Updated: May 15, 2019
It’s that time of year again. Every analyst firm is making its predictions about what’s in store for its respective coverage areas.
Here are five trends and predictions for 2019, coupled with my own insights. The icing on the cake is that there will be no mention of AI, IoT, machine learning, big data, or even cloud!
Prediction 1: MarTech software is (still) eating the world.
Gartner's 8 Top Findings in Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2018-19 states that CMOs are allocating 29% of their budget toward marketing technology (MarTech). By comparison, the same survey indicates that only 24% of the CMO's budget is being allocated toward marketing headcount.
Analyzing the rise of marketing technology vendors is Scott Brinker, with his Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic that started with approximately 150 vendors in 2011 and worked its way to 6,242 vendors in 2018. Following Brinker's lead, many marketing consultants have developed their own derivative. Nancy Nardin of Smart Selling Tools has developed her SalesTech Landscape, and LUMA Partners has designed a LUMAscape for each of the product sets it covers. Having a marketing technology stack has become so prevalent that it has spawned an annual award, The Stackies.
Insights: What’s been missing from these graphical representations is the inclusion of competitive intelligence software. Sales enablement and competitive intelligence software will be on a collision path; therefore, look for these two to intersect in the form of alliances, extended features, or M&A activity.
Prediction 2: Win/loss analysis gets further visibility; next-generation win/loss vendors gain prominence.
Industry conferences are now dedicating event time to discussing how incorporating win/loss data can play a critical role in your business. The value of the output and analysis can help build better products, empower sales teams with valuable insights on the competition, and help executives make informed decisions.
When deciding if your company should undergo a win/loss initiative, your three primary considerations should be the following:
Whether to run a win/loss program in-house or use a third-party provider
The level and depth of the interviews and analysis required
The number of interviews required to conduct an accurate analysis
If you decide to use a third-party to conduct win/loss, you can choose from three types of institutions:
Competitive intelligence firms that offer a wide array of competitive deliverables
Niche firms whose primary offering is deep win/loss analysis
Small companies/individuals that can provide win/loss on an ad hoc basis
If the last couple of years have been any indication, a new set of win/loss vendors such as Clozd, DoubleCheck Research, and Eigenworks will emerge, attempting to dismiss the mind share held by win/loss stalwarts such as Anova and Primary Intelligence.
Insights: Win/loss analysis is more extensive than win/loss reporting. If you use a third-party vendor, ask the right questions and choose wisely. While there are many qualified companies that can conduct win/loss, there are as many who promise the world, yet have a shoddy offering. Certain vendors' advanced offerings include bundled software and graphical analysis; therefore, expect to pay anywhere between $500 and $2,000 per interview. Yes, the price range is that wide!
Prediction 3: Budget allocated for buyer’s journey shifts from "awareness" to later stages; supplemental research indicates linear, sequential fashion narrative is misleading.
In late 2018, Gartner’s CEB unit illustrated today's B2B IT buyer’s journey, a departure from the often-prescribed buyer’s journey we are accustomed to seeing. Therefore, competitive content can be consumed at any stage, depending on the buyer's preference.
For content purists who adhere to the previously prescribed rules of content creation, supplemental research highlighted in the IDC FutureScape: Worldwide CMO 2017 Predictions noted that one-third of the “awareness” budget was to be redirected by CMOs towards the ensuing stages, such as the "interest" and "decision" stages of the buyer's journey. Historically, nearly 50% of a tech company’s marketing programs budget is spent at the “awareness” stage.
Research by both firms is great news for competitive marketers since awareness marketing content, also known as top-of-funnel, tends to generate softer, less impactful output. By contrast, in a perfect example of later-stage, competitive content, network performance monitoring vendor ExtraHop explicitly lists product feature comparisons on its website.
Insights: Forget everything you learned - buyers have their own journey, and a competitive marketer should be armed and ready to produce competitive content, as the delineation between "awareness" and later stages becomes fuzzy.
Prediction 4: Forget inbound marketing claims. Trade shows are still vital; plan your annual budget accordingly.
IDC FutureScape: Worldwide CMO 2017 Predictions emphasized that events will surpass advertising as the top marketing program investment in more than 50% of B2B IT vendors. Despite the rapid growth in digital marketing, events still remain the second largest marketing program investment, behind only advertising.
Insights: Trade show intelligence, a reputable source of competitive information, should be on every competitive marketer’s list as a vital source of primary research. Everything from product announcements to messaging and alliances can be found on the trade show floor, helping to understand the competition and its respective industry. It is imperative to have a prescribed trade show plan of attack by preparing, collecting, analyzing, and bringing feedback into the organization.
Prediction 5: Peer-review sites grow exponentially; use them as one of several data points.
The beauty of the internet is that there's so much information out there. The downside of the internet is that there's so much information out there. The internet is categorized as open- source intelligence, and it still reigns supreme as a vehicle for obtaining information.
Competitive intelligence pioneer Leonard Fuld states, “Appreciate Google for what it is. Free data, no matter how good your search skills, is generally something everyone else has and offers little competitive advantage - at least in its raw form."
Over the last couple of years, the notion of third-party review sites has become popular as another option for open-source intelligence. Hailed as Yelp for IT: Gartner Peer Insights, G2 Crowd, IT Central Station, and TrustRadius provide valuable data points for analyzing the competitor. Many marketers are not aware of this free resource; however, the sites are becoming better known each month. A vote of confidence in the third-party review category was highlighted by the aggregate amount of $100 million that G2 Crowd raised after its latest round in October 2018.
All of my battle cards contain customer quotes lifted from these sites. Quotes, when used as customer proof points, have higher impact due to the context and credibility they provide. Marketing-provided information is simply conjecture.
Insights: Every competitive engagement should use open-source intelligence, including peer-review sites as a source. However, make certain you triangulate that data point with several other data points. Then couple those open-source data points with human intelligence for a more accurate picture of the competitor.
For further insight and to learn more about these predictions as they relate to competitive marketing, register for "Five Competitive Marketing Trends for the Tech Industry in 2019."