@Alex_Sessoms, https://www.linkedin.com/in/alex-sessoms-mba-57351b9


Despite the uncertainty we are currently experiencing at the start of a new year, it is clear that subscription-based services will continue to democratize information technology. However, Microsoft partners know that there is increasing pressure to drive demand and acquire new customers while continuing to add value to the ones you already have.

As many Microsoft partners have witnessed, the new era of demand generation has been fueled by Marketing Automation and Martech solutions. This makes 2017 a year of strategies, tactics, and tools that bring out deeper customer focus and personalization.

From our perspective, these are the key trends that will shape demand generation in the digital marketing space in 2017.

1. The Growth of Native Advertising and Display Retargeting

Those working in demand generation know investing in strategy and programs that attract the right audience to engage with a product is critical. Native advertising and display retargeting are the next big thing in providing value to your customers.

Native Advertising

Industry experts and magazine publishers are predicting substantial growth in native advertising revenues in the coming year. By following the natural flow and aesthetics of the user’s experience and interaction with a site, native advertising is a non-intrusive way for companies to connect with their audience. Columnist Brad O’Brien explains that when users have a positive, valuable interaction with the brand, they will say “yes” with greater frequency when presented with marketing messages. Just make sure your native content is relevant and valuable.

Display Retargeting

Most online sales happen after a lengthy sales process. It can take multiple visits to a website and other touch points throughout the customer decision journey before a customer is ready to buy. With display retargeting you can bring back customers who have left your website without buying. Because of the display ad network, a company can cost-effectively resurface their brand to decision makers throughout the buying cycle. This use of retargeting can help marketers make the necessary touch points with a prospective lead with minimal effort.

Brands continue to invest in these channels and high quality content has been shown to help generate demand. That said, it’s important to understand how sponsored content is done right, so that it build customer trust, strengthens the community, and spreads the brand message to a wider audience.

2. A New Take on Content Marketing

The Rise of Influencer Marketing

Digital-savvy marketers have understood the power of cross-promotion through different marketing channels for a while (particularly with those who have greater influence and organic followings). Now, there’s a name for it: influencer marketing. Word-of-mouth and referrals have always been the best ways to get new business, and as celebrity endorsements start to decline, influencer marketing is set to take their place.

I suspect that influencer marketing is going to bridge the gap between traditional PR efforts and content marketing in 2017. There is a noticeable evolution from PR outreach to influencer outreach today, and I see this trend causing content marketing and PR departments to team up to strengthen their work efficiency in both of these areas.

Paid Marketing

Ten years ago, paid AdWords results took up about 50% of the screen “above the fold.” Today, those ads now take up nearly 100% of the “above the fold” space on both desktop and mobile. Every major social media platform has multiple options for promoted content or advertisements. They are constantly re-prioritizing what and how business content is presented. These days, paid ads and promoted posts are all but a requirement for B2B social media marketers today.

These services are available to budgets of all sizes with great ROI, so long as marketers target their audience effectively. Advertisements and promoted content also help organizations repurpose existing content and enable it to take off organically in the market.

Sponsored Research

Brands continue to invest in these channels and highquality content has been shown to help generate demand. That said, it’s important to understand how sponsored content is done right, so that it build customer trust, strengthens the community, and spreads the brand message to a wider audience.

For a strong example of sponsored research in action, look at Hubspot’s Research web page. They have conducted and released so much valuable content over the years that they now take demand and lead generation to new heights. As a result, subscribers here are more easily turned into buyers than off the main site.

3. Increased Account Based Marketing Automation

Personally, I’m a big advocate of ABM. Similar to influencer marketing bringing PR and content marketing together, ABM brings marketing and sales together. This creates a more holistic, customer-centered approach to doing business.

In 2017, ABM and ABSD (account based sales development) will most likely continue to gain in popularity among B2B organizations, delivering high quality opportunities and (according to Tim Asimos, VP and Director of Digital Innovation) becoming a more effective way to generate new business than “inbound” demand gen approaches. While almost 50% B2B companies already have an ABM strategy in place, more organizations are planning to launch one in 2017, making it even more crucial to increase a higher close rate for targeted enterprise accounts.

4. More Short Video and Live Streaming

As more people are using mobile devices as their primary Internet source, short video is quickly becoming one of the most popular media forms, especially when targeting younger consumers. Video clips are consumed on smartphones more than music videos, weather reports, or movie trailers and there is no doubt that short video will dominate in 2017.

Another trend that will be huge in 2017, and is already gaining traction, is live streaming video (such as what is available via Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope). Consumers are using live streaming and marketers should leverage this trend to do the following:

  • Have more authentic interaction with the audience.
  • Add a human element to digital marketing.
  • Create a library of content that can be viewed or re-purposed later.
  • Learn from the real-time audience feedback.
  • Communicate the product story directly from subject matter experts.

5. Greater Focus on Customer Experiences and Personalization

My prediction is that in 2017 we are going to see a major shift as companies adopt an even more customer-centric strategy. By the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

Startups like New York-based Triple Lift are seeking to give companies effective and scalable ways to create advertising that looks and feels native to the pages customers are visiting. Highly-personalized campaigns will drive success for marketers looking to cut through traditional mediums that customers have become resistant to (email, banner ads, telesales, etc.).

Personalization has proven to be highly effective for demand generation, despite difficulties in scaling up as your audience grows. Digital marketers need to ensure they are focused on the original goal of targeting a persona, measuring results, and diving further into personalization. This can mean delivering individualized messages and product offerings, or streamlining the purchasing process and making it more responsive overall.

As always in marketing, it’s important to have an agile plan that can shift with relevant news and new directions in the business climate. Personally, I’m excited to see what the new year brings and what our innovative content creators and distributor partners will bring along with it. Happy New Year!

What new trends will you be incorporating into your demand gen strategy in 2017? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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