Cloudy with a Chance of Fog: A Quick Cloud Computing Update

Cloudy with a Chance of Fog: A Quick Cloud Computing Update

Gartner’s latest Hype Cycle for cloud computing shows the technology has now reached the Slope of Enlightenment stage. That means the Cloud has already drifted past the first three hype levels—Innovation Trigger, Peak of Inflated Expectations, and Trough of Disillusionment—and is steadily climbing toward the Plateau of Productivity phase. It’s about time, too. Today, the Cloud ranks among the most disruptive and groundbreaking IT innovations ever.

A little over 10 years ago, cloud computing started life as a buzzword for server virtualization. Back then, slapping the word “cloud” onto anything that resembled shared hosting, colocation, or other service-based IT solutions allowed vendors to tout decades-old products as newfangled innovations. This raised a lot of confusion around the technology, and it wasn’t until 2010 when Gartner published the IaaS Magic Quadrant that the skies finally started to clear (so to speak) for cloud computing.

Fast forward to 2018, and the Cloud has evolved into a must-have business technology. Almost all companies (regardless of size, industry, or location) now rely on the Cloud for a broad spectrum of business needs—from SaaS-based versions of legacy apps to IaaS-deployed strategic enterprise-level systems.

Much of this change stems from the continued expansion of use cases for cloud computing beyond cost-savings and productivity gains. Practically all the major IT innovations in the recent two years (such as the blockchain, AI, quantum computing, etc.,) owe much of their existence to the Cloud.

That’s why keeping up with the Cloud’s rapid evolution can be daunting. In today’s post, we’ll check in on the current state of cloud computing and look at the changes at different angles, from overall trends all the way to industry-specific usage and adoption.

Related: 5 Steps to Future-Proof Your Go-to Market Strategy for Cloud Services

 

A View Above the Cloud Tops

A View Above the Cloud Tops

Let’s first take a 30,000-foot view of what’s going on right now in cloud computing. There’s a lot happening, but we’ll just focus on what’s really driving the changes.

 

Growth in Cloud Computing

Although figures for the size and growth rate of the global cloud computing market vary from one research firm to another, the numbers all point to one thing: the Cloud continues to get bigger at a faster rate.

Gartner predicts that by the end of 2017, total worldwide revenues from public cloud computing will grow by 18% from the previous year’s figure to $247 billion. Meanwhile, IDC puts the current size of the public cloud market at $122 billion with a growth rate of 24% year-on-year.

Taking a longer-term view, Forrester forecasts that the public Cloud will reach $236 billion in 2020, while Bane and Co. places this figure at $390 billion. Gartner sees cloud computing’s market size growing to over $411 billion by 2020.

The Cloud Wars

A handful of large companies control a huge chunk of the different public cloud segments. These powerhouses have dominated the Cloud for several years now and are still expanding at phenomenal rates—at the expense of non-cloud IT companies and other smaller cloud providers.

Forrester reports that in 2018, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, and Microsoft will capture 76% of the platform cloud market, a number which will grow to 80% in 2020.

In a recent article, Forbes points out that IBM is also firmly engaged in the Cloud Wars as the company recorded revenue numbers that firmly put it in third place behind Microsoft and Amazon. In addition, Goldman Sachs analyst Heather Bellini believes that Alibaba (alongside Amazon, Microsoft, and Google) will also become a cloud market leader.

The Key Overall Trends

For the overall cloud market, a few underlying trends drive much of the evolution we’re seeing. Most industry sources, such as Forrester’s 2018 Cloud Predictions report, say that the main developments reshaping the Cloud include:

  • Market consolidation among a few providers (as we’ve seen earlier)
  • The shift by SaaS companies toward platforms in place of apps (ecosystems rather than functionality).
  • Kubernetes becoming the de facto container orchestration platform of choice
  • Surge in private and hybrid cloud usage and spending
  • Accelerated adoption of AI-powered analytics
  • Growth in next-generation cloud storage, edge computing, serverless platforms, and other recent innovations

We’ll go into some of these points in greater detail later.

 

Peeling Back the Cloud, Layer by Layer

Peeling Back the Cloud, Layer by Layer

For this section, we’ll zoom in a little bit and find out what’s brewing in each of the Cloud’s three main segments. While the overall Cloud market size shows a healthy pace of expansion, growth doesn’t appear to be evenly distributed between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.

 

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

Latest research from IDC shows that the IaaS segment now accounts for 17.8% of the public cloud market (the second biggest among the three categories) with a year-on-year growth rate of 38.1% (the second fastest among the three). These figures point to the IaaS segment’s accelerating growth, especially when taking into account the 31% expansion rate reported by Gartner for the prior year.

According to IDC, a huge portion of this segment’s continued growth comes from strong enterprise demand and sustained investments by providers in this space. This, in turn, drives the increase in the “range and granularity” of IaaS offerings, resulting in wider adoption. For example, new releases like Azure Stack and VMware Cloud on AWS have lowered the barrier to implementation for a lot of enterprise customers in need of hybrid cloud setups. Network World outlines these growth drivers as follows:

  • Mass enterprise adoption (60% of enterprise workloads will be off-premises by 2018)
  • Cloud-based machine learning and AI (tools like Google’s TensorFlow)
  • Hybrid cloud (the public cloud on-ramp)
  • Cloud usage management tools (VM usage, capacity planning, access controls, etc.)
  • Data center proliferation (increase data center build-outs in different parts of the world)

Amazon continues to dominate the public IaaS sector with a 44.2% market share, followed by Microsoft (7.1%), Alibaba (3%), and Google (2.3%).

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

The PaaS segment holds the smallest market size among the three cloud computing categories but outpaces the other service areas in terms of growth. IDC estimates that PaaS makes up 13.6% of the worldwide public cloud market with a growth rate of 50.2% year-on-year.

Thanks to its reputation as a secure and scalable enterprise application development platform, the PaaS segment will continue to see strong double-digit growth in the near future, according to Gartner. Meanwhile, IDC points to the rapid adoption of container technology as the main driver of the segment’s current expansion, along with the following trends (identified by GIA Research):

  • Higher usage of containers in production environments
  • Adoption of cloud computing among application-independent software vendors (ISVs)
  • Opportunities in the application infrastructure & middleware market
  • Growing focus on cloud integration
  • Big data and data integration

Synergy Research cites Amazon as the clear leader in the PaaS segment with a market share of 40%, which is larger than the next three players (Microsoft, Google, and IBM) combined.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

According to IDC, Nearly 69% of the global public cloud market belongs to the SaaS segment. But with the ready availability of thousands of SaaS applications from thousands of SaaS vendors (both tech giants and startups) and the segment’s relative maturity, there’s now some level of commoditization sweeping across the SaaS sector. While this service area still sees some strong two-digit growth (about 23% by IDC’s recent count), it actually has the slowest rate of expansion in the Cloud space.

Still, SaaS remains a prime area for growth and disruption as businesses continue moving apps off-premises in droves, and as more organizations consider migrating larger, business-critical tools (like ERP, SCM and other strategic systems) to the Cloud. Most innovations we’re seeing in SaaS today revolve around the following key trends:

  • Industry-specific specialization through vertical SaaS
  • PaaS capabilities to let customer build on top of existing apps
  • Growing need for APIs and SDKs to integrate SaaS apps with legacy business systems
  • Increased competition leading to micro-SaaS (niche) players
  • SMBs’ rising demand for CRM, business analytics, and storage solutions

Recent data from Synergy Research indicates that Microsoft leads the enterprise SaaS market, followed by Salesforce, Adobe, Oracle, and SAP.

Related: Answering Quora: Who are the best SaaS Marketing Agencies in the US, and UK?

 

Keeping the Cloud Aloft

Keeping the Cloud Aloft

Most businesses now follow a cloud-first approach in their IT strategy. That’s why spending on hosted/cloud services currently takes up a bigger share of the IT budget and has become the fastest-growing IT expenditure item for most organizations.

 

Cloud Usage and Adoption

The Cloud is seeing increased usage and adoption rates among businesses across the board. But the numbers vary according to business size, cloud architecture (public vs. private. Vs. hybrid), and cloud segment. RightScale’s State of the Cloud Report shows some very telling cloud adoption/usage trends:

  • SMB companies run 79% of workloads in the Cloud (41% in public cloud and 38% in private cloud).
  • Large enterprises run 75% of workloads in the Cloud (32% in public cloud and 43% in private cloud)
  • Cloud users are running applications in an average of 1.8 public clouds and 2.3 private clouds.
  • 85% of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy (a combination of public and private cloud architectures).
  • Barriers to cloud adoption (e.g., expertise, security, budget, etc.) are becoming lower.

Another survey, Building Trust in a Cloudy Sky: The State of Cloud Adoption and Security from Intel Security offers up the following highlights:

  • Hybrid cloud adoption increased 3-fold in 2017, from 19% to 57%.
  • 73% of companies are planning to move to a fully software-defined data center within 2 years.
  • 49% of businesses blame security skills gap as the top barrier to cloud deployment.
  • Public cloud adoption rates are highest among services companies (28%), while private cloud adoption is highest for engineering (30%) and government organizations (29%).
  • 83% of organizations are actively using containers.

