As 2011 drew to a close, Arketi Group hosted the fifth annual Atlanta High-Tech CMO Roundtable, as well as the first such Roundtable for High-Tech CMOs in the Raleigh-Durham area.
In all, some 60 marketing executives from leading technology companies across the Southeast gathered to discuss the current and future state of marketing within the business-to-business, technology sector.
The roundtables were divided into two sessions. In the first, participants discussed the outlook for their industries in general, and their organizations in particular; how they saw their marketing budgets, goals and priorities for 2012; and what they viewed as the challenges facing us the rest of this year.
While opinions varied, occasionally quite widely, some consistent themes emerged:
- Doing more with less – For those whose budgets were staying largely flat, doing more with less was a necessity, but even for those who anticipated a budget increase, there was a desire to squeeze every penny of value out of the money available. For some, this meant using technology to improve the productivity of the PR and marketing teams, or the effectiveness of the programs – or indeed both. For others, it meant taking a critical look at the effectiveness of different communication channels.
- Putting the buyer’s needs first – After years of focusing exclusively on “leads, leads, leads,” many participants felt it was time to achieve a better balance between branding and lead generation. Customers and prospects are now bombarded with email, whether in the form of special offers or lower-key lead nurturing. Marketers need to stop selling and start listening to customers, thereby putting the buyer’s needs first.
- Balancing the marketing mix – Most Roundtable participants had taken time and money in 2011 to experiment with new ideas and planned to continue experimenting in 2012. One surprise among the lessons learned was the positive return that many had experienced from conferences and tradeshows. A number of the CMOs present were also actively fostering user groups online, establishing customer advisory boards, and conducting customer satisfaction surveys.
- Making metrics matter – All participants agreed that tracking performance of PR and marketing programs is vital not just to understanding the ROI of the programs, but also to the success of the communication function within the organization. Many activities, however, remain hard to track. For such activities, marketers must make the extra effort to find meaningful metrics as a way to prove the success of their programs.
- Content marketing and social marketing – As the conversation on measurability continued, some Roundtable participants cited social media as something easy to measure, while others felt its true value could not be gauged by merely counting “likes” and retweets. This disagreement aside, all agreed that social media is now as mainstream a marketing channel as email was five years ago – even in a BtoB environment.
All in all, the outlook for business-to-business, technology marketing this year is rosier than has been the case in recent years. The Roundtable participants were generally upbeat about their budgets, the array of channels and tactics at their disposal, and the measurable contribution the marketing function can make to their organizations.
BtoB communications professionals must work to develop and disseminate messages that will resonate within their markets and help Sales sell more. It is clear these five trends will play a part in ensuring their PR and marketing efforts generate revenue through the rest of 2012 and beyond. Anyone serious about BtoB technology digital marketing or PR can download a free copy of The Outlook for Business-to-Business Technology Marketing in 2012.
This post first appeared as a featured digital marketing post on CommPRO.biz and can be viewed here.