9 Truths Marketers Must Embrace to Triumph in 2020

Eye vision test representing looking into 2020 marketing trends

A new year brings a lot of pressure. There is the expectation that we’ll be better: [Insert your name] 2.0, if you will. But that change, that growth doesn’t happen overnight. It takes an indefinite amount of time, loads of experience, and some pretty tough encounters for many of us. Even experts.

Hindsight is 20/20 (no pun intended)

Back in November, as I was leading the Philadelphia Marketo User Group, I posed a question to our MUG members: What is one piece of advice you would give to your younger marketing self? Answers varied from “take more risks” to “test EVERYTHING,” but in every case, it was advice that would have certainly saved some headaches.

A few weeks later, I posed a similar question to some of my marketing colleagues. It felt like the perfect time, as we were headed into a new year, with many of us planning and strategizing how to be better and strive for more. So, we transformed a simple question into 9 truths (and one bonus tip) that marketers should heed and embrace throughout 2020 from some of the smartest and most skilled marketers I know. 

Truth 1: You can’t rely on magic boxes. Do the hard things.

With the rise of marketing technology vendors, there seem to be new companies popping up every day promising to solve a new problem or simplify your work for you. (Have you seen Scott Brinker’s latest supergraphic??) What you never see in those demos, however, is the immense amount of effort needed to get the data to make that shiny report or the additional full-time employee you'll need to get the most out of that ABM tool. 

In the age of automation, it's tempting to think someone's worked out a better solution or made a product that will solve the pain points every marketing organization has: data hygiene, attribution reporting, streamlined campaign production, and so on. But the secret to real marketing success is having the painful marketing conversations and doing the grunt work required for any platform to succeed. 

Getting things to work is hard. But we can do hard things.

How to embrace it and win 

The big thing to do here is to get buy-in as to why that problem is an issue, how it impacts revenue, and evangelize its fix in your company. You can't manage what you can't measure, and being able to show how doing that hard thing will make a new shiny and measurable reality happen is a great way to get executive support. Get people excited about doing hard things and you'll be lifting the load together.

You can't manage what you can't measure, and being able to show how a new platform will address a problem and impact revenue is a great way to get executive support. Courtney Grimes, Martech Innovation Strategist

Truth 2: Attribution is a must.

As I shared in my recent blog post, the marketing mission is to drive revenue. But so few marketers have actually stepped up to the challenge. It’s not for lack of desire: it’s because it can be very difficult to accomplish.

How to embrace it and win

No matter where you are in your maturity related to attribution, a good place to start is by adding UTM (tag) detection and success measurement to your programs. This will give you something to build on as you connect marketing effort to revenue.

Want to get started with attribution? Start by adding UTM (tag) detection and success measurement to your programs. Eric Hollebone, Chief Marketing Technologist, VP Marketing

Truth 3: Data doesn’t beat actually talking to your customers.

Digital marketing has put a wealth of data in our hands—behavioral, predictive, demographic, firmographic, and on and on. But we can only hear how our customers describe themselves in their own words by talking to them. It's a deeply enlightening process, and too few marketers do it. Quantitative data can only tell us so much. Qualitative data is a powerful complement to the data we're able to collect digitally.

How to embrace it and win 

Set up interviews with customers, prospects, or people who fit your ideal customer profile and find out what their challenges and priorities are. (Find interview tips in DemandLab's "Definitive Guide to Marketing Personas" eBook.)

Set up interviews with customers, prospects, or people who fit your ideal customer profile and find out what their challenges and priorities are. Hayden Jackson, Director of Content Strategy

Truth 4: Marketing is rooted in creativity.

Too often, we get lost in producing more content or getting one more blog post out the door just to remain top-of-mind and to achieve some vanity metrics. We need to remember that, as marketers, we are supposed to be the creatives. We’re the ones who use emotion to trigger responses and solve problems. We came far in the past decade with analytics and that will continue to improve, but we can't lose the creativity that marketers have at their roots.

How to embrace it and win

Make creativity a priority. Engage your colleagues, host brainstorm sessions, put time on your calendar to shut off Slack/email/phone and have some uninterrupted writing sessions.

As marketers, we are supposed to be the creatives. So make creativity a priority by engaging your colleagues, hosting brainstorm sessions, or making time for uninterrupted writing. Chris Johnston, Martech Solutions Architect

Truth 5: Cross-functional learning is an absolute must.

To stay at the top of our marketing game, we need to continuously offer ever-improving experiences. To do this, we need to function at the cross-section of creative content and technological possibility. Whether we fall on the “technology” side or the “creative” side, not having an in-depth understanding of the latest thinking in both areas and the full breadth of possibility leaves us short and falling behind.  

The best example I can share from my experiences last year is learning about content consumption habits. Working mostly on the technology side, the regular cadence of a nurture program was for me an unquestioned assumption. But content marketers have, for a while now, understood that this dripped cadence is not how most people actually engage with content. Learning more about content made me a better technologist and a better marketer.

