Marketing has truly come of age, and if you’ve been in this field for long, you will know what I’m talking about. There is a fundamental shift in the way organisations look at marketing today and the impact it can create in their business.
From being a support function or a cost centre, marketing has moved to the organisational strategy level, taking a seat with the sales leadership, and in many cases, even the board room.
This means expectations are growing; marketing must rise up and take its capabilities to the next level.
But before I go into the capabilities that marketers in Asia Pacific need to future-proof themselves, let’s take a step back to understand the environment that is responsible for that change. Even as consumers in Asia Pacific are spending more and more time online and on social media, they have not totally abandoned their old habits.
Organisations need marketing managers to reach consumers through both digital and traditional media, track consumer activities online and at physical stores, and produce campaigns that engage consumers in ways they have not experienced before such as personalised content addressing their specific needs. And all these have to be achieved on a tighter budget and a shorter timeline, and with a commitment to improve return on investment (ROI).
The need to go digital is as pronounced in the B2B space as it is in the consumer. Information about products and user-generated reviews and recommendations are easily available online, which means B2B purchase decisions at the initial stages are often made without the involvement of a salesperson. Quite predictably, attention has now shifted to the impact that online channels, including websites, apps, social media and forums, have on lead generation, brand-building and the sustenance of long-term client relationships.
With that, lead generation and relationship building have moved from being the exclusive forte of the sales organisation to that of a shared responsibility between sales and marketing. Watch out for these three trends in B2B marketing in 2016, as B2B marketers in Asia Pacific will come to grips with digital
- Content marketing: A well-defined content marketing programme with an editorial agenda and call to action. Content teams will be tasked with not only creating insights-driven branded content to be The digital boom in Asia Pacific and the resultant changes in B2B purchase behaviours have presented a stiff challenge for marketers in this space. Marketers need to step up their game and take a re-look at their existing strategies.
I believe that 2016 will be a turning point for B2B marketers, especially those who want to embrace digital more fully. And, as they say in Star Wars, “May the force be with you” to make it happen. shared with clients and prospects, but also managing user-generated content that is mostly beyond their control.
User-generated content, whether it is a product review or recommendation on social media or a blog, creates a strong impression about your brand online, and there must be a strategy to include it in the company’s broader content plan. We are moving closer to that day when content generation takes the form of co-creation between the in-house marketing team and the extended family of brand ambassadors or consumers.
- Mobile and video: Mobile and video are the two big media consumption trends that marketers cannot ignore. Over the past five years, mobile has steadily gained ground across Asia Pacific as the primary media consumption platform for consumers. An interesting data point for marketers is that by 2020, there will be 1.6 billion new smartphone connections.
These smartphone users will use their phones to connect to the internet, shop online, engage through mobile apps and visit social media. We’re also experiencing a spike in online and mobile video viewership. This growth in mobile, coupled with the boom in video viewership, is forcing B2B marketers to integrate mobile and online video into their media mix for 2016.
- Marketing automation: Marketing automation and martech tools will be the marketer’s new best friends. They provide us a better profile of the customer, thereby helping to target the right prospects with the right medium. These tools are helping to improve the efficiency of lead generation programmes, remove discrepancies, get sales and marketing functions to work closer together and, at the same time, bring more accountability in marketing.
The growing emphasis on martech as well as social and digital will also open up conversations around both brand and cyber security.
In 2016, together with investments in technology, we can expect marketers to take a more active role in improving security awareness within their teams and implementing security action plans. A closer partnership between the CMO and CTO/CIO/CSO will be the way forward for these organisations, with an aim to prevent cyber security breaches.
The digital boom in Asia Pacific and the resultant changes in B2B purchase behaviours have presented a stiff challenge for marketers in this space. Marketers need to step up their game and take a re-look at their existing strategies. I believe that 2016 will be a turning point for B2B marketers, especially those who want to embrace digital more fully. And, as they say in Star Wars, “May the force be with you” to make it happen.
KP Unnikrishnan, senior director (marketing), Asia Pacific and Japan, Palo Alto Networks
This article was first published in Marketing Magazine Singapore’s Jan-Feb 2016 print edition. To read more views from senior marketers click here.