New Technologies Will Make Marketing More Productive – and Fun
In 1840, farmers made up 69% of the American labor force. It took 150 years for technological advances to reduce that percentage all the way down to 2.6% in 1990.
But now we are on the steep part of the Moore’s Law-driven exponential technology curve. Futurists expect that the kind of huge shifts that took over a century in agriculture will impact many industries and professions much quicker. By 2025, “robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate wide segments of daily life,” according to Business Insider.
Will these massive changes affect the profession and practice of Strategic Marketing? Not only do we think that the answer to that question is an unqualified “yes” – we think the evidence of those changes are already coming into view. And they are, in our opinion, very positive.
Why Automation Is Good for Strategic Marketers
A current day-in-the-life of many B2B marketers is a study in frustration. We consistently hear from our clients at all-sized firms that they are overwhelmed by the demands of execution. They report often feeling like they are on-call assistants helping with the sales opportunity of the day, and the concept of taking time to be strategic seems like a cruel joke. “Being strategic is why I became a marketer, but who has the time?” they lament.
But this will change considerably over the next 5 years. B2B marketers will be able to use desktop software tools to mine every electronic interaction about their products and gain significant insights. Algorithms built into the software will show all the following:
- the true evaluation criteria for their product categories (i.e., benefits sought)
- differences in prospect evaluation criteria (i.e., segmentation)
- perceptions of how their own and competitor’s products are evaluated (i.e., their Ability to Compete)
- advice on targeting, differentiation and positioning strategies.
We will go from today’s strategy-time-starved marketing reality to individual marketers taking on even more product responsibility in the very near future. How? Forward-thinking companies will come to understand the power of being strategic and will see that these new tools radically decrease the time to assess market opportunities.
They’ll assign even more products to each marketer, but each marketer will start with a full-list of segmentation, targeting, differentiation and positioning options. Marketers will spend their time either analyzing and choosing strategic options presented by the technology, or on execution tasks. Contrast that with today, where most are mired in execution tasks all-day, every day.
Evidence That the Change Is Already Happening
Don’t believe it? New technologies are already making this vision possible in the B2C world. Web-scraping and social media listening software is enabling consumer product marketers like Arby’s, Barclay’s, Dell, Gatorade, Moneygram, Pizza Hut and TV Land to understand — in real-time — the sum total of all that’s being said by global prospects and customers in electronic forums. All without convening focus groups, worrying about participant bias – and without paying research incentives!
But what about B2B products? Some believe that the level of online dialogue about technical B2B offerings will be insufficient to learn anything from web-scraping and social media technologies. After all, who is going to discuss the merits of a new medical device or pig vaccine online? Millennials, that’s who.
As this highly-connected generation has begun to move into positions of authority and B2B purchasing power, the volume of online dialogue about B2B products is increasing profoundly. According to Google, already half of B2B buyers are under the age of 35!
Aditya Ghuwalewala, Founder and CEO at MavenMagnet, a market research company that uses these new “scraping and listening” technologies, told us the following: “Our research showed that the B2B customer now does, on average, 75% of their buying research online, growing the importance of online forums, communities, chat rooms and reviews & ratings sites. These are all rich resources of insights for B2B brands.” Aditya estimates that 30% of his current clients are in B2B businesses like green energy and industrial roofing.
Positive Trends in “Traditional” Market Research
So, should B2Bs wait until Millennials fully take over in their industry before doubling down on the coming strategic revolution? If they do, they might miss another, lesser-known trend in B2B marketing – the rapid decrease in the costs of “traditional” market research.
Innovations like online bulletin boards (replacing traditional focus groups) have dropped qualitative research costs by up to 80%. Quantitative surveys, using new technologies to find, survey and analyze participants and their responses, have come down in cost by up to 70%.
But many B2Bs haven’t taken advantage for one big reason: they are still inefficient in how they collate, analyze and organize their disparate research into customer needs, perceptions and competitive analyses. For most, doing more research often means more time assessing the strategic implications of it all – time they don’t have
How to Win in the B2B Strategy Revolution
The good news is, Innovators are already solving this problem. First, they are figuring out how to organize and structure “big data” so that a single research project can replace the high cost of doing separate studies for customer needs, perceptions, ATUs and competitor analysis.
Second, they are creating algorithms that allow for immediate strategic analysis of the research data, yielding options for segmentation, targeting, differentiation and messaging/positioning strategies. (FULL DISCLOSURE: Our own Differentiation IndexTM is one such tool).
To capitalize on these trends in new and traditional research, here are some tips:
- If you aren’t doing market research already, now is the time to look into how you can cost-effectively collect customer and competitive data regarding needs and perceptions
- If there is currently a lot of online dialogue about your product, look into web-scraping and social media listening technologies (such as those provided by the above-mentioned MavenMagnet) to see what you can glean immediately and cost-effectively about your customers and markets
- If you are doing traditional – or any type – of market research, look into consolidating your various customer and competitor projects into a single “product” that also automatically generates strategic options — one that will save strategic-thinking time.
B2B companies that move to take advantage of these positive technological changes will gain competitive advantage and differentiation in what we see as no less than a B2B Strategy Revolution. They will gain tremendous efficiencies in their operation by enabling each marketer to successfully manage more products, and do so very strategically.
They will also be freeing a lot of currently-frustrated marketers from the “sales assistant” trap. And a happy marketer is a creative and successful one!