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January 7, 2014

Digital Marketing Trends for 2014

by Tom De Baere

digital marketing trends 2014As marketers, we have to “do” a lot. Just when we have social a bit under control, we need to do mobile. And just when we have our first “responsive” website ready, also this doesn’t seem to be enough. Nay, now it’s all context, big- data, gamification, customer experience and collaboration.


It’s not easy today for marketers. And it won’t become any easier. How should a company deal with these changes? And how do you create new opportunities?

Digital transformations and “Digirati”

marketing trends 2014In the 90’s it was just the music, gaming and electronics industry that had to bring digital products and services to the market.

We all remember the dot-com “bubbles”, and internet crisis a bit later. But the demand for digital products and services continued to evolve. The explosive growth of online information, along with the huge range of choices and channels meant that expectations of customers skyrocketed. And it’s exactly this customer, with its lofty expectations, which is pushing companies into digital transformation, and this in all industries.

Some industries such as banking, gaming and software had to make this transformation really fast, in order to survive. Complete business models where thrown upside down. Other industries were too late, like with the video renting or photo printing business. Rent a movie ? Push the red button on your remote control. And sometimes with mixed success : my daughter still does not understand why you have to pay for music. “Music on Youtube is free, isn’t it Dad?”

Other industries have a long way to go. They are attacked by international players who radically bet on digital. Zalando, NetFlix, Amazon, Uber and Airbnb are often mentioned in this context. They place digital in the core. But digital at the core is not just about selling a digital product or service. What about miner Codelco in Chile rethinking its entire mining process with automated trucks without drivers, and remote exploitation of mining sites? Or entire cities such as in New York where sensors in “puffers” of asthma-suffering children indicate the least polluted way to school in the event of a fire or high dust concentrations. That is digitization. Science fiction? Just have a look at Star Trek in the 80’s, and then to the digital jewel in your pocket.

According to MIT and Capgemini Consulting, ” Digirati “, the kind of companies that do this transformation well, these kind of companies are 26 % more profitable.

digirati - MIT_Cap Gemini

Companies with stronger transformation management intensity are more profitable. (Source: MIT/Capgemini)


Should we all begin our digital transformation??

That’s the wrong question.

Shifting budgets – big acquisitions by the “big boys”

Not only do companies see the need for change, vendors also jump on the bandwagon.

In 2013 we saw a whole wave of marketing software acquisitions by the “big boys”

Oracle buys Eloqua and Compendium, IBM buys Unica, Salesforce buys ExactTarget and Pardot, Microsoft buys Marketing Pilot, Netbreeze and Yammer, and SAP bought Hybris. All these acquisitions show that these guys see that IT budgets are shifting towards marketing.

This shift is not so surprising. Digital, social and globalization have led to changes in buying behaviors. And the economic crisis is increasingly forcing marketers to do more with less. Or they can insufficiently prove the marketing ROI to the CEO, continuing to put their budget under pressure. If you want to respond to all these changes you need new software systems.

At least, that ‘s what these big guys want to sell us. They preach buying cycles, lead nurturing, revenue generation performance analytics. And a golden “oldie “ making its return: content marketing. Content marketing is hipper than ever, first in the US, and now making a splash in Europe. And all of these suppliers are preaching the inbound or content message as the solution to our problems.

But it must be said, today this software along with content marketing is more powerful than ever, and perhaps the best weapon we have today at hand to break through the information tsunami and to reach out to customers.

So we all need to go for Marketing Automation and Content marketing?

70% of B2B buying decisions have already been taken before a buyer comes into contact with a supplier (Sirius Decisions). But we all feel that this is true: we first go online, do our research, consult our social buddies, and talk to people offline, and then we buy.

good content is importantSuccessfully applying marketing automation means helping customers in their buying process with relevant content, with the goal to increase lead conversion. This software is capable of tracking all interactions that customers have with a company, determine where they stand in their buying process, and then decide on the next steps to influence their buying behavior. Many companies have invested in marketing automation, without realizing how important good content is in this. They create content to create content. The result is even more “digital crap”, and a customer who is more blind than ever to marketing messages.

Content marketing is much more than content. I see it as a way to be relevant to customers. Content must give real answers to questions from customer, answers that help them improve their business and their daily life. In this way you create a relationship of trust with your customers, a relationship which is not overthrown by the next new product or technology hype from your competitor.

So you have to “give” relevant content, in order to “get”. But to do that you need to understand your customer. And that’s where the trouble often starts. We’ll listen to the needs of customers in terms of our own products, but often internal processes to listen to how we can really help someone are not existing. 

A changing view of how we look to customers

Products and services must be good. They should be, as it were, the “Olympic minimum”.

on top of productsThe question today is what you do “on top” of your products. Companies must look at how they can really help their customers. And they need to learn to control the reflex: How can I generate money from this? No, the first question should be: how can I really help my customer? With information on trends, challenges, opportunities as well as simple questions about how you install something. And help them with apps, tools, websites and other forms of online presence.

Sincerely wanting to help a customer. Throughout the entire organization. Mmmm, that sounds kind of, euh, “non-profit”, is not it? Maybe. But customers are not stupid. They realize that you need to make money in order to survive in business. But if you can combine both, helping them in an open and authentic way AND make money at the same time, it’s then that you earn the trust of customers.

And what does all of this have to do with digital marketing trends in 2014?

The trend in 2014

Digital transformation, marketing automation and content marketing are clearly the trends of 2014.

But for me, there is only one significant trend that clearly stands out. Digital changes are happening rapidly and decision makers definitely understand this. In 2014 they also see that, without a culture change, they cannot embrace these new changes and benefit from the opportunities these changes bring.

It is only when the complete organization has digital, social and content flowing through their veins that they can take these steps.

Start this culture change today. Look at your customers in a different way. Break down the walls between departments. Involve employees in digital, social , and content. Evangelize, give training, and create new cross-departmental processes that listen to customers and respond to their questions, throughout the entire lifecycle of their relationship with your company. And implement when the internal organization is ready.

Vision, leadership, methodology, and for some “urgent” are keywords in this change. Please. Stop doing digital patchwork. Start with the core, and make your company digitally sound.

Warm regards, and happy new year!

Tom De Baere

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