A survey by North Bridge Venture Partners and Gigaom Research records the following adoption rates per cloud segment: 74% for SaaS, 56% for IaaS, and 41% for PaaS.

Spending on Cloud Services

With their usage and adoption of cloud services growing, companies are setting and spending a bigger chunk of the IT budget on cloud computing. In their recent report 2018 State of IT: Trends, Budgets, and Purchase Drivers, Spiceworks notes the following budget trends for cloud services:

  • Companies allocate 21% of their 2018 IT budget for cloud services.
  • Cloud computing is the fastest-growing budget item in the IT budget.
  • Bigger companies are more likely to increase their cloud budget than smaller organizations.
  • A breakdown of cloud budget includes: backup/recovery (15%), productivity (10%), business support apps (6%), industry-specific apps (6%), security (6%), IaaS (6%), cloud storage (6%), PaaS (4%).

IDC’s research on worldwide public cloud spending notes the following key findings:

  • SaaS accounts for more than two-thirds of public cloud spending, but spending on IaaS and PaaS grows faster.
  • Over a third of total public cloud spending comes from the discrete manufacturing, professional services, and banking industries.
  • Nearly half of all public cloud spending comes from large companies, while medium-sized organizations’ cloud spending makes up 20% of the total.
  • The U.S. drives 60% of total global public cloud revenues.

Related: Marketing: How to Convince Prospects to Move to the Cloud

 

A Tour of Cloud-swept Industries

A Tour of Cloud-swept Industries

Let’s now take a look at developments in cloud computing for specific industries. While the Cloud transforms every single sector in the global economy, we’ll simply focus on the financial services, healthcare, and manufacturing verticals for this post. That’s because these three sectors are among the industries which will be massively impacted by the Cloud, according to a 2016 Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) study.

 

Financial Services

In a heavily-regulated industry like the financial services sector, compliance is a huge factor that determines how quickly firms in the sector adopt new technologies like the Cloud. With highly sensitive data involved, security and privacy also rank high on the list of barriers to implementation.

Now, as more and more cloud providers tailor their offerings to meet the industry’s needs, many financial services firms are moving their applications to the public cloud. Deloitte Insights points to a number of developments that helped increase cloud adoption and usage in the financial services industry:

  • Improved data security and privacy capabilities
  • Narrowing gaps in skills and expertise
  • Lesser apprehensions about vendor lock-in
  • Willingness to reengineer internal processes and workflows

As a result, two key trends now shape how the Cloud impacts this sector. The first is the adoption of cloud-based applications for back-office and customer-facing internal systems. The second is the emergence of FinTech solutions that provide cloud-enabled apps and software for delivery of financial services.

Healthcare

Similar to financial services, the healthcare sector has notoriously been slow to adopt cloud technology because of serious compliance concerns and data security issues. For some time after other industries started moving to the public cloud in earnest, healthcare’s cloud adoption rates remained among the lowest.

But now, healthcare organizations’ attitude toward the public cloud has dramatically changed—as cloud providers start widely using tools like end-to-end data encryption, access management services, HIPAA-compliant protocols, and personal health information protection agreements.

According to the Healthcare Information Management Society (HIMS), more than 80% of healthcare IT organizations use some form of cloud computing. The sector is projected to see double-digit growth in cloud spending, which is expected to reach more than $20 billion this year. The EIU outlines a few cloud computing use cases in the healthcare industry as follows:

  • Remote diagnostics and treatment
  • Supporting preventative care
  • Improving treatment outcomes
  • Point-of-care access to medical data
  • Development of mobile and IoT ecosystems

Manufacturing

Cloud computing had also been slow to take off in the manufacturing space. According to the EIU, this largely stemmed from the intrinsic complexity of manufacturing processes (i.e., the need to embed cloud computing into a physical system). This kept switching costs and barriers to adoption very high for most manufacturers that moving away from legacy IT systems wasn’t a viable option.

Today, however, manufacturers are heavily investing in cloud-based IT platforms like IoT integration, greatly expanding the industry’s cloud adoption and usage. Figures from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) show that the doubling in manufacturers’ IT expenditures reflect increased spending on cloud-based software, storage, and design, as well as customer-facing and back-office systems.

An IDC survey of manufacturing firms supports this finding and reveals a clear uptrend in the industry’s reliance on cloud computing:

  • 66% of respondents use a public cloud implementation of 2 or more applications, while 68% use a private cloud.
  • Respondents also plan to increase the Cloud’s share in the annual IT budget by 27% for 2017.
  • Cloud-based services will make up almost 50% of organization-level software usage among manufacturers by 2023.

The EIU also reveals several key areas where the Cloud plays a big role in manufacturing: production processes, supply chain management, design and prototyping, and inventory/order/distribution management.

Related: Sales and Marketing Basics for the Cloud Crowd

 

The Cloudy Skies Ahead

The Cloudy Skies Ahead

To wrap up this post, let’s check out recent cloud innovations that experts predict will reshape the technology in the very near future.

 

AI-enabled Enterprise IoT

As the number of enterprise IoT projects double and IoT standardization/interoperability initiatives start taking root, the technology is finally ready for primetime. That’s according to Real-Time Business Insights, who also points out that enterprises now leverage IoT capabilities to generate measurable business value rather than simply using IoT as a means for connecting devices.

AI enables much of this transformation. By embedding AI and machine learning into IoT systems, AI becomes the brain while IoT provides ways to both gather data and to act on AI’s decisions. This synergy is already being used in manufacturing (predictive analytics), healthcare (remote patient monitoring), and other industries.

Serverless Architectures

Serverless computing started generating buzz in the developer community in 2014 when Amazon launched AWS Lambda as a cloud service to help developers focus on the application at the task level, without worrying about managing server-level resources or processes.

It’s now one of the biggest trends in cloud computing. Going serverless means that developers simply have to run their code via hosting providers (like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM). These vendors, in turn, manage application runtimes (load balancing, server provisioning, OS infrastructure, etc.) and deliver resources (compute times) needed by the application on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Edge and Fog Computing

Edge and fog computing are ways to efficiently manage the massive amounts of data generated by IoT devices. These two related architectures minimize latency in the Cloud by carrying out much of the critical data processing close to where the data comes from (e.g., sensors, relays, and other connected devices), rather than doing all the needed computing at traditional cloud data centers.

While these two terms are often used interchangeably, there’s actually a crucial difference between the two architectures. In edge computing, data processing takes place directly inside connected devices (e.g. programmable automation controllers). Fog architectures, on the other hand, move computing to the local area network level (e.g., fog node or IoT gateway).

IDC predicts that by 2020, 45% of the data created by IoT devices will be stored and analyzed at or near the network’s periphery. Industries like manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, and telecom are already seeing the benefits of faster, near-real-time, and continuous data processing from connected devices.

Related: Selling Tips to Make Prospects Buy your Software

 

 

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The B2B Buying Process Has Changed: Here’s How Not to Get Left Behind

What Dating Teaches Us About Face-to-Face Sales Meetings [INFOGRAPHIC]

Meeting a potential customer in person for the first time is a lot like going on a first date. After coming across each other online and a lengthy back-and-forth through emails, calls, chat and social media, both you and the prospect finally decide to meet face-to-face to see if it makes sense to take your relationship to the next level.

Like dating, in-person sales meetings involve a delicate balancing act of rules, norms, and customs. In fact, a lot of the best practices we follow in the world of dating also apply to the way we prepare and carry out face-to-face sales meetings. Here’s a neat little infographic that shows a few of these lessons.

 

What Dating Teaches Us About Face-to-Face Sales Meetings

 

Face-to-face meetings remain one of the best channels to nurture opportunities and to turn them into customers. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article says face-to-face requests are 34% more successful than emails.

That’s why, this Valentine’s season, let’s take a close look at some dating best practices to help us have better in-person sales meetings.

 

#1 There’s no such thing as over-preparation.

That old saying about first impressions is true. You don’t want to leave the wrong impression on your date or prospect because, in most cases, it’s going to be the only thing they’ll remember about you. That’s why, in dating and in face-to-face sales meetings, there’s no such thing as too much preparation.

So start your preparations by setting specific goals. Don’t just say “to learn more about the prospect”. Instead, write out what particular things about the prospect’s company or pain point you’d like to find out.

Also, your appearance matters more than you think. To make sure you’re properly dressed, think about the meeting’s setting and use social media to get a sense of the prospect’s style.

Always do your homework before showing up for a meeting with a prospect. Pull up the prospect’s CRM record, read up on relevant company/industry developments, or find a common personal thing you can bring up in your conversation. There’s a reason why 43% of singles google someone before their first date, and why 63% of B2B buyers start the purchase journey with an Internet search.

Related: 6 Ways a SMART Telemarketing Platform Doubles Sales Productivity

 

#2 It’s all about communication, communication, communication.

