Valuable marketing predictions for 2013

Oh yes, it’s that time of year again, when the predictions, trends and resolutions blogs come out to play. Personally I’m a sucker for these articles – they always make me stop and think at the end of a busy year. Hopefully you are too, so Sharon and I thought we’d gather some thoughts on marketing from people whose ideas we really respect. Here are their number one predictions for 2013 (plus a couple from us too). You’ll notice some clear themes.

1. We will go small

“In 2013, we will reclaim our belief that 20 close business contacts trumps 2000 followers. We may keep our networks but we’ll pour our heart into a tight circle.”

Chris Brogan: president of Human Business Works

2. It’s (even more) personal

“Business is outsourcing, modularizing and compartmentalizing – more and more. That means business is moving from hierarchical, intra-company relationships to horizontal, external commercial relationships. That means there will be far more buyers, sellers, and transactions between equals. And that means: the most valuable coin of the business realm will be the ability to collaborate, trust, and play together nicely in the sandbox with other human beings.”

Charles H. Green: author of The Trusted Advisor

3. Marketing your values is the story to tell

“Forget marketing your product benefits or why your business service is so comprehensive. In 2013 the opportunity is marketing your values: what your business stands for. In an age of uncertainty, consumers and clients are going to increasingly search for ‘meaning’ in a brand. So make sure you have an authentic point to what you do, think why you started the business in the first place. That is the story to tell. Be smart in how you market those values, from blog posts to Twitter. But keep it personal. Your people are going to be – more – important in 2013; what you stand for needs to be gettable, so communicating the respective personalities of your team will help: why they work there, what drives them. Don’t make your marketing faceless – put your people at the heart of your marketing, tell their story.”

Ian Sanders: author and business storyteller

4. The rise of brand ecosystems

“I think that we’re going to hear a lot about ‘brand ecosystems’; where like-minded groups of businesses and their customers become more reliant on, and helpful towards, each other. Call it strength in numbers or even a positive pack mentality, but companies that work with their friends will have extra power and we’ll trust them more. It’s only natural; an ecosystem is reliant on symbiosis and collaboration and so is commerce. To quote brand Jedi Mark Sears, it is “the maximisation of self by ensuring the success of the whole.” Buying from and trading with groups of similar companies, with real purpose and mission (as well as profit), will grow super-loyal customers for life.”

Tim LeRoy: writer and head of marketing at Novatech Ltd

5. Be helpful, accessible, social if you want a shot at success

“It’s with some sadness that I start by conceding that in 2013 countless numbers of businesses will waste their marketing budgets by persisting in their belief that it’s worth irritating the many to get to the few with spammy emails and cold-calling. It’s a prediction driven by my acceptance that many are looking for elusive marketing silver bullet that hands them ready-made sales on a plate. But, it’s with hope that I also predict that many will cotton on to being genuinely helpful and accessible. The three big social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) will become default requirements – it will be the exception not to see these listed on business cards and the like. And, the innovators will continue to pave the way with standout visual and video content.”

Bryony Thomas: author and founder of Watertight Marketing

6. 2013 is the year of people power

“Genuine recommendations from friends outweigh any number of glossy campaigns. It will be regional accents a-go-go as big brands try and do authenticity. Ham fisted attempts at mixing friendship with selling fall flat. No one really believes Kate loves Dove and Tesco, Facebook. The businesses that win will be those who are actually listening to their customers and doing a brilliant job – not those that are just saying it. Valuable content fits the mix because it’s genuinely useful, and it helps businesses build real connections. Help don’t sell, talk don’t yell, show don’t tell. Simple!”

Sharon Tanton: creative director here at Valuable Content

7. Content marketing will be the number one focus

“A recent marketing survey” href=”” target=”_blank”>Econsultancy survey showed that 38% of companies in the UK have a content marketing strategy in place. This percentage will definitely grow in 2013. More companies will appreciate the value of providing helpful content to potential buyers. For instance: a lot of blogs are currently written for SEO. These blogs are boring, stuffed with keywords, and poorly written. That’s going to change rapidly. More content will be written for target audiences rather than for Google. Content creation will become a core marketing activity, because your content is your brand. The hot topic in 2013 will be Google’s Author Rank. Author Rank wants the authority of a writer to impact the ranking of his or her articles. I’m not sure we’ll see a huge impact of this in 2013, but it will definitely be talked about a lot.”

