's also about considering upgrading your strategy surrounding these tools.
That said, not all suites are created equal, and there are features and capabilities to consider as you go through the buying process and construct your request for proposal. Developing a solid strategy is no longer a guessing game -- it's a proven path to marketing success.
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