Recently, author Mark Manson shared the relationship advice he got from 1,500 of his subscribers. The survey showed that people in ongoing long-term relationships cited respect (not communication) as the number-one factor in a happy marriage.

But when you’re only taking the first steps in a relationship (such as when going on a date), it’s all about communication. You can say the same thing about meeting a sales prospect in person for the first time. Communication makes or breaks deals.

Related: What to do After a Horrible Sales Call?

Communication takes on various forms in an in-person meeting. It’s both what you say and what you don’t say—as well as what you do and don’t do. For example, the time you arrive speaks volumes: too early, and the prospect might think you’re too eager; too late, and there might not be a meeting when you get there.

You already know that communication is 93% nonverbal, so pay attention to both you and your prospect’s body language. What about the remaining 7%? Let your prospect do most of the talking, but don’t appear uninterested or (worse) unknowledgeable.

Related: 5 Data-backed Tips for Better Phone-based Sales Presentations

 

#3 The first meeting is only the beginning.

Obviously, the first date isn’t the time to be making some serious commitment. Although you really can’t fit relationships into a one-size-fits-all timeline, some sources suggest that it takes 6 to 8 dates before couples become “exclusive”.

In today’s fast-changing B2B buying landscape, where purchase cycles are getting longer and more stakeholders make the buying decision, the first in-person sales meeting isn’t the time to be closing. In fact, for complex-sale products, there isn’t much to expect from the first few in-person meetings other than to make sure there’s really a good fit.

That’s why there’s no need for the hard sell or to offer your pitch on your very first sales meeting. If everything works out, it’s only just the beginning. Instead of “always be closing”, why not try “always be following up”?

Related: 5 Winning Sales Cadence Examples (and Lessons to Draw from Them)

 

Happy Valentine’s!

 

 

 

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Get qualified Sales Leads or Learn more about Callbox Multi-Channel Marketing Strategy

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The B2B Buying Process Has Changed: Here’s How Not to Get Left Behind

10 Undeniable Ways Mobile is Reshaping B2B Marketing [INFOGRAPHIC]

10 Undeniable Ways Mobile is Reshaping B2B Marketing [INFOGRAPHIC]

We’ve seen how the B2B buying process has changed and how the conversion funnel has evolved along with it. Mobile drives a huge part of this shift. It makes the nonlinear, self-directed buying journey possible by making information and engagement available at the times and places where prospects want or need them the most.

This infographic shows exactly how the move toward mobile impacts B2B marketing. From the sources we looked at, mobile is reshaping the B2B marketing landscape in 10 distinct ways, from both marketers’ and prospects’ points of view.

 

10 Undeniable Ways Mobile is Reshaping B2B Marketing

 

These 10 trends point to 3 main themes:

 

#1 Mobile contributes to business results

A 2017 study from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) finds that mobile accounts for at least 40% of B2B companies’ revenues. That’s apparently only the tip of the iceberg.

Salesforce surveyed B2B buyers in 2016 and found that mobile was a crucial tool for practically all B2B decision-makers. In the study, 84% of millennials considered mobile as necessary for their work, while 76% of Gen Xers and 60% of baby boomers agreed with this.

Also, BCG points out that mobile shortens the time it takes to make a purchase decision by as much as 20%. This is because mobile keeps information within easy reach throughout the buying journey, and enables close collaboration among stakeholders.

Related: Does the Versatility of Mobile Marketing Have a Place in B2B?

#2 Usage and adoption continue to grow

It’s also clear that more and more B2B buyers do much of their pre-purchase research on mobile devices. According to the BCG report, around half of all B2B search queries are made on a smartphone. Meanwhile, data cited by eMarketer shows that 82% of B2B buyers access content via a smartphone and 56% through a tablet.

B2B prospects’ work-related usage of mobile devices is also seeing some significant uptick. The above Salesforce survey notes that time spent using mobile devices for work has increased for 63% of B2B buyers. BCG also predicts that by 2020, B2B employees’ daily use of mobile devices will reach 3 hours on average.

#3 Mobile-first, not mobile-only

Mobile’s growing importance for both marketers and buyers, however, doesn’t mean these two groups solely focus on mobile alone. In fact, mobile forms part of an “omnichannel” strategy that brings a seamless experience for B2B buyers across multiple devices and touch points, similar to what consumers encounter all the time.

That’s why, according to IBM, close to 80% of B2B buyers want a B2C experience, and 85% of B2B organizations are more than happy to deliver.

Delivering a rich mobile experience isn’t only a good idea, it’s a profitable strategy. BCG’s research also reveals that mobile encourages repeat business and builds long-term relationships when done right.

 

 

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The B2B Buying Process Has Changed: Here’s How Not to Get Left Behind

The B2B Buying Process Has Changed: Here’s How Not to Get Left Behind

The B2B Buying Process Has Changed: Here’s How Not to Get Left Behind

There’s no denying it now. We’re not in Kansas anymore.The days when marketers took charge of the buyer’s purchase journey are long gone. Buyers now arrive at a purchase decision largely out of their own accord, with little to no direct involvement from marketing teams or sales reps. Buyers reach out to vendors only when they’ve learned all they can about the product or service, overturning our traditional roles as gatekeepers of information.

Nowadays, B2B buyers are already 57% into the purchase decision when they first reach out to a vendor. Prospects spend the bulk of that time researching about a business problem or solution on their own. That’s because only 13% of B2B buyers think sales reps genuinely understand their needs. As a result, less than 30% of B2B buyers want to talk to sales when purchasing.

What this means is that marketing is taking more and more of the responsibilities traditionally assigned to sales. Marketing’s role has expanded from initiating interest to educating prospects. In other words, the conversion funnel is also evolving along with the changing buying cycle.

Let’s take a look at how the old purchase process has evolved into what we now consider as the modern B2B buying landscape. More importantly, though, let’s talk about ways to make sure that your own marketing and sales processes keep up with the times.

 

B2B Buying Cycle Stages: Then and Now

 

B2B Buying Cycle Stages: Then and Now

In order to really understand how much today’s B2B buying cycle has changed, it helps to compare it with what it looked like years ago.

Traditional B2B Purchase Process

Traditional B2B Purchase Process

The B2B buying process used to be pretty straightforward. Businesses reached out to vendors and communicated with sales reps who, in turn, pitched them on the potential solution. If the buyer liked what she heard, she signs the contract.

Most traditional buying cycle models (including those still in use today) are based on some variation of the basic three-step buyer’s journey. As HubSpot explains, the process consists of the following stages:

#1 Awareness

This is the point in the buyer’s journey where the prospect realizes there’s a problem. It’s also the time when the prospect becomes aware that you or some other vendor probably has the solution.

During the awareness step, prospects focus on understanding as much as they can about the problem or pain point. They don’t really care that much about specific vendors or brands at this stage.

#2 Consideration

When potential buyers clearly specify the problem and narrow down possible choices, they’re in the consideration stage. This is the time when prospects start evaluating individual vendors and comparing them with one another.

Salesforce breaks this step down further into:

  • Research (in-depth evaluation of each vendor)
  • Comparison (going into product details, demos, and pricing)
  • Justification (securing buy-in from other stakeholders)

#3 Decision

This is the last step in the process. At this point, the buyer believes your solution solves the problem but still needs to clear a few hurdles in order to become a valid purchase.

At the decision stage, potential buyers want to be reassured they’re making the right investment. Things like preparation, implementation, project costs, customer support, etc. rank high on their list of concerns during this step.

Related: Analysis: The Information Gathering Process of B2B Buyers

The New B2B buyer

The New B2B Buyer

According to Kantar Millward Brown, the traditional funnel diagram that most marketers have learned by heart is now officially dead. The linear sequence of buying stages has now been jumbled up into a complex web of prospect-initiated paths to purchase.

Today’s buyer might arrive at a purchase decision without even reaching out to the vendor, only communicating with a rep in order to finalize the deal. That means between identifying a problem and signing up for a solution, the prospect pretty much charts her own path to purchase.

That’s why you need to get really acquainted with the quirks and tendencies of the modern B2B buyer. It’s going to help you effectively remodel your sales and marketing funnel. Jessica Mehring over at the SnapApp blog points to some key characteristics of today’s B2B customers:

#1 They’re now better informed.

Forrester estimates that nearly 74% of B2B buyers carry out at least half of their research online before making an offline purchase. Meanwhile, Think with Google, the search giant’s marketing research arm, finds that B2B prospects perform a dozen online searches before visiting a vendor’s website.

The numbers are clear. Today’s B2B customers have access to more information, and they’re leveraging it to their advantage.

#2 They’re increasingly influenced by peers.

Data compiled by LinkedIn Business shows that 53% of B2B buyers rely on peer recommendations, while another 76% prioritize vendors suggested by their peers. That’s why 84% of B2B purchases begin with a referral.

As B2B buyers get more and more connected with their networks and peers, it’s not hard to see why word-of-mouth now drives many purchase decisions.

Related: How to Use SEO To Influence B2B Buyers On Social Media

#3 They’re part of a bigger group.

