There’s never been a better time for marketing to engage directly with customers.  B2B buyers are collecting up to 70% of the information they need to make a purchasing decision before they are even willing to talk to a sales rep.  Most of this research is being conducted online.  The implication is that if you are not found during their research efforts you have missed the opportunity to shape their view of a technology or the vendor landscape.

Marketing is now acting as the sales function during this research process that comprises 70% of the buying cycle.  Marketing is talking directly to your customers in online webinars, on blog posts and explainer videos.  Marketing can engage in discussions directly with users on Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms.  Or you can create your own online community to solicit feedback on existing products or collect ideas for feature enhancements.

There’s never been a better time for marketing professionals to apply their creative talents with the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) tools available online.  Everyone now has the opportunity to act like a journalist, a photographer, a film producer or a book author.  Opinion leaders can start a blog on WordPress in a few minutes.  Amateur producers can quickly create film videos to host on YouTube.  Fifteen years ago you would have paid big bucks with media companies to broadcast a video or publish an opinion editorial to the general public. New technologies on the web have significantly lowered the cost to both produce and to distribute content online.

Wannabe authors, which would never have been picked up a big publisher, now can write and distribute their own books using DIY tools on  And a new generation of tools are coming online that enable you to create animated videos, complex infographics and professional style ebooks in a matter of a few hours.  Just a few years ago you would have paid $10-$20K to outside agencies to produce these materials.

But it’s not all about having fun and being creative.  There’s never been a better time for marketing to demonstrate its contribution to the business with tangible ROI data.  CEOs love to joke that “I know 50% of my advertising budget is working, but I just don’t know which 50%.”  But those days are over.

Using Marketing Automation Management software from vendors such as Marketo, Eloqua (Oracle) or Neolane you can track exactly how each individual company and person is responding to your campaigns.  You can see exactly how many people opened and clicked through on the email campaign you sent out this morning.  You can track how many people downloaded the white paper you published last week.  And exactly how the leads you converted from Google Pay-Per-Click ads navigated through your website.  So you can show your CFO detailed forensic analysis of which leads originated from marketing campaigns and those which were touched (or influenced by marketing).

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