I know, I know -- "a year of self-doubt" sounds like a bit of a downer. But chin up! I have no intention of ruining your New Year with stress-inducing hypotheticals and criticisms.
This "self-doubt" prediction -- which appears in our new guide, "Marketing Prediction Hits and Misses" -- is all about using feelings of uncertainty to your advantage. Doubt, after all, is a driving force of innovation.
When Copernicus (and later, Galileo) doubted that the sun revolved around the earth, they ended up revolutionizing how we think about the universe. Einstein would cause a similar revolution after he had doubts about the whole space-and-time-being-universally-absolute thing.
When we doubt, we question. When we question, we dig for answers. When we find those answers, we can improve. And trust me: You don't need a brain like Einstein's to find the solutions to your business's biggest marketing problems. You just need the right approach, attitude, and tools.
"It is likely that 2014 will be a year of self-doubt for marketers," Kipp Bodnar, HubSpot's VP of Marketing, notes in the aforementioned guide. "They will question their social and content strategies from 2013 and start cutting programs that are ineffective. Marketers are over-worked and spread in too many directions. 2014 will be the year that everything breaks.
"To regain their sanity, marketers will question their past tactics, examine which of them were actually driving business results, then focus their efforts accordingly."
Kipp's prediction sticks out to me for its emphasis on doing less, not more. While many marketing predictions focus on the adoption of a particular channel or tactic ("X Will Be the Next Facebook," "Marketers Will Need to Adopt Y to Succeed," etc.), Kipp's prediction is all about taking a step back and letting the data -- not the hype -- guide your decision-making.
While it's easy to jump on the bandwagon when some cool, new social sharing site is launched or when some (allegedly) game-changing SEO trick is uncovered, the marketer of the future will always need to take those new marketing "breakthroughs" with a grain of salt.
One of the biggest obstacles modern marketers face when evaluating which tactics and channels are working is a lack of data. In order to know what's working, you need to be able to see the whole picture. In other words, you need to "close the loop."
Closed-loop analysis traces all of your company's sales back to their lead sources. This allows you to see how many leads a certain tactic or channel generated as well as how many of those leads converted into paying customers.
As a marketer, this data is truly empowering. No more guessing. No more fuzzy numbers. When you close the loop, you can eliminate doubt and know for certain whether a particular tactic is a lean, mean lead- and customer-generating machine or a dud.
No Data = Doubt
Our 2013 State of Inbound Marketing report shows 25% of marketers cited proving ROI as their biggest marketing challenge, making it the top inbound marketing challenge of the year. Perhaps more notably, 34% of marketers reported that they couldn't (or didn't) measure the ROI of their inbound activities in 2013. That's a third of marketers effectively flying blind, not knowing what impact their marketing efforts are having on their business.
According to Kipp's "self-doubt" prediction, in 2014, you can expect to see "a bigger push across the industry for better data and analytics. Closed-loop marketing and measuring from visit to customer in B2B industries will go from a rarity to a common practice."