A 2017 HBR article puts the B2B buyer’s evolution into context. There are now more people involved in making B2B buying decisions, growing from an average of 5.4 stakeholders in 2015 to 6.8 decision-makers in 2017.

The more heads needed to give a nod of approval, the harder it will be to arrive at a decision. That’s because, as the number of stakeholders in the buying process increases, the more risk-averse B2B buyers become.

#4 They’re really into personalization.

All signs indicate that today’s B2B customers want a personalized, customized, and relevant buying experience. A recent survey from DemandGen Report finds that 75% of B2B buyers say it’s very important for website content to directly speak to their company’s needs. The same survey shows that 66% of B2B prospects rank industry-specific content as very important.

Forrester has also uncovered that more than 50% of B2B prospects want to receive personalized recommendations at every touch point. They expect robust customization and support across different channels, devices, and stages in the buying cycle.

 


Keeping Up with the New B2B Buying Process

 

Keeping Up with the New B2B Buying Process

It’s quite clear that things are no longer as simple or straightforward as they used to be. The B2B buying process has changed, and it continues to evolve. Marketers who thrive in today’s shifting landscape aren’t necessarily those with the biggest budget and resources, but those who can quickly adapt.

Related: Using Neuroscience to Better Answer 5 Questions Leads Ask Themselves Before Buying

Here’s how to adjust your funnel in order to meet the demands of today’s B2B buyers:

#1 Help them find what they need.

We’ve seen that modern B2B customers have access to more information. While this, of course, is a good thing, it becomes a problem when prospects have to sift through tons of material to find relevant information when doing their research.

One way to help buyers move from one point in their journey to the next is to make relevant information easy to find. Your website should be a resource for information that gets prospects closer to a buying decision. Think case studies, industry whitepapers, how-to articles, best practices, etc.

Related: Better Content Means Better Leads: Make the Most Out of Your Content

#2 Make sure that people have great things to say about you

Since peer reviews and recommendations shape the outcome of the B2B buying journey, it pays to build and grow your reputation as a leader in your industry. You do this, for example, by showing your expertise through participating on social media and online forums.

Also, B2B customers have now grown a bit skeptical of glowing reviews and ratings online. They’re now paying attention to what their peers are actually saying about a brand or solution. That’s why leveraging customer advocacy and referrals is a more viable route to take.

Related: How to get Business-Friendly Testimonials from your B2B Clients

#3 Learn how group buying decisions are made

We now know that the number of stakeholders in B2B purchases has increased, which can negatively impact the likelihood of decisions being reached. To ensure that your target prospects secure buy-in from all stakeholders, Consensus suggests focusing on the 7 components of group buying decisions in B2B:

  • Problem (they have to believe you can solve their problem)
  • Emotional connection (they need to believe in your team and your solution)
  • Pricing (they have to be convinced the price is within their budget)
  • Credible ROI (ROI that’s part of their company’s narrative)
  • Timing and implementation requirements (the purchase needs to be a priority now)
  • Proof points (both logical and social proofs)
  • Questions and concerns (they need to be heard)

One key point to note, especially for big-ticket purchases, is that price needs to be distinguished from value. For risk-averse buying committees, an expensive price tag can spell the difference between a lost and closed deal.

#4 Target prospects based on behavior

Earlier this month, Marketingprofs published an article on generating leads based on B2B buyer behavior. The post talked about a lot of helpful insights, including five types of personalization strategies:

  • Segment (based on industry vertical or segment criteria)
  • Persona (based on specific buyer types)
  • Stage (according to stages in the buying process)
  • Account (based on target company)
  • Lead (personalization based on individual lead)

Among these, persona-based personalization works best for most marketers today since it combines five areas of modern B2B buying:

  • Role in the purchase process
  • Fears and challenges
  • Drivers and motivators
  • Organizational goals and priorities
  • Problems and issues

Related: How Behavioral Targeting Can Help You Achieve Your Bottom Line

These five components can help you deliver relevant, personalized experience that today’s B2B buyers expect.

 

The Takeaway

Whatever your conversion funnel looks like right now, it needs to align with how B2B buyers arrive at a purchase decision. Keep in mind that today’s B2B customers are more informed and more reliant on peer recommendations. They’re also part of a bigger group and are really into personalization. Your job now is to help them find the resources they need to make informed choices. Hopefully, that choice turns out to be your solution.

 

 

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How to Create Engaging Videos that Rack Up Views and Shares [GUEST POST]

How to Create Engaging Videos that Rack Up Views and Shares

Videos are more engaging than most other forms of content – but that doesn’t mean that you can just rely on their natural engagement to rack up views and shares. Ideally, you should be doing everything that you can to ensure your videos are as engaging as possible, and that begins with understanding what engagement is all about.

 

Understanding Engagement

Understanding Engagement

Engagement is a tricky metric, mostly because it is often defined in different ways. At a basic level it is a way to measure how impactful a video is on viewers, but unfortunately ‘impact’ isn’t a metric that can be measured in itself.

As such engagement is measured through a variety of other metrics such as viewer retention, likes, comments, shares, ratings, and so on. All of these metrics are relevant to engagement, as they show that viewers found the video impactful enough to watch it and possibly perform other actions related to it.

The key takeaway, however, is this: In order for your videos to be engaging they should be focused on retaining the audience and provoking action.

 

Creating Videos that Retain Viewers

Creating Videos that Retain Viewers

As you can probably imagine there are a lot of different factors that have a part to play in retaining viewers. In effect, anything that can grab the attention of viewers and keep them interested is worth pursuing.

To be more specific, however, there are a few ways that you can create videos that are more likely to retain viewers:

Choose a good topic

The topic you choose is of the utmost importance to both attract as well as retain viewers. It should be something that is of interest to viewers and will help or benefit them in some way. Researching your target market can be particularly useful, as it will help you to choose good topics.

Related: Better Content Means Better Leads: Make the Most Out of Your Content

Watch the duration

As a rule the longer a video’s duration, the less likely it is to retain viewers – which is why videos that want to have high engagement levels should be kept short. While the optimum length varies depending on platform and audience, keeping videos at about a minute in duration tends to be best.

Make the first 8 seconds count

A large portion of viewers will decide whether to keep watching within the first 8 seconds of your video – so you need to make them count. In other words, you should get straight to the point and let viewers know what the video is about and how it will benefit them to watch it.

Related: 8 Clever WordPress Design Tricks to grab your Visitor’s Attention

Frame the video for mobile

More and more viewers nowadays watch videos on mobile devices, so you should frame your video with that in mind. Avoid wide-angle shots or small details that may be difficult to make out on smaller screen sizes.

Convey the message via subtitles or other visual elements

Another trend to keep in mind is that a large number of viewers will be watching your video while it is muted. To retain and engage them, you should try to ensure the message is conveyed visually – via subtitles or other elements.

If you take these steps, you should end up with a video that is more able to retain viewers and should also get more views in the process. However, as you know – that is just part of what engagement entails.

 

Provoking Action Using Videos

Provoking Action Using Videos

As you can imagine only a small percentage of viewers actually end up liking, commenting, sharing, or rating the videos that they watch. However there are some exceptions to that, and certain videos somehow seem to rack up tons of shares, likes, comments, and other reactions.

Generally, these videos are able to do that because they take steps to provoke those actions, and there are a few ways that can be done:

Trigger an emotional response

If your video is able to trigger an emotional response, it is likely to provoke action. The nature of the emotion itself doesn’t matter as much as its intensity, which is why you could opt to trigger joy, amusement, surprise, inspiration, pride, or any other emotion.

Related: 4 Signs that you’re Getting Positive Responses in your Content

Ask questions and interact

Actually asking questions or interacting with viewers as part of your video can provoke actions – normally in the form of responses via comments or other means. It is a way to make viewers feel more involved, and use your video as a basis for further interaction. Keep in mind that it helps to reply to viewers as well, as that will encourage further responses.

Use a powerful call to action

Most videos (especially marketing videos) tend to close with a call to action. Although in some ways it is the culmination of engagement, it can also be used to further it – by encouraging viewers to share, like or rate the video. The call to action can also be used to ask for feedback or solicit opinions via polls.

Make no mistake, provoking action can be tricky – but the measures listed above should all help. Effectively you now should be able to create videos that have the potential to acquire more viewers, retain them, and provoke actions – all of which will help with their engagement.

Related: How to write content that gets read and shared

It is worth noting that while other factors such as quality have a part to play, you don’t need to try to create overblown and expensive productions to engage viewers. In fact, in many cases, less is more and simple but authentic and genuine-looking videos can perform just as well. Frankly, if you learn how to make a slideshow on Mac or PC you could come up with a fairly engaging video as well.

In terms of quality, you should try to just aim for your video to be able to deliver its message in a crisp and clear fashion. If you want you could try to make it look a bit polished and professional, but you certainly don’t need to load it with special effects or anything like that. Overall the content of the video matters far more to engagement levels, and that is where your focus should be.