How to embrace it and win 

Attend at least one conference or learning session outside of your regular wheelhouse. There is so much advancement being made in all aspects of marketing, it is absolutely worthwhile.

Marketers need to function at the cross-section of creative content and technological possibility to stay at the top of our marketing game. Chen Bian, Success Strategist

Truth 6: Experience trumps solutions.

In today's world, selling shouldn't be as much about what you're selling, but rather how you do it. Customers and prospects value experiences. If two similar solutions fit their needs, they will likely go for the one that provides them with most value throughout the entire buying experience.

Additionally, your own customers can be your main selling channel. If the experience is great, they will likely be more than happy to turn into your greatest advocates.

How to embrace it and win

Spend time identifying how you can improve the experience within each stage of the buyer’s journey and understand the bottlenecks and points of friction:

Is it the selling process? Lack of or too little personalization? What happens after the contract is signed? Are there any further touches that will ensure you keep your customers delighted and happy? How are you maintaining the trust built throughout your buyer's journey? Which other services you could integrate to make the experience more seamless (e.g. free trials, adjacent services required)? How can you delight your customers throughout all stages?

Customers and prospects value experiences. Spend time identifying how you can improve the experience within each stage of the buyer’s journey and understand the bottlenecks and points of friction. Madalina Bogdan, EMEA Technical Lead

Truth 7: You must challenge your assumptions.

There is no time like the start of a new decade to challenge your old mantra of “This is the way we’ve always done it.” While the fundamentals of marketing will always be just that, the vast amount of change in digital marketing over the past decade has proven that we must adapt, then adapt again, then again and... you get the point. 

Don’t assume you know your audience, what resonates with them, or what they will engage with. Don’t assume your current processes will scale with your organization. Don’t assume the same campaign strategy will work again this year. 

How to embrace it and win

We are all adapting all the time. As marketers, we must reevaluate any assumptions we may have been clinging on to over the past year/decade. Ask yourself: do they still hold water?

Reevaluate the assumptions you may have been clinging on to over the past year/decade. Ask yourself: do they still hold water? Kimberly Hemesath, Project Manager

Truth 8: You cannot execute marketing campaigns without a goal.

Campaign execution is a crucial part of marketing. But what good is execution without a goal? In order to truly get results, marketers must stop wasting time and money pushing out campaigns that have limited effectiveness.

How to embrace it and win

Take the time to clearly identify who your audience is and what the specific goal of your campaigns are.  What stage in the cycle are you targeting? Are you properly messaging to this stage?

What good is execution without a goal? Take the time to clearly identify your audience, campaign goals, buying cycles, and messaging. Adam Dost, Martech Solutions Architect

Truth 9: Hone your marketing eye.

It’s easy for marketers to jump so quickly to the next tactic – content creation, nurturing, data clean up, event marketing – without taking the time to really figure out what is working and where to go next. And ultimately, it can lead to more trouble down the road.

How to embrace it and win?

Just as photographers talk about developing a photographic eye in order to capture a scene in a unique way, marketing must work on their marketing eye. For example, if you are developing a brand awareness strategy, consider: What is unique about your product or service? Can you frame the benefits more clearly? Are the key differentiators clear? Or while reviewing persona and prospect data, ask yourself if a data clean-up is necessary.

As you approach your next campaign or initiative, take a moment to view the work through the lens of your marketing eye.

Jumping from tactic to tactic can lead to trouble down the road. As you approach your next campaign or initiative, take a moment to view the work through the lens of your marketing eye. Anita Williams, Director of Client Services

Final Truth: Fighting change doesn’t lead you to the championship 

As one of the younger marketers on my team, I talk and write a lot about the challenges marketers must overcome to move from novice into expert territory. It’s an uphill battle, but one that comes with lots of rewards, if you’re willing to push some boundaries and break some rules. 

The marketing industry has experienced such significant change over the last decade and opened up so many doors for seasoned and young marketers alike. It’s time for us to grasp the change instead of running away from it.

Don’t let the pressures of the new year overwhelm you. Embrace these truths and consider them your starting point for excelling into “Change Agent” status in 2020. 

If you’re ready to take 2020 by the reins but aren’t sure where to start, let some of the smartest marketers step in for you. We specialize in helping companies like yours transform their marketing technology, content marketing, and data and analytics. 

And in the meantime, make sure you never miss a tip from the smartest marketers in the industry by subscribing to our monthly newsletter.

About the Author

Kiyana Neil

Kiyana is DemandLab's Marketing and Sales Coordinator. She brings seven years of experience to her role in supporting DemandLab's sales and marketing efforts, leading brand management and corporate communication efforts, and helping to ensure a seamless sales cycle and a better experience for the company's prospects and clients.

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