2013 is already shaping up to be an epic year for marketers and writers. It’s the year that content, social, search, and email are coming together, working in sync for the greater good of marketing-kind.
It’s also the year that wise marketing departments will use analytics and automation to scale their efforts and make better decisions.
It’s the year that content tipped from being an interesting option to being a must-have.
And paired with that, it’s The Year of the Online Writer — in other words, the year that content creators begin to be valued as the creators of valuable assets, rather than an expense on the balance sheet.
It’s the future of marketing and it’s sitting at our doorstep.
But as is so often the case, to understand the future, we must look to the past.
In the beginning, there was Lead Generation
Imagine the B2B marketer at the beginning of the twenty-first century deciding to embrace the new science of demand generation, announcing to his sales team, “Let there be leads.”
Lead generation was becoming like Ron Burgundy (kind of a big deal). But lead generation, or lead gen, was in its very early stages. Marketing teams would send out massive direct mail campaigns where prospects would literally tear off a business reply card and mail it back. Or they would collect business cards at trade shows.
Now they had a “lead” to hand over to sales, but this was a very tedious process.
Fast forward a few years as email marketing began to make waves, but at first it was mostly B2C companies who were benefiting. B2B marketers would begin to make the transition from direct mail to email, but it was still a new strategy that was slow to catch on.
Powered by vendors like GotMarketing, ExactTarget, Boomerang, and Vertical Response, each month marketers would go back to their database with a new offer, essentially taking a spray and pray strategy. Every person who responded would get a call regardless of their interest level.
During this time, a lead was a lead. Neither sales nor marketing could figure out if the lead was hot, warm, or cold. Deciding which leads to call became a very painful process, and a source of tension, for both marketing and sales teams. The concept of scoring a lead would become a very hot topic, but no one had the technology to do anything about it.
All leads are not created equal
There was clearly a need for something new.
Early marketing tools from Genius and Marketbright started to make some headway with website tracking technology, but that was just the beginning. Marketers needed a platform that would tie everything together.
Enter marketing automation, a godsend for the B2B marketer looking to have one central platform for all of their campaigns.
No longer did marketers have to manually comb through the massive number of raw inquiries, now they had software to do this in addition to so much more. Marketing automation would empower them to build and manage multiple campaigns from start to finish while automating many of the mundane tasks associated with lead management.
In this new era, marketers could now create landing pages, score and nurture leads, and effectively measure the ROI of their marketing efforts — all on one platform.
In addition, they could now track the digital body language of their prospects and determine who’s hot and who’s not. This would prove increasingly important as the seller controlled buying process would soon give way to the newly empowered buyer doing their own research, not wanting or needing to engage with sales until much of the buying process is already complete. This would force marketing departments to take a bigger role in developing and nurturing the relationship.
Along with marketing automation came a new, smarter kind of marketing
The other side of the automation coin is a new, more effective style of marketing that supports and improves the sales process.
Smart content marketing helps sales teams by answering objections, showcasing case studies, demonstrating benefits, and even uncovering prospect pain points.
Effective advertising has always been “salesmanship in print.” Content — which has actually been used in good advertising for more than 100 years — just does a better job of it.
Along with the rise of content, we’re seeing the rise of the content creator — the capable writer, video producer, or podcast publisher who can make the content that prospects want to consume. Wise businesses know that talent doesn’t come cheap, but that high-quality content is an investment that tends to pay off handsomely.
Where we’re going, we don’t need roads
Over a century ago, the department-store magnate John Wanamaker famously said, “I know half my advertising dollars are wasted. I just don’t know which half.”
Fast forward to 2013 — this is no longer an issue. Modern marketers have more data available at their fingertips than ever before in history. And marketing automation allows them to manage that data into actionable insights. No longer is there any question around what the return on their marketing spend is and how it contributes to driving revenue, there are now hard metrics to report.
As marketing automation begins moving into the mainstream and quickly becoming the hot topic at marketing conferences around the world, the analytics that this technology provides will prove and improve marketing spend and finally give the marketer a seat at the revenue table.
About the Author: Jason Miller is the Senior Manager for Content and Social at Linkedin Marketing Solutions by day, and a rock and roll photographer by night. Get more from Jason on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.