Related: 3 Design Best Practices to Fine-Tune Your Next Content for Visual Learners

 

Author Bio:

edward-parker

Edward Parker enjoys creating videos for his website and social media. He is particularly focused on finding ways to improve engagement levels and encourage more interaction with viewers

 

 

 

 

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The B2B Buying Process Has Changed: Here’s How Not to Get Left Behind

Cutting Marketing Spend: When It Works (and When it Doesn’t)

Cutting Marketing Spend: When It Works (and When it Doesn’t)

Gartner says that marketing budgets have started to plateau in 2017, after years of steady growth. That’s one of the main things they found in their 2017 CMO survey, which also reported that only two-thirds of CMOs expect a significant increase in their 2018 budget while a third believe their budgets will be cut.

There’s obviously a lot of reasons why companies slash marketing budgets (including tough economic times, shifting priorities, cost-cutting measures, and scaling down operations). Most of these factors are simply beyond any marketing decision-maker’s control. But marketers still influence how much business impact their marketing activities can have. And that’s through carefully planning how (and how not) to spend their budget. That’s what we’ll talk about in today’s blog post.

Related: Key Financial Tips On How To Bring More Money Into Your Marketing Budget

 

When to Cut Spending

When to Cut Spending

During economic downturns, businesses typically pull the plug on marketing spend first. It’s only natural for companies to do this since most of them kick into survival mode when the economy tanks. Outside of a recession, however, there’s only a handful of situations where cutting marketing spend is a viable option.

#1 The end goals aren’t clear.

Marketing exists to grow revenue, but revenue isn’t the only goal that marketing needs to achieve. In fact, setting increased revenues as a goal doesn’t tell you much about how marketing accomplishes it.

More specific Goals and objectives (like increased subscribers by X signups each week, grow monthly organic traffic by Y%, or exceed landing page conversion rate of Z %) all move the revenue needle. If a marketing activity or your overall program doesn’t clearly show this, then it’s a prime candidate for the chopping block.

Related: The 4 Main Lead Generation Goals: What Has Changed & How to Reach Them

#2 Marketing isn’t aligned with sales.

There are all sorts of things that can go wrong when marketing and sales are out of whack. Communication is next to impossible; there’s plenty of finger-pointing; the sales process lengthens; prospects don’t become customers.

That’s why there’s no point in paying for a marketing tactic or project that doesn’t align with sales’ priorities. The allocated budget, and eventually the amount spent, produces underwhelming or even damaging results.

Related: Marketing and Sales Alignment – Best Practices

#3 You can afford losing out to the competition.

You know what happened to those companies that were quick to cut marketing budgets in past recessions? Most of them survived, of course. But they were all outperformed by competitors that maintained or even increased their marketing budgets during the downturn.

That’s because a commitment to a well-oiled marketing machine (with clearly-defined goals and sales alignment) is a commitment to revenues. Going the other way only leaves market share for your competitors to snatch from you. But, if you can afford to lose out to the competition, then, by all means, reduce your marketing spend.

 

When Not to Cut Spending

When Not to Cut Spending

There’s one core reason why marketing budgets are the first to go when business goals aren’t met. Most decision-makers see marketing spend as an expense and not as an investment. That’s why companies try to minimize marketing spend as much as they can. While this is true in some situations, this isn’t always the case. You shouldn’t cut marketing spend when:

#1 Decreased marketing spend brings only hard cost savings.

Cost-cutting measures result in two kinds of cost savings. Hard cost savings are reductions in expenditures reported as line items in the P&L statement or budget. Soft cost savings are cost decreases that indirectly affect the bottom-line and include things like better efficiency, shorter lead times, and higher productivity.

While hard cost savings are the easiest to measure and track, they only form a narrow band of the cost-saving spectrum. If reducing marketing spend only results in hard cost savings, then you’re better off finding ways to maximize the budget you have instead of slashing your expenditures altogether.

#2 Cutting back results in cutting corners.

Sometimes, reducing marketing spend severely drags down marketing performance. This is one of the situations where cutting marketing spend isn’t worth it. Take, for instance, the fact that, for a large number of marketers, it’s the lack of budget that’s holding them back from fully leveraging marketing automation.

When cutting marketing spend means scaling down activities to the point where they no longer drive results, you have to wonder if you can really afford cutting corners just to cut costs.

Related: Why Companies are Spending Heavily on Lead Generation

#3 Cutting back is done to fix a misspent budget.

It’s not a good idea to slash this year’s marketing spend because last year’s budget didn’t produce the desired results. If your marketing initiatives in 2017 didn’t generate the desired ROI, there’s a good chance the problem lies in not being able to accurately attribute results.

When marketing fails to hit goals, the problem won’t be fixed with budget cuts. The solution is to find new and better ways of using what you already have.

 

The Takeaway

If there’s one lesson to pick up from this post, it’s that there’s more to cutting marketing spend than cost savings alone. That’s why it’s always a better idea to make the most out of your budget. Strategies like outsourcing part or all of your marketing program is one way to make this happen.

 

 

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The B2B Buying Process Has Changed: Here’s How Not to Get Left Behind

5 New Year’s Resolutions to Refine Your Marketing Analytics Stack

5 New Year’s Resolutions to Refine Your Marketing Analytics Stack

By February, 80% of New Year’s resolutions will have failed. That’s a lot of abandoned goals in such a short span of time. What’s more is that only about 9.2% of individuals feel they’re successful in achieving their New Year’s resolutions. So, are most of us just wasting our time setting and forgetting New Year’s resolutions?

Of course, not. In fact, doing this start-of-year ritual does make a real difference. According to data compiled by Statistic Brain, people who explicitly set New Year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to meet their goals than those who don’t bother with resolutions at all.

That’s why, if you haven’t yet already, you should start outlining the things you want to improve on in 2018. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you shouldn’t limit your New Year’s resolutions only to your personal goals. Your professional improvement needs to be part of your resolutions, too.

Related: Your Email New Year’s Resolution: Sound Positive

In today’s post, we’ll go over a handful of practical ideas to help you leverage your marketing analytics stack to its full potential. We’ll take a look at areas in a typical marketing analytics pipeline most marketers can improve on. We’ll then conclude with a quick rundown of a four-step process to really make your data analytics New Year’s resolutions stick.

 

Resolutions for Marketing Analytics

Resolutions for Marketing Analytics

Last year, data-driven marketers witnessed some pretty telling changes in marketing analytics. We saw the mass adoption of analytics tools, the rise of predictive analytics with the help of AI and machine learning, and the shift in marketing analytics’ role from simply collecting data to actually mining insights.

Still, there remains plenty of room for improvement and challenges to overcome.

 

#1 Strengthen the fundamentals

Strengthen The Fundamentals

Less than half of CMOs surveyed by Forbes and Neuter last year understand how their marketing analytics investment impacts growth. Data cited by NASDAQ agrees with this finding, stating that while 97% of companies use data to capture business opportunities, only 44% actually trust the numbers flashing on their dashboards.

This mostly stems from analytics becoming detached from actual decision-making. That’s why, if you’re only looking to keep one New Year’s resolution, it would be to make sure your marketing analytics stay grounded on the goals and decisions that people at different levels in your organization actually make.

Related: Marketing Investments: Why Business Analytics Really Are Worth The Time And Money

#2 Invest more in automation

Invest More In Automation

Gartner says analytics make up the biggest slice (9.2%) of marketing spend in 2017. Two main areas stand out when it comes to marketing analytics spending: customer data and marketing attribution. While these two items are critical to realizing marketing data’s business impact, an equally important driver of performance is automation.

In most marketing analytics workflows, a lot of activities are best handled by machines. One such area, for example, is reporting. The reporting process typically consists of tedious, repetitive tasks such as pulling out numbers from different data sources, sprinkling these into a dozen spreadsheets, and aggregating them into different summary templates. It’s not hard to imagine how much better life would be with tools like automated dashboards around.

Related: How Marketing Automation Helps You Outgrow Your Competitors

#3 Do more of the exciting stuff

Do More Of The Exciting Stuff

Automation frees up time so that you get to focus on more exciting things in marketing analytics. Sure, AI and machine learning power predictive analytics which in turn powers your marketing efforts, but AI and ML also improve your marketing analytics stack’s productivity.

Harvard Business Review explains four ways AI boosts marketer’ productivity when working with data and analytics:

  1. Analyzing huge datasets quickly
  2. Finding and fixing errors in your dataset
  3. Providing real-time feedback, especially for streaming data
  4. Enabling text-based insight extraction

#4 Prescribe, don’t just predict

Prescribe, Don’t Just Predict

Predictive analytics may be all the rage these days but, to really drive results, you need prescriptive analytics. At a high level, analytics typically fall into four types: descriptive (what happened), diagnostic (what went wrong), predictive (what may happen), and prescriptive (what to do). Leveraging prescriptive analytics in your stack speeds up the decision-making process.

Jeff Rajeck over at Econsultancy thinks marketers should give prescriptive analytics some serious attention. Most marketers today still rely on rearview analytics to make informed decisions. This means that having a data-driven set of actions to take gives you a competitive edge. That’s why the nascent prescriptive analytics market is projected to grow into a $1.6-billion segment by 2022.