Henneke Duistermaat: Enchanting Marketing

8. We will find ways to be human AND automate inbound marketing

“Customer and client ‘personas’ are helping marketer to accurately deliver valuable content. The risk is that they will take the ‘person’ out of the relationship. Marketers will collaborate more with sales to bring the human face back to the relationship. Technology doesn’t build a relationship, people do. Marketers will start to become as commercially savvy about client relationships as sales people need to be. Focusing on the outcomes for customers and clients as well as the usual marketing metrics.”

David Tovey: author of Principled Selling

9. Content marketers automate for success

“I don’t have a prediction as much as an observation. We’re moving more and more into the bigger digital marketing picture that surrounds the web, and that is leading us to focus on automation. Those who have shifted to focus on content marketing and conversion-focused web practices will naturally be turning their attention to marketing automation as they see success from their efforts. Put simply, marketing automation is the practice of using systems to better nurture leads after they’re captured and more effectively focus sales efforts on qualified, late stage prospects. A good marketing automation suite requires tight integration with your website and CRM, and because of that, it creates a feedback loop that establishes the right success criteria for every step along the way from marketing to sales, holding everyone accountable to the right things.”

Chris Butler: COO of Newfangled Web

10. Devices get smaller so your thinking needs to get bigger

“So as the mobile space goes super-hot, 4g/LTE arrives and the devices get ever faster; 2013 will see mobiles and tablets overtake desktop & laptops as the consumption device of choice.  So therefore make sure you write your emails, blogs and landing pages in general with smaller browser sizes (and shorter attention windows) in mind. Also, these devices add a thick layer of “Where” to the “what” and “who” of CRM so open your mind to the possibilities of this for your brand, however big or small.”

Richard Dennys: head of digital marketing, location & commerce, Nokia

11. Brands will buy media companies

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen a few examples of brands buying media companies (i.e., Google buying Zagat).  In 2013, you will see a major move in this area. When organizations honestly look at their content marketing strategy, senior executives will start asking the eternal “build it or buy it” question.  That means that many media brands that have excellent readership and audience will start being approached by brands working to target those audiences…not for advertising opportunities, but to purchase the media company entirely.”

Joe Pulizzi: founder, Content Marketing Institute

12. Customers will only pay attention if you give your best

“It’s not enough just to be on social media, write blogs, send a newsletter or create an e-book. In 2013 it will be the QUALITY not the quantity of your content that will set your business apart. The quality of its production is important – design has never been more important. But knowing your customers better, being more interested, more relevant, more useful, more entertaining, more there for them – that’s what will get you the results you want next year. Marketing is in grave danger of becoming meaningful.”

Sonja Jefferson: me! Founder of Valuable Content

Sounds as if 2013 is going to be a fascinating one for anyone involved in business development. As content marketing takes centre stage, is this the year that propaganda marketing finally dies a death? Marketing in 2013 – a nobler profession at last?

Would love your view too – what do you predict?

Other content you might like:

Huge thanks to all our contributors. We’ll follow your ideas with great interest again next year.

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  1. Terri Lucas

    The best b2b marketers will put a human face on their organisation and services, and finally get to grips with the fact that professional buyers are human beings first, who find corporate speak and imposed structures get in the way of connecting themselves with the perfect provider.

  2. Bryony Thomas

    Really interesting, thank you for pulling these thoughts together. Reading these makes me think more and more that what social media is doing for business is returning us to a time when we knew one another’s names. It’s on a faster and vaster scale – but the skills we’re talking about here are ancient and deeply human. It’s liberating.

  3. Sonja Jefferson

    Hi Terri and Bryony. Terri – I totally agree, and thanks for the thoughtful comment. It really is time to ditch that corporate speak. It’s fascinating isn’t it, and exciting.

    So much has changed since I first started in business development (far too long ago). Then it was all about putting forward a shiny corporate face, a facade if you like. Somewhere along the way the people behind the company got lost. No longer it would seem from these responses.

