The pandemic induced a spurt in demand generation initiatives, with SaaS-based solutions leading the way. With the return to normalcy, the push for brand positioning has again come to the forefront.
Customer segmentation, aligning value propositions and service offerings/solutions to customer needs, investing in product innovation and building awareness for the brand have always been at the forefront of the marketing function. The pandemic induced a spurt in demand generation initiatives, with SaaS-based solutions leading the way. With the return to normalcy, the push for brand positioning has again come to the forefront. However, the challenging macroeconomic landscape calls for a sharper focus on critical areas of the marketing mix.
Sharper focus on existing customer
Organisations have realised that it makes far more sense to protect existing revenues and cross-sell/upsell within the existing customers rather than overtly focus on acquiring new customers. To this end, marketing organisations focus on value creation across all customer lifecycle stages. Bettering the experience at various stages like onboarding, ongoing support and issue resolution with more personalisation built at each step is ideal to ensure customer retention. To achieve this objective, organisations continue to invest in analytics tools to understand areas like customer health, delight, and propensity to detract, in addition to prevailing areas like demographics, behaviour, engagement history, etc. There is a lot more impetus to use Customer Data Platforms (CDP) to bring together customer data in one central location, making it easier for analytics and personalisation.
Making customer focus a reality hinges to a considerable extent on customer profiling. Such profiling is not limited to understanding the stakeholder’s role and responsibility; it goes beyond understanding the channels and frequency of content consumption, interest levels, challenges, etc. Combining in-person knowledge of stakeholders and insights generated through monitoring their social and online footprint plays a key role in arriving at the customer persona. Using such personas to map various levels of customer stakeholders provides the right impetus to creating content as well as delivering experiences that are personalized, relevant, and timely.
Sharper focus on meaningful content
Analyst surveys indicate that the number of stakeholders involved in decision-making has increased multifold, as has the role diversity. In addition, these decision influencers are more self-service driven – they use external sources to gain relevant knowledge about the business challenges they face, much before formal inclusion into a sales cycle. When a service provider enters a formal bidding process, the stakeholders already obtain 70 per cent of actionable knowledge. Only a fine-tuning of information or validation of understanding happens during sales.
Further complicating matters, online mediums are flooded with varying sources of content. More and more influencers mushroom day by day, AI-driven platforms with the ability to curate content from multiple sources churn content in factory mode, and various advertising platforms compete to disseminate content to an unwilling target audience. What gets missed out in this process is the authenticity and relevancy of content to the target audience.
What can make a difference in this landscape hinges on two areas – firstly, understand the customer context and provide content that resonates; secondly, focus on an intent to aid solution finding for customer challenge irrespective of whether the service provider solution can address that or not. In most cases, content gets created with the selfish motive of driving demand. What is not realised is that most of the time, the stakeholder would have arrived at a course of action and depends on the service provider to validate their decision. By playing a neutral role and giving them the right course of action, the service provider gets uplifted to the role of a trusted guide – a dependable expert in the customer space. Demand will automatically follow.
Sharper focus on MarTech stack
Over the course of years, the marketing technology stack has become increasingly complicated, with a far higher number of platforms addressing a plethora of challenges. The original purpose for which a platform had been onboarded would have changed. However, the organisation continues to make do with the platform by integrating it with additional systems or customising it to get the relevant intelligence. To an extent, this is also exacerbated by the overlap in functionalities across Martech solutions. Adding to this complexity, many of these platforms exist in silos, adding more overhead to the integration needs. A closer look at the Martech stack and moving towards a consolidated stack to optimise and streamline operations in the context of the larger marketing objective is vital. As per the 2022 Gartner Marketing Technology Survey, 60 per cent of respondents preferred an integrated stack approach.
In addition, the last few years have also seen an exponential rise in AI models in Martech stacks. Starting with value-adding across areas like customer and product analytics, personalisation, campaign performance and customer behaviour, it has moved mainstream with the likes of ChatGPT, Midjourney, Jasper AI, etc. Understanding how AI-infused tools can work in a particular marketing context and adopting those tools helps increase the impact of marketing initiatives through increased intelligence and analytics.
The areas mentioned above are only a handful compared to a wide range of trends shaping the marketing landscape. Areas like metaverse and AR/VR have all been witnessing increased adoption but have some more runway to cover before being mainstream. Whatever the trend or technology mix that drives initiatives, the fundamental objective of marketing towards either brand building or demand generation will continue.
About the Author
Anoop Karumathil Melethil has two decades of experience in conceptualizing, creating, and driving technology-focused marketing initiatives across tier 1 as well as mid-size global IT services organizations. He has built his expertise in building marketing functions from the ground up, encompassing areas including but not limited to media, public relations, influencer marketing, digital marketing, employer branding, thought leadership, brand outreach, field marketing, ABM, and internal communication.
Originally published In BW Marketing World.