#5 Make your data work harder

Make Your Data Work Harder

No discussion of marketing analytics would be complete without emphasizing data quality. Maintaining top quality is one way to make your data work really hard and provide maximum value. That, of course, goes without saying. But even with its obvious importance, data quality still remains a key issue, with U.S. businesses losing $600 billion each year as a result of bad data.

Simply put, bad data leads to bad decisions. You want analytics that truly inform and enlighten users. This year, make sure that the data flowing into your marketing analytics pipeline meets the five dimensions of quality (as pointed out by At Internet):

  • Accuracy (Does my data tell me what’s really going on?)
  • Completeness (Do I have all the data I need to make a decision?)
  • Cleanliness (Is my data error-free?)
  • Timeliness (Does my data allow me to respond right away?)
  • Consistency (Do I have a single version of a given piece of data?)

Related: Declare Your Independence from Bad Data: A 5-Step Plan

 

Steps to Make Your Resolutions Stick

Steps to Make Your Resolutions Stick

Even if the odds of achieving your New Year’s resolutions appear slim, it’s good practice to set goals at the start of the year anyway. In fact, there’s a data-driven way to help improve your likelihood of success.

Chicago Booth Review recently shared a four-step plan to improve people’s chances of following through with their New Year’s goals. Ayelet Fishbach, a prominent behavioral scientist, came up with the system, and it works well for achieving your business goals, too.

Related: 150+ B2B Tech Marketing Stats to Help You Plan for 2018 [Free eBook]

 

Step 1: Actually make a resolution

Actually Make a Resolution

You’ve already made it this far into the article, so you can probably check this one off. But first, you have to make sure you’re setting specific, measurable, realistic (SMART) goals for your marketing analytics stack.

For example, if you write down “improve data quality” as one of your New Year’s goals, you also have to indicate which areas of data you need to work on and how much improvement you’re aiming for.

Step 2: Consider adding gamification to your action plan

Consider Adding Gamification To Your Action Plan

They say that a goal without a plan is just a wish. So, to boost your chances of successfully conquering your resolutions, you need a workable plan, especially one that clearly lays out activities, responsibilities, and timelines.

But to really guarantee achieving your New Year’s goals, you should also make attaining your resolutions enjoyable for everyone involved. Consider gamifying parts of your marketing analytics process. Put the right rewards and incentives in place to motivate your team.

Step 3: Surround yourself with people who support you

Surround Yourself With People Who Support You

Friends and family help you reach the personal goals you set. The same applies to the marketing analytics New Year’s resolutions you outline.

Whether it’s your boss’s nod of approval or your team’s genuine commitment, you want more than just buy-in for your plan. You need help and encouragement from the right people. You know all too well how difficult it is to keep up with the demands of data-driven marketing. When times get tough, sometimes all you need is a helping hand to keep going.

Related: Callbox Amazing Race: Enhancing Team TRUST & Effective Communication

Step 4: Document your progress

Document Your Progress

This step shouldn’t come as a surprise, since you practically eat, sleep, and breathe KPIs. But it’s still crucial to remember how every macro-level metric (revenue growth, ROI, profits, etc.) consists of micro-metrics which are as equally important to track and optimize.

It’s this lack of a one-size-fits-all measurement of marketing performance that makes apples-to-apples comparisons very challenging. Each component of a modern marketing program produces a unique set of metrics and KPIs, often distracting marketers from the things that really matter to the business. The key, according to IBM, is to have a sound understanding of how every marketing activity (and by extension, every set of metrics) contribute to the overall business goal.

 

The Takeaway

Now that you’ve set your New Year’s goals, it’s time to put them into action. But first, we’d love to know what you’re planning on improving in 2018.

 

 

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The B2B Buying Process Has Changed: Here’s How Not to Get Left Behind

Six Digital Marketing Trends Worth Paying Attention to in 2018 [GUEST POST]

Six digital marketing trends worth paying attention to in 2018 [GUEST POST]

New Year means new technology and new trends. Thinking that you can pull off the same trend that was famous last year and increase your profits is a lost cause. Since the rise of digital marketing, every few months new trends are coming to surface and following them can lead you to a better profit chart. While some people were critical of the whole process, in the beginning, it has proven to be a must-have in the industry.

Related: How Are Digital Strategies Evolving With The Integration Of New Technologies Into The Marketing World?

Where do the targeted ads gain most profit? Which social media site can obtain the most views? Which site is better for targeted marketing? Are game ads a profitable means to invest in? If yes, then to what extent? These are some questions that are answered in this article. Here’s a list of the best digital marketing trends worth paying attention to, have a look at them.

 

#1 Influencer marketing

The trend of advertising through social media personalities has been increasing lately and is a very effective technique that you need to focus on in 2018. People tend to engage more with your products and services if their recommendations are coming from people they already trust. So, getting a well-known Instagram or YouTube blogger to use and advertise your products can give you a much-required boost in your marketing strategies.

Moreover, this technique will increase the customer’s trust in your products. A great example of this type of advertising is unboxing videos. This is a trend that you have already seen in 2017, and it is just going to reach new heights this year. Your favorite makeup blogger endorses makeup brands; workout instructors endorse certain sports goods and whatever they say we believe because they are experts and this trust increases the sales. These You Tubers are some of the most influential people in the social media and therefore have a wide range of people who listen to what they have to say.

Vloggers share a major part of their life with the online audience, and their words are set in stone.

Related: How to Reach Influencers and Grow Your Content Audience [VIDEO]

#2 Personalized advertising

You may have noticed that the ads that appear when you are scrolling through Facebook or Instagram are according to your overall searches this is due to personalized marketing. Marketing companies are using personalization algorithms to get you the ads that concern you.

This technique keeps the customers more comfortable and less annoyed by your advertisement as they only get ads that they are interested. This method will effectively increase the engagement rate if any company that uses it. Due to hashtags, these companies can target a specific audience for their product such as sports companies target people who are into working out and companies that sell protein shakes target people who are interested in increasing body mass.

Related: How Behavioral Targeting Can Help You Achieve Your Bottom Line

#3 In-Game advertisement

Another marketing strategy the use of which has been increasing recently is In-App advertising. You may have noticed that in many online games played on your smartphone you can receive small amounts specific paid items by watching ads instead.

This is an excellent strategy that is going to be used vastly in the near future, and any company who wishes to compete should consider using this method to improve their marketing outcome I can count the number of times I’ve watched all the ads in the games and downloaded free games even bought a few games and things online. I wait for ads to come on so I can get some perks in the game. This is not only effective but also very reasonable.

#4 Instagram advertisement

Instagram is one of the most commonly used social networks, and its users are only going to increase in 2018. Advertising through Instagram is a technique that you need to start focusing on this year. Instagram has the highest customer engagement rate which according to studies is 45 % more than Facebook and 40% percent more than twitter. So, Instagram is the best network to promote your products or services online.

Related: 10 Killer Instagram Marketing Tips for Entrepreneurs

The amount of times I have taken a screenshot from an ad on Instagram and bought those things later is countless although they might not always be up to the mark that they are portrayed I just can’t seem to stop.

Related: 5 Instagram Tools to Improve Your Marketing

#5 Mobile compatibility

Mobile devices have been taking over gradually for quite a while now and are expected to take over other desktop devices entirely shortly. A majority of people use mobile devices instead of desktop devices so, the mobile compatibility of your website and advertisement is completely necessary if you don’t want to be left behind. According to statistics, more than two-thirds of Google search requests are received through mobile.

Related: Does the Versatility of Mobile Marketing Have a Place in B2B?

However, further studies prove that mobile-optimized sites are more convenient for marketing as they are initially made for mobile they tend to provide a more proper view and detailed account of the product without the need to zoom in and scroll left and right just to finish a sentence. Optimized mobile sites are easier to navigate and give links to booking while if a site is compatible it does not provide the customer with links and is merely a series of extended texts.

Related: Planning for a Mobile Website for your Business? Consider these 4 Elements

#6 Native marketing

I know native marketing does not seem to have a place in this list as it is a very old method but the use of it will increase in 2018 mainly due to the extensive use of ad blockers and the fact that in a significant amount of advertisement on the internet is starting to get annoying. While the majority of your marketing budget should be dedicated to online marketing but you should also spare some of it for native marketing through television channels and other methods.

Here is a little trick that you can follow and get into the world of successful video marketing!

Related: What Is and Isn’t “Native Advertising”? And 5 More Questions To Ask About It.

 

About the Author:

Shawn Marshall

Shawn Marshall is a parent of two little girls. He is a digital marketer by profession and is utterly obsessed with the growing technology. He regularly shares her bright ideas on https://squareship.com/.

 

 

 

 

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The B2B Buying Process Has Changed: Here’s How Not to Get Left Behind

10 Affordable Marketing Ideas for Software Startups

10 Affordable Marketing Ideas for Software Startups

 

At the way things are going at the moment, people continue to look towards the IT industry for solutions in everyday life. Complex tasks have become simpler through automated systems and mobile applications. This is not to mention the fact that nearly all other areas of society depend on software and IT products to streamline routine processes.

