This is the time of the year for predictions for the next year. Unfortunately, as I read through a ton of insightful and well-written predictions, a pattern begins to emerge. Marketers clearly have a fascination with the new shiny object. Marketers are like the cartoon where the character screams “squirrel” and immediately he gets distracted. And as a marketer, I understand. The emerging marketing technologies and tools are incredibly sleek and promising. And IF you can harness the power of a new marketing technology or tool quickly, you may gain a first movers advantage.

But, for a vast majority of business owners, these predictions are years beyond their grasp and for good reasons. Business owners need to generate sustainable sales now and there are proven processes for this that don’t necessarily include the latest shiny object. So here are my 2017 tips that don’t include the need to race out and get the latest tools & technologies:

Tip one: Place serious focus on customer-centric versus product-centric marketing

Many businesses still spend too much time looking internally versus outward and through their customers’’ eyes. Whether to drive product development or determine content marketing topics or core messaging, too often businesses make large assumptions without talking with their customers. When you gather inputs from current customers’, lost prospects and new prospects and then view this feedback from your future customer’s perspective, new opportunities will emerge to communicate more succinctly, relevantly and timely. This seems basic and it is.  But it’s often the basic things that are not implemented.

Tip  two: Integrate inbound marketing with outbound sales

Inbound marketing, a technique for drawing customers to products and services via digital marketing strategies like content marketing, social media and search engine optimization, is fundamental for a sustainable lead generation effort. For most B2B businesses, inbound can’t operate successfully without outbound efforts and vice versa.   Defining your target audience and associated personas, developing a concise and relevant value proposition and core messaging, and establishing a nurturing program, will enable outbound to be more successful and not waste sales resource time. Wouldn’t you rather have your sales team spend their time closing versus cold calling?

Tip three: Adopt an approach to serve the changing B2B buying experience

The B2B buying process has changed and it’s been well documented by thought-leaders ranging from IBM to McKinsey..Buyers are often more than 50% of the way through their buying cycle before ever contacting a sales person. The sales person no longer holds the key to information. Further, buyers have more resources readily available from peer connections on social media to endless information among sources including all of your competitors, via a simple Google search. Adopting to this reality will also quickly help business owners realize the significance of an inbound marketing program. Your business needs to be found during that first 50% of the buyer’s process. Inbound marketing gets you found.

Tip four: Make marketing and sales alignment a goal for 2017

When marketing and sales teams unite around a single revenue cycle, they dramatically improve marketing ROI, sales productivity, and, most importantly, top-line growth. Business owners who care about driving cost effective sales growth should build sales and marketing alignment. How? Through shared accountabilities for revenue, shared performance metrics and senior leadership’s commitment to working together across the funnel to design touchpoints that engages prospects and sets them up for a successful close. When marketing and sales collaborate through shared metrics, positive outcomes like message consistency and ongoing feedback become more natural and frequent. This can lead to quicker response times, focused resources and clear messaging around the value proposition.

If business owners implement these tips in 2017 I believe it will be a tremendous year for business growth. At a minimum, business owners will be laying a foundation for tremendous new opportunities for years to come.  

Kevin Gold is a co-founder of Growing B2B.  GrowingB2B helps businesses build a marketing-led lead generation effort to enable sustainable growth.  To make sense of the complexity of the customer acquisition process, tools and identify how to better align your marketing and sales efforts, join GrowingB2B at the Customer Acquisition Accelerator Bootcamp.  Register Now as it starts January 12, 2017.  If you can’t make the bootcamp or just need help developing or improving your customer acquisition efforts, contact Kevin here.

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