From Internet of Things to the Internet of Me, what according to you is the big thing that will define IT marketing in 2016?

It is difficult to pick just one thing that will define IT marketing in 2016. Looking ahead, the priorities that stand out in the agendas of IT solutions marketers are:

  • Building an insight-led marketing engine
  • Creating a digitally enabled, marketing organization
  • Becoming more agile
  • Engaging customers with thought leadership and innovation
  • Scaling Account Based Marketing (ABM)

Two ways in which the digital lives of people, things and organization is impacting the way companies are marketing to them? 

Buyers have raised the bar in terms of their expectations. Not only do they want a personalized experience, but they also want a well-orchestrated experience across channels—a seamless, omnichannel experience.

Many people equate ominchannel with multichannel, but they are not the same. Multichannel is a well-executed integrated marketing campaign across multiple channels. In other words, multichannel is speaking with one consistent voice. With omnichannel, a consistent voice is a given and then it goes a step further. With omnichannel, every communication channel, whether digital or offline, knows what touchpoints have already happened and the information exchanged. Think of omnichannel as continuity of experience with each channel knows about the buyer’s experience in all the other channels.

We have the technology to deliver an omnichannel experience. Marketers need a central database to track touchpoints and create customer profiles that are progressively built and continuously updated. It is this infrastructure that makes personalized omnichannel marketing possible.

Consumer companies like Disney, Macy’s, REI, and Starbucks are already delivering highly personal, omnichannel experiences. However, B2B marketers that have always been plagued by siloed sales, marketing, and delivery efforts are finding omnichannel marketing to be quite a challenge. What’s worse, is that even within marketing we have created silos: business line marketing, industry marketing, regional marketing, country marketing, product marketing, and so forth.

How has the sales function transformed in the changing times wrt to changing consumers and organizations?

It’s widely believed that 60-70% of the buying process is over before prospects want to engage with a salesperson. The premise is that there is so much information available online that salespeople are thought to be unnecessary in the early stages. ITSMA’s data says that for high consideration technology solutions, this is a myth. In fact, we believe just the opposite: 70% of B2B technology solution buyers want to engage with sales reps before they identify their short list. In fact, buyers perceive value in interacting with sales at every stage of the buying process—even the early stages. In the epiphany stage they want education and unique perspectives; in the awareness stage they want product information and subject matter experts (SMEs); and in the interest stage they want benchmarks and best practices.

That’s good news for IT providers. The earlier you engage, the more likely you are helping customers formulate their ideas on how to solve their problems. Earlier engagement means more wins.

But there is a catch! Sales has to add value during the buying process, especially during the early stages. Sales has to stop promoting and pitching and start educating and advising. Marketing has to pass the “thought leadership baton” to sales so they can do thought leadership selling. With marketing’s help, sales is being transformed through better information and intelligence about the buyers they are working with or pursuing. They are also being enabled with more content and thought leadership that help open doors, spark ideas, build credibility, and lead to engagement. The bottom line: buyers want new ideas and innovation and, with marketing’s help, salespeople are stepping up.

How do you see the role of IT marketer changing in the coming year and what has been the transition that you are already witnessing?

IT marketers are impacting more than the company’s marketing. They are becoming advisors to the rest of the organization as the go-to source for insights on customer behavior, interests, and preferences. At ITSMA, we believe that the most successful companies will build an insight-led marketing engine to collect, synthesize, and analyze data from the marketplace to focus strategy, solution development, content creation and dissemination, customer experience management, and sales.

Customer insight is the foundation of good marketing and IT marketers are starting to realize this. ITSMA’s recent marketing talent survey revealed some surprising shifts in B2B marketing priorities, with 2016 marking the transition. For example, in 2015, marketers cited brand and positioning as their top responsibility. By 2017, marketers predict that their top responsibility will be understanding buyers. This will require deeper capabilities in market research, data management and mining, predictive analytics, marketing automation and tools, and customer segmentation and intelligence, including developing buyer personas.

Profile:

Julie Schwartz is Senior Vice President, Research and Thought Leadership, ITSMA. Also Net Promoter® Certified Associate, Buyer Persona Certified Practitioner

She is also a speaker at Great Indian IT Marketing Summit & Awards 2016.

Julie runs. A lot. And the longer the run, the better. Her colleagues are convinced that all this running is what gives Julie the endurance and focus to be the powerhouse behind ITSMA’s research and thought leadership. Julie has originated and manages ITSMA research including benchmarks, models, frameworks, and assessments on a wide range of subjects such as Thought Leadership, Account Based Marketing, Customer Engagement, Marketing Performance, Marketing Technology, Sales Enablement, Brand Positioning, and Customer Loyalty to name a few. She also pioneered ITSMA’s widely regarded annual study, How Buyers Consume Information.

In addition, Julie leads consulting engagements and custom projects for individual members and clients. She is a Buyer Persona Certified Practitioner and Net Promoter Certified. Her clarity, candor, and integrity are highly valued by colleagues and members alike.

Prior to joining ITSMA in 1996, Julie held senior roles with State Street Research, Dataquest, The Ledgeway Group, and Meditech. Julie earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated summa cum laude and was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She also has a Master of Science in Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management, where she was named a Seley Scholar.