Nowhere has this been truer than in the B2B industry. From financial services to industrial solutions, you can bet that there is an IT product that best fits the preferences of larger companies. And this would explain why there is a great wealth of business start-ups out there that have software to sell for a variety of purposes.

But as the number of software and IT start-ups grow year by year, it has become a challenge for many smaller players to get themselves noticed by their target audiences. Marketing remains to be a crucial factor for success and without focusing too much in this area would be downright dire for a software enterprise that’s still in its infancy.

At any rate, B2B marketing remains to be a tough cookie to crack. According to Business2Community, 68% of B2B marketers are struggling to generate high-quality leads using their present marketing strategies. This number alone should get software start-ups all riled up in formulating their marketing plans.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways that start-ups can do to better promote their software products and services. Here are just a few of the most effective ones.

Make use of referrals

Nothing passes off more as an affordable marketing method than generating referrals from previous customers. One thing’s for sure, a great deal of B2C sales have been influenced through social media referrals. If it works for consumers, then we might have the same chances when it comes to getting new B2B customers into the fold. The dynamics might seem a bit different, but at least referral marketing allows you to better increase your clout.

Attend industry events

Another cost-effective way to get your brand known is to participate in software and IT-related events.  Trade shows and product unveilings provide great opportunities not only to get information about issues affecting the industry. They also allow start-ups to enhance their image and generate potential leads from big-time attendees.

Related: Thrice in a Row: Callbox Boosts Event Attendance Rates for CRM Market Leader

Optimize your sites

When it comes to generating leads through your landing pages, a presentation is everything. But not only presentation. You also need to ensure your site’s functionality. Luckily, you can do all this for less by simply focusing your resources on making effective web designs and graphics.

Do outreach on LinkedIn

Social media is your go-to place for affordable marketing. But Facebook and Twitter just won’t cut it for start-ups that want to have bigger brands on board. Your best bet will be LinkedIn. Ever since it was founded, the service has offered individuals and enterprises an apt avenue where they can interact with each other and do business. By creating your account, you will get access to a whole roster of important contacts to pursue.

Grow your network

No man is an island. Or rather, no business startup in the IT world is an island. For survival’s sake, you will need to rub elbows with important industry leaders to build your credibility and get the customers you need to ensure success.

As for Ted Rubin, The Return on Relationship Expert said:

The deciding factor will be whether or not enough brands and marketers are willing to go beyond just talking about relationships… to actually building and sustaining those relationships with consumers, peers, employees, and others in their social graph. Read more…

Make your pitches irresistible

Now, this may seem like something a person from the sales department would do. But sometimes, the pitch can also be inserted into a marketing conversation. It’s only a matter of knowing how to craft irresistible talking points.

Related: 5 Data-backed Tips for Better Phone-based Sales Presentations

Contribute

If you want to build influence even further, write for reputable websites like Forbes or Business2Community. This will surely convince potential software buyers that you know a lot about the industry.

Write effective copy

Using Google Adwords isn’t effective if you settle for less than stellar adcopy. As much as possible, make it a goal to compose strong and irresistible offers. Here’s the secret.

Involve sales

Coordination with the sales team will surely help marketing in formulating strategies that work and that would result in tangible successes.

Related: Marketing is from Mars, Sales is from Venus

Create stellar infographics

On top of writing lengthy white papers and reports, you can always create fun infographics that will make software and IT less of a technical area than it already is.

 

Sources: thebalance.combusiness2community.com, annexcloud.com

 

 

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Key Financial Tips On How To Bring More Money Into Your Marketing Budget [GUEST POST]

Key Financial Tips On How To Bring More Money Into Your Marketing Budget

Regardless of industry, effective management of marketing efforts is critical for every business. Ask any well-seasoned businessperson – it doesn’t matter how great a product you have or how much value you add with services you offer; you will never have any clients if your offerings aren’t marketed effectively. If people don’t know what you do or how well you do it, you will never have sales or accumulate market share. The fruit of your company will wither and rot on the vine if you can’t effectively bring it to market.

Related: Why Companies are Spending Heavily on Lead Generation

However, expanding your marketing efforts by making cuts to the quality of products or services are out of the question – it would be cutting off your nose to spite your face. Instead, what many companies need are ways to expand marketing efforts without sacrificing the financial viability of their company. What follows are a few ways to do just that – tried-and-true methods that companies can use to expand their own marketing budgets and efforts, without suffering in the process. One or more may work for your company, or open your thinking to other opportunities that might directly benefit your business.

 

Look for ways to streamline your operations.

One of the best ways to find new money to expand marketing or other efforts within your company is to identify and exploit new efficiencies in your current operations. Seek out inefficiencies such as double-handling of simple tasks or manual processes that could be eliminated for cost-savings. Realign your resources to accomplish current business tasks more efficiently, and deploy the savings for more robust marketing efforts. Simple, but effective.

Related: Benefits of Outsourcing and How to Stop Long Working Hours

Consider consolidating your business lines.

Many business leaders today espouse the 80-20 rule: 80% of a business’s revenue is produced by 20% of its activities. What this means is that, if 80% of your activities are only providing 20% of your revenue, then those areas represent substantial opportunities to make cuts for increased profitability. After all, even these less profitable areas of operations cost money to run. If you can eliminate some of these less-profitable areas, it can potentially cut sizeable expenses and the savings can be redirected to marketing for those areas of your business that generate most of your income.

Seek out and form critical strategic partnerships.

The biggest advantage to this concept is that it can help you to expand your marketing efforts without actually increasing your own budget. Instead, identify other companies that you might partner with on various marketing efforts. The right partnerships can help you to leverage the budget of other, larger or more established firms. In addition to getting a boost from their larger marketing budgets, if done correctly you can also benefit from their reputation or credibility in the marketplace. As your partner firms and their stakeholders become more aware of what you do and engaged with you as a company, they may even become valuable new clients.

Related: Improve your Lead Generation by Improving your Networks

Delay or curtail your own rewards.

Here we see demonstrated the bootstrapping mentality that is so valued among many young start-ups. If you, your co-founders and managers believe firmly in the long-term viability of expanded marketing efforts, consider asking all involved to put their money where their mouth is. With their approval, cut the compensation and benefits to these high-level stakeholders, or offer equity instead. Redirect the cash savings to grow your marketing budget. Hopefully, these efforts will help to grow sales and accumulate market share. If those efforts are successful, the rewards to your shareholders and executives will be far greater than their near-term sacrifice.

Get behind events or causes that have larger aggregate budgets.

In the worlds of philanthropy or civic engagement, business leaders can find many organizations that aggregate marketing budgets from many sponsors or supporters. Supporting such causes as a company, either directly with marketing dollars or through in-kind donation of goods or services, you can piggyback on their marketing efforts to increase awareness of your own business. What’s more, in many cases these causes are uniquely positioned for free media, further increasing the exposure gained by your involvement.

Consider working with professionals.

Many agencies and other firms are able to lend considerable value to your marketing efforts by maximizing the value of each dollar spent. Granted, you do not need to give a consultant free rein or engage them for additional services, but it can be helpful to enlist of the help of one or more specialized firms, rather than trying to do everything yourself. Yes, you will pay for their services in some form. However, if used correctly, their services will greatly magnify the impact of each marketing dollar, generating far greater returns on your marketing budget – regardless of its size.

Related: 4 Signs That You Badly Need a Lead Generation Team

 

Added marketing efforts can be a necessary first step toward success for many businesses. This often requires reassessing specific marketing efforts already being undertaken, measuring their various returns-on-investment and realigning resources to meet your specific goals. However, in many cases, this realignment is not completely sufficient to achieve objectives for your business’s marketing. Instead, success is reliant on finding ways to expand your marketing budget and redouble your efforts in order to gain market share and add new sales.

Related: 5 Important Decisions for Every Entrepreneur

If this is the case for you and your business, time and energy will be required to think critically about how and where to find the resources necessary to expand your budget. Further effort will be required to ensure that those additional resources are deployed with maximum impact and benefit to your bottom line. To start looking for ways to expand your marketing budget or deepen the impact of resources already being deployed, consider the tips above as starting points.

Aside from those points listed above, take time to think also of any ideas that arise as a result of this thinking, and carefully consider all opportunities and alternatives before executing on a chosen strategy. The marketing efforts that you make for your company will shape the way the public sees your company and your offerings. Your reputation and credibility are at stake, so be sure to undertake these efforts with due caution and experience.

 

 

Steven McMeechan

Steven McMeechanSteven McMeechan is a strategic marketing and communications specialist with over twenty years’ experience in senior marketing management roles across a range of industries including Information Technology and Financial Services. He works for Capstone Financial Planning and lives in Melbourne Australia.

 

 

 

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5 Important Decisions for Every Entrepreneur [GUEST POST]

5 Important Decisions for Every Entrepreneur

Breaking into today’s crowded and competitive marketplace is daunting. From the moment you launch your business, you will be faced with an infinite number of decisions to make. Some of them are simple, such as which email client to use or which social media account your business needs, while others seem like they can make or break your business, such as which marketing strategy to pursue or which vendors to choose.

