Now that the fuzziness associated with New Year’s has cleared, it’s time for us to share our bold predictions for 2018.
Last year, I did an entire series of predictions at the end of the year, only for those to be forgotten once the calendar year turned over. This year, I’m doing fewer but bolder and more “no-fluff” predictions, and we’re giving you them in January so you hopefully remember them longer.
At the highest level, the state of marketing and sales has never been more of a mess. I use the word “mess” purposefully. There are so many opinions and questions when it comes to marketing. Do we use outbound? Do we use inbound? Is direct mail coming back? I heard ABM is the secret. What about Facebook advertising? I know a guy who saw 10x his investment in just 30 days.
On the sales side, there’s just as much chatter. While most of it is around technology, automation, chat, bots and making sales more process oriented, it’s still just as confusing for most people.
Most people who consider themselves experts are only experts of one slice of a highly complicated process. The ability to consistently generate revenue for a business month over month is hard work. Generating a ton of leads from a Facebook campaign doesn’t guarantee new customers. Getting your business on the first page of Google doesn’t guarantee new customers.
The reality of revenue in 2018 is that you have to be great at so many different elements, and that makes it a challenging task. That’s at the core of what we predict will be bold changes in 2018.
I have a superpower, but it’s not the kind of superpower that I can cash in on or even save lives with. My superpower is an ability to put myself in the shoes of a client’s prospects. I know what they’re thinking when they visit a client’s website. I know what they’re thinking when they see a client’s proposal docs. I know what they’re thinking when they get emails from my client. And I know how to change all of those interactions to create a better, more positive and prospect-centric experience for our clients. In 2018, this is something you must be great at too.
When you throw out all of the crazy marketing and sales speak and leave all of the labels and expert advice behind, you end up with a person who has a challenge and a company with a product or service that satisfies the challenge. The exercise then becomes how to create a series of experiences (that roll up into one amazing experience) to help that person feel like your product or service is the right choice for them. That is marketing and sales in 2018 and beyond.
The better you build that experience, the more prospects you’ll attract to your company, the more leads will convert into sales opportunities and the more sales opportunities will turn into new customers. Better yet, they’ll turn into new customers faster and they’ll spend more money with you. Plus, you’ll have a system to do that repeatedly. You’ll never miss your revenue goals again.
Now marry a strategically built experience with technology, data and insights, and you get quantitative numbers on the performance of your revenue machine. Those numbers empower you to make adjustments in real time to turn up the volume or dial in the quality of lead to take advantage of any challenges up and down the funnel.
This makes you a revenue scientist and a potential superhero in your company. In 2018, companies will increasingly be changing their perspective on marketing and sales, focusing on the complete buyer’s journey experience when building out all of those touch points to produce more predictable results.
In 2012, we wrote the book “Fire Your Sales Team Today!” The book was years before its time and resonates today more than ever. In the book, we talked about siloed marketing departments and tactically expert agencies, explaining how these individual, disconnected and not orchestrated approaches to marketing were no longer going to produce the desired results.
The sales department and the marketing department can no longer operate as two feuding families. The long-standing battle between sales and marketing over lead quality, lead follow-up, prospect knowledge and overall accountability for revenue must end.
You can end it proactively by eliminating both departments and forming a new, single team called the revenue team. Another option is to put both teams under the leadership of a single chief revenue officer and make them equally accountable for that one magic number – revenue.
But one way or another, you have to get your marketing people to live and breath revenue, and you have to get your salespeople to understand that they’re not separate from marketing but rather part of a seamless experience that every single prospect is going to go through before hiring your company.
Finally, the essence of our book “Fire Your Sales Team Today” was not about actually firing anyone. It was about metaphorically telling your salespeople that the systems, processes, tools and techniques that worked in the past are no longer effective today. In a LinkedIn post a few months ago, my associate Matt Heinz took a stand when it comes to helping vs. selling. Yes, helping is overused and not quite accurate. At the same time, you can’t sell anyone anything anymore. The buyer’s journey is no longer dependent on a sales rep or a sales process.
Instead, after you fire your sales team, you hire them back not as sales reps but as sales guides. Their job is to guide your prospects through their buyer journey. Your sales guides focus on helping them, educating them, advising them, counseling them and directing them through their journey, so prospects come out at the end of the journey feeling like they made a good purchase decision. If you can create a process that delivers that type of guided experience, you’ll improve your close rate, decrease your sales cycle, lower your cost of acquisition and increase your average revenue per new client. Those are all key performance indicators you should be looking at in 2018.
