Customers have more power than ever, requiring marketing to change how it works so it can better meet customer demands. These days, customers—not marketing or sales—control the message. Read on for readers' advice about the latest marketing hot buttons.

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Today's marketing hot buttons

Recently, you discussed traditional vs. new marketing. That got me thinking about today's challenges. What's the number-one hot button right now? What's the biggest challenge marketers are currently facing in the new millennium?

— Sheeba, Project Manager

The hot buttons that readers submitted vary from determining who's accountable to trying to get people to open "cold" emails. Different people tackle many different kinds of challenges, depending on their area of marketing.

You may have already faced many of these hot buttons (or, as we like to say, hot potatoes). Some of our readers provide solutions to their challenges; some do not. We've thrown a few solutions in ourselves. This time we're acting as a sounding board to let our readers know: At least, you're not alone!

Who is accountable?

Bent Svanholmer, managing director with Loyalty Management A/S, gives his impression of the current hot buttons: "Marketing Accountability (especially medium and long-term): predicting, planning, implementing, measuring and communicating (CLV/customer lifetime value) and ROMI (return on marketing investment) internally and externally."

That's a mouthful. Svanholmer brings up a lot of good points. Since he focused in on "marketing accountability," however, we recommend reading a good article that discusses using analytics and various techniques to improve accountability. It's from and is called "Marketing Decision Support: Solve the Marketing Accountability Puzzle." 

How do you get prospects to read your email?

Susmita Rout's biggest issue is this: "Getting prospects to open cold-emails." She believes this may be a result of "the consumers' fast changing lifestyles and their growing expectations."

Even with everyone's quickly changing lifestyles, one way to improve your open rate is by highly targeting your email. If you have the time to hunt online, you can find many direct-mail templates and descriptions of successful campaigns. If you don't have that kind of time, many vendors are available to guide you through creating a compelling email campaign that results in sales.

You also can improve read rates by being a trusted information source (and forgoing the completely "cold" email altogether). If you provide a monthly newsletter to your prospects, for example, and they're used to seeing your name, they'll be more likely to open your email.

How do you prove your value to clients?

Monica Powers, a strategic marketing consultant, provides sound advice about this particular challenge that most of us face: "Prove your value to the organization by showing you can deliver measurable results. A smart, successful organization uses marketing as part of its business strategy, not as an afterthought."

Powers continues with this sage tip: "This means getting out of the ad-agency mentality (seeing the marketing manager only as the person who manages ad campaigns or sends out print materials) and placing marketing at the core of the company's planning and operations."

How do you give customers what they want?

Anna Barcelos, marketing director at Business Link International, believes that the number-one hot button today is one left over from traditional marketing: giving customers what they want.

Barcelos says, "Technology has led customers to demand more customized solutions. Customers want their specific messages tailored, especially with marketing's ability to collect more customer information in a convenient way."

It's true that most challenges marketing faces all boil down to trying to give customers what they want. Thanks to advances in technology, marketing has more work than ever before—because customers know that technology can help them get exactly what they want or need. Now there are more places to post information, more data collection tools, more ways to reach your target audience. The problem is pulling it all together into valuable information that translates into understanding the customers' wants and needs.

Take the bad with the good

The bad news: There are no easy answers. Each organization needs to weed through the growing demands and new tools in today's changing marketplace to find its own solution.

The good news: These same advances in technology can help you easily learn from businesses that have already solved some of these same problems. The growing demands also mean that there are always new ways to meet these demands; the market isn't static.

And in a game of "hot potato"—this ever-changing business world—the potato only stays hot for so long. If you pass it along to others quickly, you can usually find a workable solution together before your clients' interest wanes (a solution that will help you keep winning the game).

Next marketing challenge: Can you help?

Besides trade shows, what's the best bang for your bucks?

We are in a global business-to-business market, and traditionally we spend almost 75 percent of our budget on trade shows. At these shows, we show and demonstrating our equipment on 100+ square meters. We want to find alternatives that deliver the same branding and relationship-building vehicle, as this is what our sales force values most. To reach prospects, what alternatives to tradeshows do you suggest?

—Evan, Manager

If you have a situation or question needing a few hundred brains for ideas,  180,000 MarketingProfs readers are ready to deliver their thoughts to resolve your challenge. Share your question and you'll get a chance to win a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing

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Hank Stroll ( is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.