Related: Beat the Giants: Marketing Tips and Tricks for Startups

Some businesses will face challenges that others will not. E-commerce businesses need to worry about procurement and shipping, whereas web services companies will have to make decisions about servers and software.

But there are some decisions each and every entrepreneur must make, and these can often play a big role in determining the success of your business. One of these is lead generation and management. How are you going to find new customers? Pursuing the wrong audience or misunderstanding your sales funnel can be tragic for a small company, or even a big one.

Yet there are other decisions you will have to make that can have an equally significant impact on your business. Let’s take a look at these so that you can prepare yourself and choose the right course of action for your business.

 

#1 Your Ideal Customer

While it is true your ultimate goal is to sell as much as possible to as many people as possible, you need to first start small. This comes with being very specific and very clear about your audience and who you are going after.

For small or new companies, it is better to get started with a smaller base of dedicated customers than to cast a wide net and spread yourself too thin.

Think long and hard about what value your company offers. You should already have a pretty good idea of this, but try to fit it into someone’s life. What need or discomfort are you providing for?

From there, you need to get an idea as to who this person is. What type of life do they live? Where do they buy their stuff? And how do they find out about it? This last point is particularly important, as it will determine your marketing strategies moving forward and will ultimately help get interested customers in front of your products or services.

This is, in many ways, the most important decision you as an entrepreneur will need to make. Who are you going after? Once you decide this, lots of other things will fall into place. You’ll be able to ask yourself, “is this what my customer would want?” making decisions far easier.

Related: Why Customer Profiling Could be the Best Investment your Company Makes

#2 Hiring (Company Culture)

As you’ve likely already figured out, you can’t do this alone. What ultimately makes a company a success is the people who are working to make it go. Lots of other stuff goes into it, of course, but without a solid team, you’ll be in trouble.

So as an entrepreneur, you’re going to need to decide where you need help. But resources are tight, so you need to be sure you’re bringing in the right people. Because of this, perhaps the more important thing you’re going to need to decide is what kind of company you want to be. There is a lot of talks these days about culture. It’s not just corporate mumbo-jumbo. It matters. If the success of your company depends on the people who make it up, isn’t it important for you to figure out first what kind of people you want working for you?

One of the ways to be able to do this is to establish your company’s core values. Airbnb CEO, Brian Chesky, has said that he thinks this was one of the keys to his startup’s success. Having these values outlined, deciding what makes you, will make it much easier for you to vet potential employees. You can discuss with them about these values and evaluate their experience through this lens. Then, when you do hire someone, you know you’ll be getting a person who believes in the company and is willing to work hard to make its vision a reality.

#3 Automation and Outsourcing

It is tempting as an entrepreneur to want to keep everything in-house. It is normal to think you need everything under your control to make it run. But this is a mistake, and it will cost you time and a little bit of your sanity. The more time you spend on non-essential activities, or those that do not directly contribute to the company’s growth, the longer it will take for you to have success.

Related: Benefits of Outsourcing and How to Stop Long Working Hours

Automation and outsourcing are good ways to get stuff done while staying focused on what you need to do. But not everything can be farmed out. So, as an entrepreneur, you need to decide what you can pay people to do and what needs to be done yourself.

It may be hard at first, but if you maintain good relationships with third parties and do your homework about which types of automation will help you, you can free you and your employees up to focus on what really matters.

Related: How Marketing Automation Helps You Outgrow Your Competitors

#4 Marketing/Branding

Marketing is everything. It is one thing to have a great product or service, but if you can’t get it in front of the right people, your days as a company will be numbered.

The decisions you will need to make regarding marketing relate back to knowing your target audience. You’ll need to do some research to find out how they find out about new products. This will let you know if you should be pursuing email marketing, content marketing, social media marketing and so on. It may be that only one is worth your time, or it may be that you need a combination. Your decisions about marketing strategy should be researched-based, and if you do your research right, they should prove fruitful.

You’ll also need to spend some time deciding your branding strategy. What do you want people to think about when they think about your company? What do you want to be? What makes you different? How will you communicate it to your customers?

Answering these questions and then making decisions to bring this insight to life will have a tremendous impact on your business.

Related: How NOT to Market your Product: 9 of the Worst Branding Failures

#5 What’s Your Endgame?

Lastly, one decision you need to make that you may not have ever considered is what you plan to do with your business down the road. Are you so in love with what you do that you want to do this for the rest of your life? If so, great, but you’ll need to start some long-term strategizing and investing so that the business can remain profitable throughout its existence.

Related: How to Cope with Business Rapid Growth: Top Ideas to Stay on Top

Another option is to think about an exit strategy. While it might be tough to think about selling your business now, there may come a day when that makes sense. You’ll want to understand what makes a business valuable, and then you’ll want to implement steps to build your company in a way that increases its future value. Even if this isn’t your plan, it’s not a bad way to move forward. After all, a business worth buying is a business worth owning.

In the end, there are countless decisions you will need to make as an entrepreneur. On some days, there will be so many your head will spin. But not all decisions are going to be do-or-die. Some of them, such as those we’ve discussed, will certainly have a larger impact on your business, but if you approach them calmly and with an eye towards your future, you can expect success and will likely enjoy it.

 

About the Author:

Jock is the founder of Digital Exits, an online brokerage service that specializes in the buying, selling and appraisal of small businesses. He acquired his first business at age 19 and was the runner-up in the Australian Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. Throughout his career, he has started and operated a number of his own businesses. Some of them were successful, and others were not, and this experience has helped him learn what entrepreneurs need to do. Now, he focuses on helping others have success with their own business.  He has been featured and quoted in publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Entrepreneur and Business Insider. He is currently living in America.

 

 

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Telecom Campaign Ideas for 2018: Consultative + Digital Marketing

Telecom Campaign Ideas for 2018: Consultative + Digital Marketing

We all know what consultative selling looks like. It’s when reps actively apply Seth Godin’s principle of finding products for customers rather than customers for products. In complex-sale industries such as business telecom, consultative selling remains the core selling philosophy. Instead of making a pitch, reps who rely on this approach help prospects uncover genuine problems or needs, and guide them to the right solution.

But in order for consultative selling to work, the marketing side of the process has to align with the sales focus. This means that top- to mid-funnel activities should reflect a consultative approach, too. Keep in mind that consultative selling is grounded on trust and relationships. These things need to be nurtured long before the selling process begins.

Related: Secret To Better Sales Leads Generation? It Is All In Rapport

Today’s blog post boils all of this down into a number of practical telecom campaign ideas and tips. We’ll see how you can work the consultative approach into your digital marketing playbook so that 2018 will be the year you really get the most out of consultative selling.

 

Put marketing and sales on the same page first

According to an American Marketing Association (AMA) article, the misalignment between marketing and sales is as old as the corporate world itself. This is a bit surprising, considering the fact that when these two functions align, the sales cycle shortens and everybody wins. That’s why the first step toward consultative marketing starts with alignment.

In a nutshell, here are some proven best practices that help ensure marketing and sales stay on the same page:

  • Use a top-down approach and start at the executive or department head level
  • Speak the same language and measure performance with identical yardsticks
  • Set common outcomes to achieve, but clearly define each team’s role
  • Integrate CRM and marketing automation platform (MAP) in a closed-loop system
  • Reward marketing both for volume and quality of leads
  • Attribute ROI to marketing, and measure how every marketing activity impacts revenues

Related: Marketing and Sales Alignment – Best Practices

 

Become an expert in the prospect’s business

Prospect research continues to be a consultative selling best practice. Gathering sales intelligence boosts sales reps productivity, accelerates the sales process, enables better lead management, and improves lead engagement.

But consultative selling can benefit from marketing’s input in the prospect research process. By assigning key activities in prospect research as part of marketing’s responsibilities, sales frees up time and resources which can then be devoted to building relationships with opportunities already in the sales pipeline. Here’s how to do this with digital marketing:

 

Make it easier to solve a business problem

Let’s say next year’s focus calls for increased marketing efforts on your enterprise mobility solutions portfolio. In order to attract the right prospects and ensure solution fit, a consultative marketing message might look something like this:

  • Identify or narrow down the pain point or need (e.g., content pieces that explain the difference between ideal vs. problematic corporate mobile assets architecture)
  • Dive into the details and key angles of the business problem (e.g., mobile connectivity, reliability, security, etc.)
  • Explain and show how your mobility solutions address each of these areas (e.g., improved productivity, higher end-user satisfaction, reduced security vulnerability, etc.)

Related: How to Upsell Telecom Products Using Multi-Channel Marketing

 

The Takeaway

As buyers wait longer and longer into the purchase cycle before first reaching out to vendors, marketing is doing more and more of the functions traditionally assigned to sales. That’s why marketing also needs to follow a consultative approach. If trust wins deals, then shouldn’t you build trust as early in the buying cycle as possible?

 

 

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