Marketers will remain focused through the economic downturn and will continue to market and promote products and services during 2009, while striving to demonstrate return on their campaigns. That is the key learning from Alterian's annual forecast, "Marketing: The Year Ahead." The forecast also predicts that marketers will focus on delivering programs that will save their organizations money, while attracting new and repeat business using focused customer engagement strategies.

 

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While there is considerable pressure to cut marketing budgets during a downturn, instead marketers should make their budgets work harder. In previous downturns the firms that learned to market smarter have fared better than those that decreased their marketing efforts. Businesses should bear this in mind and get as much bang for the buck as possible from their 2009 marketing budgets.

Marketers will be under more pressure than ever before to account for every dollar, pound, or Euro they spend. This will mean a renewed focus for marketing departments to engage their customers with a more effective use of alternative channels, specifically digital delivery models, including social media, email, and especially company websites. Currently, many organizations are beginning to see the potential these vehicles offer. But in 2009, smart marketers will use these tools to improve customer engagement.

Many companies are only paying lip service to the idea of "interacting with, not interrupting," their customers and prospects as they attempt to optimize engagement on the Web, based on the little they know about their visitors. In fact, many organizations still treat their websites as stand-alone channels and not as engagement tools. The technology is available for companies to genuinely engage their customers and deliver real value to them by better understanding who their customers are and how they're likely to behave. And with the economy the way it is, surely this is something every company should be considering.

In lean times the marketers who best engage their existing customer base will be the marketers who will see the most ROI. It's one of the first lessons taught in business school: "Recruiting a new customer costs up to 10 times more than retaining an existing customer." A renewed effort to focus on customer engagement using the various digital channels and analytic technologies available will be a trend that marketers can expect to see throughout 2009.

The following top 10 predictions fall under a broad theme of focusing more on existing customers, being more innovative with marketing, and using technology to make marketing more effective and accountable.

Marketing: the Year Ahead-10 Predictions for 2009

  • 1) Smart organizations will continue to market throughout the downturn.
  • 2) Marketing activities will be increasingly under the microscope and marketers will now be held accountable for the success or failure of those activities.
  • 3) Marketers will turn to their website as the single most important and flexible lead generation and customer engagement channel.
  • 4) Marketing programs that do not show a return quickly are not going to make it.
  • 5) Mobile marketing has had a tough 2008, so 2009 will be a make-or-break year.
  • 6) Marketers will act on a need to get more value from their existing CRM systems.
  • 7) Marketing will not be about just creating content for the people; it will be about getting content to the people, meaning multichannel, social networks, and consistent marketing.
  • 8) Companies will shift focus toward increasing revenue from current customers.
  • 9) Digital media and social networks will continue to provide cost-effective delivery channels for customer messaging, but will be most effective when integrated with other marketing channels.
  • 10) With consistently tighter budgets, it will increasingly fall to marketers rather than IT staff to drive marketing technology. This will change the buying process for such systems and will favor suppliers that have marketer-friendly software with a quick implementation time.

 

About the Author: Michael Fisher is the Senior Vice President Commercial Operations, North America, at Alterian