This time a year ago, marketers planning their 2023 marketing budgets were bracing for a recession. A common motto might have been “fasten your seatbelts, folks, we’re going to be in for a bumpy ride.”
Your view now might be blue skies ahead, or you know there’s going to be some turbulence, but it’s time to get airborne. The motto for 2024: “How do we take control of this plane and move more aggressively?”
Mere survival is no longer the operating principle. Fifty-six percent of marketers say their companies plan to take risks when it comes to business strategy. That might entail an aggressive growth strategy, like a big purchase to broaden your organization’s capabilities. Maybe it means pushing a new product before customers, or emphasizing something different in your portfolio. Maybe it means marketing your brand in new parts of the globe. All of the above tend to signal “we’re not just surviving anymore ― we’re going to be successful and grow.”
Sometimes, aggressive business tactics and survival tactics present similarly. Continued volatility in the healthcare sector could lead to more mergers and acquisitions; aggressive spending in the tech sector could yield the same strategy. In either case, the ethos is the same: if you aren’t growing you’re dying, so figure out a way to stay profitable through some form of expansion.
The top marketing trends for 2024 emphasize agility and aggressiveness in its many forms:
1. Identifying better, more actionable data ― and putting it to use
Marketers are constantly gaining new ways of collecting data on their customers and clients. But not all data is created equal. Sorting through it all to form an actionable strategy is perhaps the top challenge of the information age. That’s particularly true in an aggressive strategic environment.
One-third of marketers believe decisions take too long at their company. Using data to uncover what works and why is essential to speeding up decisions and demonstrating impact. For marketers who feel like they have the data they need, that data might come from disparate sources. Some of it, they control. Some, their vendors control. Some of it is actionable, some is not.
Say you want to increase your combined social media following through your brand’s various channels by 50 percent. If your main priority is to sell more of a specific product, social media growth doesn’t necessarily align with that specific objective. Hone in on the data that matters, and figure out what to do with it. The organizations who do this best will gain a tremendous competitive advantage.
2. The buyer’s journey takes an alternate route
Customers want a personalized, “self-serve” experience that doesn’t require speaking to a salesperson every step of the way. It’s a lasting if unintended consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, when organizations of all stripes figured out how to operate electronically or remotely. For marketers, an important question persists: Do we really need a salesperson meeting with the customer or client at every step of their journey? Or should we wait, let the customer use our digital tools to do her research, then meet with her when she has a question?
Increasingly, the latter route presents more favorably to consumers and the brands they do business with. Deciding how to adapt it for your organization can help sell more, manage a travel budget better (instead of chasing every lead), and manage customer relationships further down the sales funnel. This should come as good news for salespeople who formerly had to memorize complicated scripts, but now might only need to answer a few questions specific to a prospective client’s business.
This approach allows marketers to create customizable content and messaging, and deliver it via the buyer’s preferred channels. If you aren’t already all-in on personalization and customization, 2024 is the time.
3. Hybrid selling
Effectively a combination of our first two trends, the move toward hybrid selling ― the right mix of in-person interaction, remote contact, and e-commerce tools ― answers the logical question of how best to deploy human resources in a digital age. The answer? Offload what you can to your digital tools, then utilize the most actionable data so your salespeople can anticipate where a buyer is in their journey.
Some organizations are taking deep dives into behavioral science, predicting probabilistic outcomes based on the digital behavior of customers. (A rudimentary example: when someone taps x on our mobile app, it’s best to do y.) A completely automated decision tree facilitates this thought process, but ultimately a human salesperson will need to execute when called upon. The buyer feels like someone’s responding to their every need, but it’s actually an educated guess based on an algorithm.
Some advanced knowledge of your organization’s digital tools will be necessary to anticipate scenarios where, for example, you know a potential customer is at Step 1+x in their process. But the payoff is tangible. One study found that when salespeople are working remotely, they can interact with four times as many accounts in a given period. Anticipate hybrid selling practices to become the norm in B2B environments.
4. Greater focus on customer success and retention
Typically, most of a company’s revenue will come from repeat customers and clients. The ability to retain a client is a more cost-effective way to grow revenue compared to finding new ones. But what are you going to do about it?
Customer experience, according to one estimate, can exponentially improve the experience of your existing customers ― enough to widen the gap between customer acquisition costs and customer lifetime value by up to eight times. Converting the first-time buyer into a loyal, trusting customer makes practical sense.
Customer lifetime value has become increasingly important for sustainable business growth. For those customers who have already advanced through the sales funnel and discovered what your company is about, a more personal touch may be necessary ― but worth the extra effort.
5. Data privacy and security compliance
While you’re focusing on customer success and retention, consider the central role of establishing trust. To convert potential clients and customers, they need to trust your ability to limit their risk by safeguarding their private data.
As data protection regulations evolve, there are more ways to mismanage online data every year. Marketers must more aggressively prioritize data privacy and security to build trust with their clients. Europe has stricter guidelines for securing customer data than most of the United States. Providing visitors to your website the opt-out of data collection is increasingly necessary. Mismanaging the data you do collect is also a legal minefield. Press the wrong button, and you run the risk of lawsuits from upset customers.
Jordan Buning is President of ddm marketing + communications, a leading marketing agency for highly complex and highly regulated industries. Throughout Jordan’s 28 years in marketing, he has served clients among a diverse range of industries, including healthcare, financial services and global manufacturing as well as public transportation, higher education, recreational products.