Not sure this is an issue? Think again. Take a look at the marketing and sales tech landscape as published by Scott Brinker in May. More than 5,000 vendors are on the graphic. In 2011, around 150 vendors were on the list. Even more troubling are these stats:
This is a highly saturated, complicated and competitive space, and it’s only getting worse. In 2018, you’re going to find more technology options for more slices of the sales and marketing mix, with more companies vying for your attention.
How can anyone know if their tech stack is the right tech stack? Who can help you with technology and the integration, orchestration and coordination of a best-of-breed tech stack? What about keeping up with all of the changes in technology? How do you know if your tech stack isn’t missing something new and incredible that would produce even better results? Do you buy something simply because it sounds great or has a promising value proposition, or should it be tested and vetted before it becomes a part of your solution?
Yes, it’s going to be difficult to keep up. Yes, you’re going to need a partner committed to a variety of technologies. Yes, your partner needs to test those technologies, making sure that they function as advertised and work with the other technologies in the tech stack. You should be looking for a company that understands a wide variety of technologies represent the right stack for certain companies. Being committed to one or two technology tools is going to limit their ability to recommend, configure and support what’s right for you and your business.
In 2018, having a marketing and sales technology partner is going to be critical if you want to continually look for tools to make your revenue generation machine hum even faster.
It’s not a novel thought, but it’s quickly becoming a key part of the revenue engine. Companies have always used existing customers for references, referrals, case studies and more. But now companies are activating their customer bases to do even more. Advocacy marketing is quickly becoming a highly effective and efficient way to increase close rates and lower sales cycles.
The key here is incentivizing customers to participate and, more importantly, working even harder to ensure that most of your customers are having such a great experience (back to that again) that they’re thrilled to help and actually want to help you tell your story.
Step one, give your current customers a great experience. Step two, ask them and encourage them to participate in telling their story to as many people as possible. Technologies like Influitive are on the market to help you gamify this process so that customers are rewarded for providing referrals and participating in case studies.
But this is only scratches the surface. When you look at how happy customers can influence the prospect experience, you have many different ways to apply this content. Customers can help with video testimonials, removing references from the sales process. Customers can actively participate in webinars, driving up middle-of-the-funnel leads and making those leads move through the funnel faster. Customers can send unsolicited emails to your prospects, making the selection process easier for you so you get more leads to turn into sales opportunities and then close a higher percentage of those sales opportunities.
The application of customer-driven content in both marketing and sales is just beginning, and it’s going to be a major trend in 2018.
With over 5,000 marketing and sales technologies and tens of thousands of digital agencies, you can expect some consolidation and rollup in 2018. You’ll see agencies focusing on verticals. Manufacturing seems to be the biggest opportunity right now, with agencies going all-in on manufacturing. Other agencies are focusing on specific tactical delivery like video marketing, social media, search engine optimization or paid advertising.
These moves make sense from an agency perspective, but do they make sense from a client perspective? Remember, my superpower is looking at the world from someone else’s perspective. Do I want an agency that only does one thing, even if the agency is amazing at it? How long am I going to need that one tactic? What happens when the newest, latest and greatest new tactic comes along? If now I need 10 tactics to be executing at once to drive revenue, do I want 10 agencies all doing their own thing, or would it be better for me to have one agency that knows me and my business intimately and can orchestrate everything I need help with? There is no correct answer, just a collection of perspectives.
Speaking of perspectives, when it comes to industry knowledge, do I want only one of those perspectives (the one related to my industry)? Even if that resource knows everything about my industry, how do I get ideas that innovate, disrupt and differentiate? If you give me a great idea, won’t you also give that great idea to my competitors or other manufacturers? Probably not, so it’s not a big issue, but I can tell you that some of our best ideas for clients came from clients in different industries. When transferred, those ideas made a monumental difference in revenue performance for our clients.
In 2018, the decisions associated with how you go to market, who you use for sales and marketing advice and the collection of players in that game are going to change dramatically.
This year is going to be another year of change. The pace of change is going to increase and the world is going to move closer to being able to scientifically predict exactly what’s needed to drive revenue. Your role as a CEO, business leader, CMO, VP of sales or marketing manager is to get on that train and ride it to the end as quickly as possible. Let us know if we can help.
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