The single biggest revolution in marketing in 2012 is the transition from one-way communication to online dialogue according to 700 marketers in the Netherlands, who participated in a survey by Berenschot.
Marketing professionals were asked to name the most important trends in 2012. It is hardly surprising that, in line with similar international research, ‘social media’ was mentioned most often (by nearly half of the respondents). But the other two important trends made my day: ‘putting clients first’ and ‘authenticity’. These are three elements that go together perfectly and serve as a basis for a successful online engagement strategy.
1. Social media
Nevertheless, most marketing managers still perceive social media merely as a broadcasting tool. Respondents mainly use social media for promotion or sales purposes, spreading content, and reaching specific target groups. At the same time, the Dutch marketing industry seems to be aware that a shift towards listening and client engagement is necessary, but they are hesitant to open the windows and share business information with their audience. What is holding them back? The unexpected outcomes of online engagement. It seems that Dutch marketeers like to be in control at all times, which is not what social media is about…
2. Putting the client first
Increasingly the Dutch marketing industry is seeing the relevance of direct contact with clients. Not just for customer service, but also to use their input when developing new concepts or products. Although respondents realise that social media offers them a great tool to be in direct contact with clients and centralising their needs in the marketing efforts, offline contact is still important too. Although high-level management has access to more customer data than ever, they realise that this information is filtered as it passes through the organisation. Inviting customers to the boardroom is seen as the best method to receive direct, valuable and reliable feedback and input from clients.
With an increasing amount of brands that implement a social media strategy to increase awareness, it is harder for marketeers to stand out from the crowd. Authenticity is seen as one of the most important challenges for marketing in 2012: what makes your brand unique, compared to competitors? How can you tell a compelling story and, just as important, make sure that every member of the organisation supports this message and acts accordingly? The Dutch respondents believe that strong visionary leadership is the most important requirement for corporate authenticity. If the CEO does not act according to the vision of the company, how can you expect employees to do so?
The three dominating marketing trends of 2012 can be seen as one challenge: standing out from the crowd by telling a unique story, that fits the personalised needs of your target audience. Online engagement is central to this challenge: it helps marketing departments to listen to what clients find important and directly engage with them, not only as a sales method or an extra service channel, but also to use their input and feedback in improving concepts and products.
Other trends that were mentioned frequently were: mobile marketing, marketing innovation, accountability (measuring and reporting the effects of marketing campaigns), Corporate Social Responsibility and relevance.
What do you see as the biggest trend so far for 2012? Are your challenges the same as those found in the Dutch research?