This post isn’t for companies trying to survive maybe one more year—it’s for innovators looking to shake up markets and dominate industries. As we head into 2015, you’re likely hearing about the importance of content marketing, social listening, marketing automation, etc. Those status-quo tactics are all great and should be done, but they won’t put you out in front; at very best you’ll keep up with the pack.
Here’s what you need to know to move the needle in 2015:
Everything, literally everything, will be sold online.
I am overjoyed every time I see a traditional industry finally accept that they are going to have to adapt their business model to the internet.
Ernst & Young put out a report called The Digitisation of Everything. You know a trend is here to stay when an accounting firm writes about it because they’re in the business of analyzing the past, not predicting the future.
It was difficult for me to realize just how much digital has crept into our lives, and at first I didn’t feel things had changed all that much in the last 10 years. But digital experiences now define our offline interactions and are woven tightly into everyday life. Online relationships produce 1/3 of marriages and 1/6th of babies born. In the US this 17% of the next generation is larger than the Asian, Jewish, bi-racial and veteran populations COMBINED
Unless you’re in a heavily regulated industry, it makes sense for everything else to go digital RIGHT NOW.
Think of all the other experiences that we have online that previously seemed absurd: Tesla sells cars, Amazon sells televisions & Fresh Direct sells tomatoes. My Sicilian grandmother would be extremely upset to learn that I was buying my tomatoes online.
And it’s not just consumer products, it’s B2B, and everything in between. Alibaba breaks the record for largest IPO in history at $21 billion selling dump trucks, wholesale diamonds, logs, lumber & industrial-grade street lights. I don’t think too many consumers are buying this stuff. In fact, 2013 B2B e-commerce revenue in US was $559 billion, double that of B2C e-commerce.
So if you want to shake up an industry, start selling something online that people think is impossible to sell online. And as a side note, service companies should stop letting tech startups steal all their revenue by doing this for them.
The database is the marketplace
Precise knowledge of your client’s interests could increase profit ceiling 2.5 fold, as clearly cited in this Harvard Business Review whitepaper and this FirstData whitepaper. Most companies won’t even consider gathering relevant customer data for a few years, but if you start now you will blow competitors out of the water and become the leader in your industry. Literally.
We all recognize the names Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple, but most of us don’t realize what these titans are battling over as we speak. It can be summed up simply in two words: customer data. Or more specifically, relevant customer data.
Any situation where you can take an offline interaction online allows you to capture more data. And once you have that data, you can use it to give your customer an intensely personalized experience that delivers more of what they want. That means happier new customers, more up-sells and cross-sells, and much clearer differentiation from your competitors.
It’s not just big data for big data’s sake; it’s about taking a customer-centric view of your business and leveraging data to enhance it.
We are actively pursuing companies that are looking to leverage big data to add value to the customer experience. I am more than happy to brainstorm with anyone who is actually ready to embrace this strategy. Seriously, call me.
Adding value with technology
Content marketing is really competitive. There are now 450,000 corporate blogs. Everyone and their mother is writing a blog, tweeting, putting out whitepapers, etc. (not that it’s all quality material). But if you want to stand out from the crowd in 2015 you’ll have to strive for something different, rather than something better. 2015 will bring a new focus on adding value with technology and traditional content marketing will be considered cost-of-entry.
The Tech-Service Hybrid is an offshoot of this trend, specifically designed for service companies. Using technology to turn products into comprehensive solutions is another offshoot.
Actually building a brand the right way
It’s easy to forget that building a brand actually works. We get so caught up in gizmos and gadgets and flavors of the week that we don’t sit quietly and think about the fundamentals that so few companies do well.
A good brand is what takes the place of rapport created by a face-to-face interaction. As more and more products and services we never expected start to be researched and interacted with online, branding becomes increasingly important in industries where it once never mattered.
Even mediocre branding will seem amazing in most industries, so if you want to break away from the pack in 2015, you might try doing the following:
• craft a succinct, powerful value proposition
• create buyer personas
• map out your buyer’s journey
• create a content calendar
• conduct competitive research and positioning
• differentiate your offering
• create a style guide
Have you honestly done or revisited each item correctly and methodically in the past 3 years?
The rise of good B2B marketers
The biggest digital disruptions of 2015 will happen in B2B. To date, there has been a lot of crappy B2B marketing. It’s mostly because working in B2B marketing really hasn’t been considered cool or sexy, and often hasn’t paid well, so the best marketers have gravitated to consumer brands such as Coca-Cola and the like. But that has already changed and will only accelerate in 2015, because people are realizing B2B marketing actually works, and can be way sexier than B2C marketing. Also, I’ll repeat the reference to the Forrester study that B2B e-commerce sales are at $559 billion, while B2C e-commerce is at only $252 billion in sales. There’s plenty of cash out there and people are going to start competing for it. This is already drawing some great agency-side marketing talent into the space.
Google has proven that B2B transactions are highly emotional– customers are actually twice as emotionally connected to B2B brands than B2C, and there is a groundswell building among tech companies strictly focused on B2B.
Intentionally disrupting traditional supply chains
Manufacturers and OEMs who have traditionally relied on distribution channels will start to go direct to customers. Fully integrated business models are IN, especially at the beginning of new waves of digital disruption.
Tech-service hybrids and full-stack startups are just two different groups moving toward the same fully integrated business models.
If you’re in a sluggish industry it’s time for a bold move to cut your distributors out and start going direct. A lot of people are afraid to do this in fear of angering competitors but are stuck in the same trap as Procter and Gamble was when they had the opportunity to create their own version of soap.com strictly for their own products, but are now letting Amazon into their warehouses to run logistics instead. It happened to them and it can happen to you.