B2B Marketing Predictions for 2002

Are you ready to rumble? Well, you’d better be if you’re in charge of your company’s marketing effort this year. The days of innovating new approaches are over. All the techniques have been tried, and it’s your responsibility to pull the right levers to attract customers, build brand value, and ultimately generate revenue.

Here is my fearless forecast of what lies ahead:

Prediction 1: Most companies will learn to excel with minimal resources.

If companies in Silicon Valley are any indicator of the future, then most will learn to operate with ultra-lean marketing organizations. In fact, for many, the differentiation between sales and marketing has become almost negligible. With such a heightened emphasis on generating sales, any initiative not directly associated with acquiring new customers has been put on the back burner. Companies, such as BEA, that merged traditional marketing roles into product development or sales provide a glimpse of the modern-day marketing organization.

Prediction 2: An ounce of humor will pay dividends for most companies — but not all.

Brand building through humor or entertainment will continue to pay dividends for many companies. IBM, Chevron, and a host of other behemoths have had great success injecting a little levity into their marketing strategy. This tactic isn’t for everybody, though. If executed poorly, it can have an alienating effect on your company’s brand.

Prediction 3: The demand for marketers with MIT-like quantitative skills will go through the roof.

I predict that as the accountability for results increases, most organizations will perform deeper analysis to identify new markets, measure performance of brands, or target potential customers. Expect steady demand for services and tools that help companies model markets or forecast sales.

Prediction 4: This will be the year of creative deal making.

I watched the courting of eBay‘s technology business very carefully. The eventual winner was IBM, beating rivals BEA and Sun. One of the more interesting components of the deal was a shared marketing agreement between the two firms. IBM agreed to showcase eBay as an “IBM e-business” in radio and print ads. Bottom line: If you can construct coherent deals that produce revenue-generating opportunities for your customers, your chances of beating the competition will weigh heavily in your favor.

Prediction 5: Customers will demand “insider” treatment.

The importance of personalized client relationships will become acutely apparent this year. One-on-one discussions, private Web sites, and personalized newsletters are only a few examples of hand-to-hand marketing that will allow companies to engage their customers. Companies such as Monarch Media have realized tremendous response rates by personalizing their communication to individual customers.

Prediction 6: Web sites will shrink.

It’s the conclusion of many experts that the typical business Web site contains too much information for the average customer to consume. Megacorporate sites from companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, and IBM are too cumbersome for business use. Look for more companies to invest some effort into developing smaller, tactical microsites or Web services that are focused on a single function or customer group.

Prediction 7: The role of technology in marketing will become more necessary than ever.

The use of database technology, advance business intelligent tools, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems are fairly standard for most marketing departments. In fact, the job of marketing will become increasingly difficult without the support of information technology. Now is a great time to invest in tools to help your marketing processes. Many systems that commanded premium rates a few years ago have reach commodity-level prices.

A note to any day traders out there: Keep in mind that these predictions are based on my observations of the current environment and are not derived from any inside information. I’ve been known to miss the mark on market predictions — occasionally. If you have any opinions on my predictions or a few of your own, I’d be glad to hear what you expect in 2002.

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