In order to compete in an ever-changing business landscape, it is important for business owners and managers to stay on top of innovations, business trends, and new and improved ways of doing things. This allows for adaptation in line with external changes, and can lead to identification of opportunities for increased efficiencies and improved processes. In 2016, we saw an increased emphasis on the customer experience, innovation became somewhat of a buzzword, content marketing moved under the spotlight, businesses more and more realised the benefits of using data analytics when developing strategies, and selling through social media became more prominent.
So what’s in store for 2017? While the future is never truly known, we envisage the following 7 trends will make their mark over the next 12 months.
Trend #1 – Sales Reps become Subject Matter Experts to drive business growth.
While the concept of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) isn’t new, it is expected to become more prominent, as businesses realise more the value of aligning sales and marketing. Sales professionals within a business are a gold mine of industry knowledge and customer insight that can be highly beneficial to areas such as marketing, and also makes them ideal candidates to become SMEs. This can be achieved by identifying their strengths and making them responsible for providing a single point of sales expertise, which will then refine their knowledge bank that can be tapped into as needed by other departments.
Trend #2 – Full integration of sales and content marketing
When marketing and sales teams come together to speak a common language, it is more likely they will see sales results off the back of their marketing budgets. Businesses that understand the importance of this will look to formalise marketing-to-sales handover procedures and better open up lines of communications. This can then lead to the creation of content that brings more, better quality leads through, with more informed content that educates the intended customer and stands out from the crowd. It will also ensure that the messages customers receive from marketing channels and sales interactions are consistent, presenting a unified message.
Trend #3 – C-suite executives turn to video content for business information
A study by Forbes highlighted that video content is becoming a critical source of information among business executives, with over 80% watching more videos online now than they were a year ago, and 75% watching work-related videos on business-related websites at least once a week. This trend is confirmed by HubSpot’s Consumer Behaviour Survey, showing that over 55% of users consume videos in their entirety. Based on these insights, it is evident that video is a preferred medium for ensuring an entire message is consumed and a promising channel for B2B brands wishing to reach business executives.
Trend #4 – Clearly and narrowly defined market segments increase engagement
Narrowing a broad target market into clearly defined segments is a trend that we have already been seeing over the past year, and we expect that this will continue to rise as more business become savvy to the need for greater target market understanding. Digital marketing allows for highly targeted marketing campaigns, however without understanding ‘who’ the intended recipient is for these campaigns, it becomes difficult to choose the right marketing mix, ensure the right message is being sent, and set the right targeting parameters.
Businesses that want to get the most out of their marketing budgets will also look at the customer journey, identifying the thoughts, needs, feelings and behaviours at each stage along the path to purchase (from awareness through to advocacy). This will mean that not only is the right message being sent via the right channels, it is also being served at the right time to guide the customer towards the purchase decision.
Trend #5 – Millennials take the lead and start moving into management and executive roles
Baby boomers are now reaching retirement age and we see millennials starting to step up into management and executive roles. This is expected to shake up business operations and impact on office dynamics, as they begin to influence the workforce based on their values and preferences. Key areas where this change is expected to be most prominent include:
- Office layouts – as traditional office space designs are transformed to encourage broader communication and increased collaboration.
- Flexible working hours – with the ‘9-5’ being replaced by more flexible and adaptable work schedules.
- Less internal emails – as different internal communication tools are adopted to allow for more effective collaboration, replacing traditional emails.
To prepare millennials for this new level of responsibility, many businesses are making asserted efforts to train their future leaders through effective knowledge transfer and up-skilling.
Trend #6 – Greater focus on connecting customers to what they want.
It is well known that consumers are growing tired of being ‘sold to’ and are able to determine a sales pitch from a mile away. With traditional sales-focused methods turning people away, businesses need to find new ways to encourage people to buy their products or services. What we have seen in the market, is that consumers are responding more positively to brand messaging that considers and caters to their preferences and needs. Services that connect them to what they want are gaining significant cut-through (i.e. Uber), as we well and truly enter into an economy built on connection and sharing. This creates opportunities for service-based businesses to enter the market with little to no physical assets (i.e. Uber doesn’t own a single car).
Trend #7 – Leveraging employees’ strengths
A study by Gallup established an undeniable connection between employee strengths and their engagement in the workplace. We have already seen a shift in the mindsets of a number of businesses towards identifying and leveraging the strengths of their employees, to build stronger and more effective teams. In 2017, we expect that businesses will hire more ‘specialist’ roles and invest in strength-based training. One of the organisations included in the study that capitalised on this method implemented a “Lead with Your Strengths” program that, within a year, saw employee engagement levels improve by 26%.
These are some of our thoughts, based on our observations and what we have been seeing in the media. We would love to hear if there is anything you would add. What trends do you think will become prominent over the next 12 months?