    It was so interesting collecting these thoughts and seeing the ‘human marketing’ theme come through so strongly. More than ever it’s making me wonder why – why did people ever get lost in the process and why now, this year is there such a strong desire to bring us back?

    Social media must have had a huge impact – we now have the tools to connect at scale and across boundaries like never before. But what else? The dire economy, the decline in trust after a run of high profile corporate scams, the feel-good Olympic factor even? Or is it just that we’re all growing up a little – that society is moving on?

  4. Bryony Thomas

    I do think many marketers got a little carried away with CRM doing their thinking for them. Many are making the same mistakes with poor automation of social media. However good an automation system is (are there are some really good ones) it needs a human being in the driving seat.

  5. Bryony Thomas

    **correction – (and there are some really good ones)

  6. Lizzie Everard

    So, being honest, sensitive and emotionally intuitive is no longer frowned upon! I, for one, am really happy about that, speaking not as a marketer but a designer and artist. Business is really not my natural flow but for the first time ever in my working life, I’m really enjoying setting out new, helpful marketing habits which effectively mean being more myself, and meeting some fab people in the process.

    The insights you’ve shared here help me (and I’m sure others) clarify focal points, gather courage to get up and on it, and keep going with real optimism.

    This post is so encouraging, thank you.

  7. Sonja Jefferson

    Thanks Lizzie – that’s so good to know. I’m watching what you are doing with your marketing and it’s very natural, very smart, and very effective! Good luck with all of it – you deserve to have a fantastic 2013.

  8. Neil Fletcher

    Sonja, it’s an interesting set of ideas from an interesting set of people! What I find particularly fascinating is that, in the main, none of your contributors is saying anything radical. That isn’t to devalue anything that’s being said – I agree with all of it. But it does raise some questions.

    Was there ever a time when B2B marketing had a human face? I recently posted on my own blog about the Cluetrain Manifesto which was published in 1999 and it pretty much covered what has been covered here – marketing needs to become more ‘human’. It was widely publicised at the time. Why did nothing change?

    Or did it have an effect? Are we now seeing the ‘ghettoisation’ of marketing into the smaller ‘human’ approach and the larger ‘do it like we’ve always done it’ brigade?

    There is always much talk in marketing (and in sales) about differentiating yourself? Is this the way to do it, by being human? I think it probably is but I believe we will only ever see a minority of companies adopting this approach because it’s hard to do well and consistently.

    Apologies for the abundance of navel gazing but I think we are on the cusp of a real divide and it’s important to be on the right side!

  9. Sonja Jefferson

    Hi Neil. Thank you for the navel gazing – I always look forward to your comments.

    It’s interesting isn’t it. David Tovey showed me the FT Client Adviser Relationships Report recently – – and it makes for interesting reading. It focuses on how professional firms need to become more ‘client-centric’ – again a theme that has been around for as long as I’ve been in business development – yet little has changed. Strikes me that it’s time to stop talking about and start doing it!

    Are we on the cusp of a genuine paradigm shift here? I have a feeling that we are. It is hard, but the thing that’s changed is that the alternative marketing approach – the faceless corporate shouty version – really isn’t working any more. Customers are firmly in control in 2013 – and they won’t stand for marketing that is anything less than authentic and valuable. If they want to prosper, no matter how difficult this is, companies have to change.

  10. David Tovey

    Hi Sonja and Neil

    As I get a mention above I thought I’d contribute a few more random thoughts after coming down from the hills from a days walking!

    There really isn’t much that’s new in how human beings ‘tick’ – whether you read 12 thought leaders predictions for 2013, Dale Carnegie from the 1920’s, Covey from the 1980’s or go back a few thousand years to Sun Tzu – pretty much the same things are said about how to build relationships and influence other people. It’s no real surprise, as the human brain hasn’t changed much in terms of development over that time.

    What does change over time is society, what is deemed as acceptable human / business behaviour and of course technology. Sales and marketing is changing partly because what consumers deem acceptable is changing and because they (we) have the technological means to share information in ways I would never have thought possible in my first marketing role.

    I’ve been around in B2B sales and marketing long enough to experience the best and the worst of both and of course even content marketing isn’t new – I was using the approach to market software 20 years ago. What is different today is that it is an idea whose time has come and it has captured people’s imagination.

