By Nick Johnson - June 1st, 2016

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In an extract from our new 'Incite State of Marketing' white paper, we investigate the top five priorities for marketers in the year ahead.

In a world where brands have more capacity to understand their customers than ever before, and where customers have the power to be more choosy than ever, it is incredibly important for marketing departments to deliver valuable customer engagements.

To do so, brands must not only define a deeper, more nuanced picture of customers, but they must actually put themselves in a position to leverage that more nuanced picture to deliver more relevant and personalized engagement.

In that context, the results below are instructive.

There are five issues that over 30% of marketers classed as ‘essential’ for the year ahead.

The clear leader is content marketing - which 53% of respondents identified as an essential focus for 2016 and beyond.

Following that, there is sales enablement and storytelling with 40% and 39%, and then Single Customer View and Social Media for Customer Service with 33% and 31%.

Content Marketing is of course a huge issue, and we go into rather more depth on the specific elements of content marketing that are being focused on right now in Chapter 4 of our new 30-page research white paper, which is available to download (for free) here.. It is clear that in a world where customers receive over 500 marketing messages a day and retain less than 1% of them, that marketers must strive to deliver more value in an effort to stand out from the crowd.

Content marketing - and its close cousin, storytelling - are evidently the favorite methods to deliver that value for the marketing community as a whole. Largely, that is echoed for the in-house marketing community, of whom 48% label content marketing as essential, and 36% say the same of storytelling.

Beyond this, we see an increasing awareness on the part of marketers to understand their customers better - the other side of the ‘deliver value’ coin. 33% of the marketing community and 29% of marketers have identified “Single Customer View” as an essential immediate focus for 2016.

The broader community puts “social media for customer service” fifth on their list of essential tasks. It would be fair to say that the customer service department will play an increasingly critical role in delivering a seamless, high-value and engaging experience to customers in a world where the number of touchpoints a brand must manage is spiralling out of control. Social customer service is a fundamental pillar of the edifice you must build to deliver both deeper understanding of your customers, and a more relevant and engaging experience for them.

The ongoing integration of marketing’s key tenets of delivering customer value into other departments is evidently continuing apace. Not only is there an increasing recognition that customer service teams must play the game, but an enormous 40% have identified that the “new marketing/sales relationship” is going to be an essential focus this year. Again - sales teams, particularly in a b2b space, have a significant responsibility to deliver a consistent message and experience, and can do so most effectively when empowered with the data and insight marketing teams are now in a position to collect.

Interestingly, while in-house marketers essentially mimic the response of the broader community in four of the five essential foci, they differ in one area. Corporate marketers put social media for customer service 6th on their list of priorities, and replace it with ‘location-based marketing’, which a surprisingly large 25% identify as ‘essential’.

We confess this high placing has caught us somewhat off guard. It is hard, however, to see this in any other context than that of delivering more relevant, personalized experiences - leveraging a new dataset (customer location) to deliver messages and experiences more tailored to the individual.

Download your complete copy of the "Incite State of Marketing 2016" whitepaper here.

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