A Look Back Digital Marketing Trends from 2013

As we wrap up 2013, let's look back to see what made digital marketing news in the past 365 days or so.

From what we can tell, the biggest challenge that still remains is for digital marketers to show their worth. In fact, it's what keeps them up at night -- providing ROI to executives. 

Digital marketers and CMOs want a seat at the table where big business decisions are made. But executives want them to earn it. And with barriers like these, it's not easy. 

Value and Power

We began the year with a look into a report that showed social media marketing is now almost as important as search engine optimization (SEO)for B2B marketers.

But we were skeptical about the research from Sagefrog Marketing Group. Other B2B marketers weren't convinced. The debate, however, continued throughout 2013. The question: is social worth it for B2B marketers and, if so, in what forms?

We also explored the role of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Think the CMO is just an empty figurehead, created to shift blame onto when companies fail to meet their online goals and attract the attention of new customers? Think again, we claimed.

Besides the CEO, the CMO may be the most powerful person in the C-Suite, with the ability to impact everything from the bottom line to shareholder value — so said a panel hosted by the National Press Club.

Marketing Broken

Tom Wentworth thought as much in February when he wrote we organize our marketing teams around channels: digital, email, social media, mobile, retail and other areas. Each team is assigned a budget and its success is measured. In our effort to be organized and effective, we create teams that end up competing for business against each other, fighting over the same customers to show growth in their respective channels.

And here’s the basic problem with the channel approach: Customers don’t organize around channels.

Customers see products, brands and services holistically. They don’t care about our internal walls, legacy processes and poorly integrated technologies. Today’s customer journey weaves its way through myriad digital and offline touch points.

Rather than forming these marketing silos, we need to break down the walls between them, Wentworth stressed. By doing this, we can dramatically improve the customer experience, and provide a huge opportunity to drive additional revenue and improve customer loyalty.

Better Post-Click Experiences

It’s a dilemma that many demand generation marketers face, and we explored this with Scott Brinker in February.

You run advertising, email and social campaigns to drive new prospects to your lead generation and customer acquisition programs.

However, your website is usually too general purpose to fulfill the expectations of those targeted click-throughs. But the landing pages that are produced with your marketing automation software, while they may deliver a more closely matched message -- let’s be candid -- usually provide a rather low fidelity user experience.

Most landing pages are… well, cliché, with the typical headline, bullets, hero shot image, a form and a call-to-action button. For most prospects, such landing pages come across as a “take it or leave it” proposition. And on average, 96 percent of visitors choose to leave.

So it’s a trade off. Do you send those prospects to a well-crafted, well-branded web page that can seem disconnected from the initial message that won their click? Or do you send them to a landing page that has less depth and polish but is on target with the messaging from your campaign?

IBM Launches Digital Marketing Network

The software giant produced big news in September when it announced a potentially unifying Digital Marketing Network that integrates the services of more than 100 vendor partners. 

The Network is designed to help CMOs and their teams use, integrate and improve the effectiveness of marketing services for. To do that, the company is providing a ready-made integration between solutions that marketers have been using, without the need for on-the-spot custom integration.

Forgetting to Talk to Customers?

Sadly, I wrote in October that real, face-to-face customer-engagement tactics are all but gone.

I’ve got proof: in two major marketing conferences out of Boston I’ve attended, where customer engagement was a hot topic, not one session suggested doing something like a small, customer advisory board.

My question then was "Why not"? Social media metrics, online customer habits, web conversions, web traffic, online shopping cart patterns. I get it. These have value.

But it seems we’re forgetting about the value in actual communication -- real time, insightful, coffee-and-bagel-in-a-room kinda conversation. Of course we’re not suggesting an IBM executive fly in customers from around the world, greet them in the lobby of its Armonk, N.Y. headquarters  and bring them to a conference room for some coffee. 

We are suggesting they speak directly to customers. Wouldn't this make a digital marketing campaign better?

Listen, Listen, Listen

We got spooky in October when I reported that too many B2B marketers are falling for the “trick” traps in this “trick or treat” world of marketing messages. And a report we covered this week explains this and gives us opportunity to reflect, refocus and start delivering unique messages we can call our own.  

“Listening to your different customer segments and understanding what drives their purchase decision-making behavior is crucial to focus brand messages on the really differentiating drivers,” researchers who crafted the October report by McKinsey & Company, "How B2B companies talk past companies," told CMSWire.

2014 Digital Marketing Trends

We wrapped up the year with Vala Afshar's top trends predictions for digital marketing in 2014. The success of today's marketing organizations is largely driven by their adoption of digital technologies to transform the business, Afshar wrote, and he stressed the CMO and CIO need to work hand in glove to ensure marketing is enabled with the IT tools and processes to further engage with customers in an increasingly connected world.

As we move toward 2014, he added, the digital transformation of today’s organizations will only accelerate, with several trends driving this forward.

Title image by violetkaipa (Shutterstock).