AV companies have instant information about their product sales right at their fingertips. However, those same AV vendors have little to no visibility into the effect of marketing on tracking the reach, engagement or conversions on those same product purchases.
The result is ironic for the AV industry: marketing technology obsolescence due to artificial intelligence (AI) changing the buyer’s journey and purchasing decisions.
AV Marketing Plans Missing
At rAVe, we see a lot of technology well before the reveal at a tradeshow and we often hint at what we see coming. Our team and authors prepare content specifically to launch at the publish date so that the news about these new products are quickly seen by our readers, viewers and followers. The result is that even as a third-party producer of the content, there’s a plan in how to reveal new technologies and the trends we’re seeing to our various publications and social media channels.
How does this apply to today’s AV manufacturers and integrators? They need to do just as much preparation (likely more) as we do, yet the average buyer barely hears about these new solutions from the source beyond the initial press release and a social media post or two. The lack of strategy around not only product marketing but solution selling is a massive missing part of a campaign mindset for AV marketers.
So how is it that rAVe often gets better traction around new trends and technologies even more than the companies making those products? Because we plan for not only the reveal but the overall content campaign to share our insights and opinions around how these overall trends and new technology paths will affect the AV industry as a whole. We have our eyes on the bigger picture precisely because our team of contributing authors and staff look for not just the technology, but the practical implications and applications both generally for the AV industry and more specifically per vertical market.
Invest in Technology
AV manufacturers and resellers can quickly point to which products sell the most, how often they are sold and which clients purchased each product because of a solid stack of technology which manages this information for them. However, these same AV manufacturers and resellers often cannot point to the effectiveness of their social media channels, their web pages or even their advertising to determine which purchases were influenced by these marketing efforts.
By treating marketing as an afterthought at best and at the worst, a cost center, the AV industry has not invested in marketing beyond big spends like trade show booths or perhaps some digital Google Ads.
The reason AV vendors are unprepared for the shift in buyer behavior is the lack of a solid marketing technology stack to manage the information, build intelligent automation and track the key metrics over time. And because there’s little to no strategy around using comparative digital metrics to look at these trends for valuable insights, the AV industry often only use social media as an annoying digital bullhorn to push minimally useful, ‘look-at-me’ spammy promotional content.
Things are about to change. And the AV industry isn’t ready for it.
Remember those ERP (enterprise resource planning), IMS (inventory management systems) and CRM (customer relationship management) systems put in place to keep up with the shift to a digital economy? That shift is taking place (and has been steadily doing so for well over a decade) in the marketing technology (MarTec) stack. There’s even an annual report highlighting the exponential growth of this technology space (see below) which shows that between 2011 and 2018, the growth of marketing technology platforms and providers skyrocketed from just over 100 software tools in 2011 to over 6,800 software tools in 2018. Let that sink in and then take a look at the two graphical illustrations of this trend from 2011 to 2018.
At the forefront of this tech stack is AI (artificial intelligence), specifically, narrow AI which focuses on machine learning and optimization (I’ve covered this before at rAVe). In the marketing world, AI is most concentrated around visitor tracking in social media, digital advertising and on web pages (with mobile sites leading the way). It is entirely possible to know that when a purchase is made, all (or at least most) of the actions which led up to the purchase — which social posts were clicked on, which pages were visited, which resources were downloaded, which webinars were attended — can be traced back to the individual users.
And that’s just looking backward at the digital bread crumb trail. The real power is in looking at trends in near real-time to begin predicting which items will likely sell and not only where to advertise but specifically targeted content and ads to each individual person.
Visualize AV Marketing Trends
Investing in the MarTec software stack is no easy undertaking; most liken it to picking the right ERP, IMS and CRM software since it’s just as involved and complex. Fortunately, the starting point isn’t quite so dramatic. By pulling together key metrics from existing marketing software tools and platforms (think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google Analytics, Google Ads, etc.) into good ol’ Excel, it’s possible to begin capturing key data points to begin trend analysis over time. Once enough good data is collected, representing it can be done via good ‘ol PowerPoint (see below) until your marketing team has the data, budget, and time to research the MarTec software stack best aligned with each vendor’s business.
While each vendor’s marketing teams will have access to the raw data, the c-suite will need trends, insights and recommended actions to take, which requires visualization of key data into useful intel for making informed decisions. The ability to see the effect of social media on influencing buyer behavior is entirely possible with marketing automation and a MarTec software stack of tools to track visitors over time.
Invest… or Else
It would be ironic for the technology-focused AV industry to have invested heavily in product technology only to lose out on sales due to obsolescence in their Marketing technology stack, but that is the current trend. Still, the MarTec software stack will only be as good as the strategy around a long-tail campaign mindset for AV marketers.
At rAVe, we see the trends and are saying it for all in the AV industry to hear: The time to invest in your marketing software strategy is almost up.
Agree or disagree? Is the AV industry missing the digital marketing mark? Comment below.