    The report Sonja refers to has similar conclusions to one I was involved in about ten years ago for the legal profession. FTSE 100 buyers of legal services warned that if the profession didn’t voluntarily change their commercial approach then they as clients would make them change – and that is exactly what happened. The legal landscape today is very different from a decade ago and the drivers of that change was their clients.

    The paradigm shift still to be made isn’t at the front line of sales and marketing where I think most people ‘get’ what is happening – it is at senior levels where CEO’s and other executive level managers try to make their businesses work as they did when they were on the ‘front line’ – when the business environment was very different. In the military they say that generals always fight the last war – so I guess that is a human trait too!

    If being human is becoming a differentiator then it’s because too many people involved in sales and marketing had become so self obsessed that they forgot how to be genuinely interested in their customer’s world and their customer’s critical success factors – a basic requirement in any trusted relationship. Being human isn’t about being ‘soft’ by the way – it is about recognising how people want to do business and delivering on promises – doing the right thing for customers and for our own business.

  11. Tim LeRoy

    I think it’s great to navel gaze. I love it. I call it thinking.

    To add my tuppneyworth; yes, there isn’t much radically new here, but what is new is the nuance. My sense is that what is needed is not so much more ‘personal’ or even ‘human’ marketing, but more real humanity, soul and altruism. Are we talking about the work of cynical salesmen trying ever-slicker, more covertly persuasive techniques to get under the customer’s skin? Or are we looking for more selfless giving and more real altruism, which will enrich brand trust?

    I’m going to come across as a very naive hippy, but I react best to people who share ‘stuff’ without an obvious agenda. They give something of themselves. I know that commerce and altruism can’t really exist together, but I think that there is a movement towards a state of trading where they can.

    I am a very big fan of the way artisan jeans manufacturer Hiut go about their marketing, and they encapsulate what I mean perfectly. They only use social media and PR, but their Twitter feed is a compelling brew of personal behind the scenes insights, gnomic sound bites, customer stories and links to inspiring and interesting articles elsewhere – most have nothing to do with denim. And there is zero ‘come and buy!’….But they are all carefully and humanly curated to create, over time, a very powerful picture of what the Hiut brand stands for. Their story is very distinctly human and altruistic (they revived jeans making in Cardigan after the town’s biggest employer closed down), but they are proving that coaching, hyping and inspiring their friends reflects back on them beautifully.

    Founders David & Claire Hieatt have created one of the best brand ‘ecosystems’, that includes designers, bakers, pubs, farmers and even tech companies, and they are getting love back in spades. We are all now working together – often in small ways – but it’s definitely all for the better of us all.

    To summarise: if you give me a glimpse of what makes you tick and what drives your passion (I don’t care if it’s fridges or fishnets), and if you do it because it’s a naturally human thing to want to do; then you’ll have my full attention and you’ll have my trust.

    I recommend following & their Ecosystem brethren….

  12. Sonja Jefferson

    Hi Tim. I so agree with that. We’re not talking about ‘techniques’ here – we can all see right through stuff that doesn’t come from the right place, so you could say we even devalue this approach by calling it ‘marketing’. It’s just doing what is right for those you are in business for, and communicating accordingly. Off to check out Hiut Denim (sounds like a candidate for a Valuable Content Award). Thanks for the thoughtful navel gaze. Sonja

  13. Neil Fletcher

    David, I absolutely agree that the battle to be won is the hearts and minds of those at the top of the greasy pole who can’t or won’t understand that what worked for them won’t necessarily work for those further down. Will it take the death of companies to release current thinkers to start their own ‘new paradigm’ businesses and move the world forward? (Sorry, more questions!)

    Tim, you come across as a very human human! I think we all react best to generosity without expectations. I also love your summary paragraph. I think companies who allow their employees to act in this way will be rewarded accordingly.

  14. Sonja Jefferson

    In answer to your question Neil – yes: I think it will.

  15. Alex Clifford

    I’d agree with David about management. From my limited experience with a small financial advice firm, the management didn’t “get” content marketing and the point of adding value to customers. They wanted to hard-sell, rather than soft-sell.

    The shame is their products were so good, that they could easily go on to be a mega-player in the financial services arena. But they’ll never get that far because those in charge weren’t convinced that this approach works.


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