The 2011 Holiday Season is upon us, and with it comes the usual flood of predictions for next year. I am no stranger to trend watching, so here's what I am thinking about for 2012 (in no particular order).
Let's face it, this is the #1 trend in marketing these days. Enabled by smartphone technology, a big bang explosion of apps and the convergence of geosocial media and local search, this powerful cocktail of technology and strategy enables businesses to attract new customers to brick and mortar points of sale when they are ready to buy. By knowing where you are and what your preferences are, marketers can send you relevant content and valuable offers at precisely the right time. The fact that consumers everywhere are "listening" for local deals means that offline shopping and face-to-face sales are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Even B2B marketers can attract clients in for an office visit or share the latest relevant information with decision makers on the go, staying top-of-mind for impending purchase decisions.
Advances in online marketing technology also enable better, faster analysis of visitor and sales lead behavior and quicker, more relevant response by sales reps. By tracking the clicks that people make when they visit your website and putting them into context (which page, form, link or other element led the person to the analyzed result), you can begin to understand their preferences and needs. By setting up trigger events with specific actions or conversions, you can monitor lead behavior in near-real time and react instantly with sale-supporting content or direct contact via phone, e-mail or SMS. The recent release of real-time website tracking in Google Analytics means that you can analyze and react even faster, as if you are in the room with your potential customers at all times.
While multi-channel isn't new, the number of channels available is growing rapidly. Now you can choose from an array of interactive marketing campaign channels including paid search, QR codes, SMS, social media ads, banner ads, e-mail, blogs and blog syndication as well as the traditional broadcast and print media. An ever-growing proportion of the broadcast news and entertainment sector is moving online, so there are many new opportunities for sponsorship and advertising there as well. What is relatively new is the ability to process the results from all of these channels in a single marketing platform, where marketers and their clients can analyze data and make budgeting decisions in a flexible, responsive way.
Software development and hosting (platform) companies are moving rapidly to a cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) model in which their services are delivered exclusively via the internet. This cost-effective approach enables them to deliver their products and services sooner and with lower customer acquisition and support costs than ever before. It the same time SaaS attracts both individual consumers and businesses of all sizes by reducing their software acquisition and IT support costs. What is often missing is the degree of customization that has always been available with programming on your local PC or servers. In response, most SaaS companies provide an open-source API (application programming interface) that allows developers to add valuable "apps" or extensions to the primary software functionality. Customized apps are now commonplace among leading marketing and sales (CRM) software platforms, enabling social media integration, enhanced communication and sophisticated reporting.
With the buzz about the iPhone 4S and "Siri", we can start to imagine a completely hands-free approach to sales and marketing. No longer chained to your laptop for updates and analysis, sales and marketing professionals can spend more time building real relationships and brainstorming ideas for attracting new customers. Our "smarketing agents" will be with us wherever we go, allowing us to monitor visits, comments and questions for any of our brand venues and respond in real time with verbal responses. We can query with voice commands to find the most attractive opportunities and create optimized micro-campaigns to close deals before our competitors seize them.
It's a brave new world in inbound marketing and sales that's approaching us faster than we ever thought imaginable. I look forward to your ideas on what's new and exciting for 2012 and beyond.
Photo credit: RoyZilla92