Five Changes in Sales and Marketing That Will Transform Your Business in 2018 and Beyond.
Chances are you're already familiar with the typical forecast report content-no matter how industries change, the trends always seem to stay the same. Things like live video's takeover and big data's infiltration into sales and marketing have been forecast mainstays for a few years now.
And while these perennial predictions are interesting, there are more important issues at hand. After all, it's one thing to keep an eye on live video-it's another thing entirely to look into the larger factors driving its growth. With that thought in mind, we reached out to the world's leading sales, marketing, and innovation experts, asking them for a forecast of what businesses can expect to see in 2018. Here's what they had to say.
Businesses will Find New Ways to Leverage Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence has been surrounded by media attention for a while now, but there’s more to this emerging technology than just what makes the news.
As executives become more comfortable with AI doing some of the thinking for them, they’ll start running smarter, smaller marketing departments-departments where AI can augment (or even replace) roles. But before we get too deep into the future possibilities of AI, let’s talk a little more about what it actually is.
Ross Andrew Paquette
Broadly speaking, AI focuses on the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. Machine learning, on the other hand, is a subset of AI, which allows computers to handle new situations via analysis, self-training, observation and experience.
AI’s ability to analyze and recognize patterns is becoming increasingly essential in social media marketing-sorting the signal from the noise. Using sentiment analysis, social media management tools can determine whether or not consumers are speaking favorably about a brand (or their new campaign). Brand managers can then concretely prove whether customers are responding positively to their messaging.
At its heart, marketing AI comes down to customer behavior. While marketing has been slowly shifting from gut-driven to data-driven for years, AI is accelerating that transition. With content and product recommendations engines capable of tailoring messages to individual customer interests and interactions, we’re already seeing AI exceed its human counterparts in creating personalized campaigns. As these abilities advance, fully individualized messaging will become possible-elevating customer experiences (and expectations).
The Ability to Track and Target Consumers Using Cross-Channel Technologies will go Mainstream
Speaking of personalized campaigns, AI isn’t the only relevant forecast for their evolution. While sending personalized ads based on browsing history is nothing new, cross-channel marketing is taking this capability to the next level.
We’ve all been in the position of searching for something online, and almost immediately receiving ads for related products. What marketers have been waiting for is the ability to serve those same ads on a desktop, in an email, and on a smartphone-and then to track whether and where a purchase was made.
But campaigns that simply span channels isn’t enough-those channels need to come together to create a cohesive experience-an experience greater than the sum of its parts.
By analyzing and optimizing campaigns as they run, marketers can adapt to their customers-which channels they’re on and what messaging they respond to-to give them the exact experience that leads to purchase.
Sales and Marketing Teams will Begin to Merge into a Single, Unified Revenue Optimization Machine
Departmental rivalries aside, sales and marketing are both working toward the same goal-revenue generation. In 2018, that shared goal is going to result in more shared space, with companies restructuring sales and marketing departments into a single team.
And what’s making this move possible? Technology.
Unified sales and marketing dashboards are bringing together once disparate data-and once disparate departments. Collecting everything from outbound sales calls, to inbound web traffic in one place, these integrated dashboards show the complete history of any given customer-at a glance. This technological collaboration is only the start, with companies now seeking more opportunities for collaboration between the two departments.
And that’s a good thing. After all, how often do you hear stories of sales and marketing at odds? By giving both the same goals and metrics, rivalries can fade and communication can improve. To explore this forecast at length, explore some of the strategies outlined in Marketing and Sales: The Ultimate B2C Revenue Optimization Engine.
Predictive Analytics will Help Improve Marketing ROI
Predictive analytics may sound more science fiction than strategic marketing, but the truth is somewhere in between.
To start with a formal definition, predictive analytics is the practice of extracting information from existing data sets and using that information in order to determine patterns and predict future outcomes and trends. While it can’t predict what will happen, it can predict what might happen-including the likelihood of specific events, alternative scenarios, and risk assessment.
As organizations learn to better leverage data mining, statistical modeling, and machine learning, predictive analytics will play a larger role in forming business forecasts.
For marketers, this means more opportunities to optimize campaign performance. Using predictive analytics to determine probable customer responses based on past behavior, companies can do a better job of attracting, retaining, and growing their customer base.
On the sales side, predictive analytics is being applied in the price-setting process. Based on purchase patterns and available inventory, companies can set their prices according to what will drive revenue, without driving customers away.
Prescriptive Analytics will Help Businesses Make Better Decisions
Not to be confused with the previous forecast, prescriptive analytics uses simulations and algorithms to advise on possible outcomes. If predictive analytics answers the question “What could happen?”, prescriptive analytics answers the question “What should we do?”
Prescriptive analytics attempts to determine the effect of future decisions, so as to direct the best possible decision. Prescriptive analytics can inform organizations on what will likely occur; why it will occur; and how to react.
While this emerging technology is still too complicated to implement at scale, some specific applications are already widespread. For production, scheduling, and inventory supply chain management, prescriptive analytics ensures the delivery of the right products, at the right time, to the right customer. As implementation simplifies, prescriptive analytics is slated to become an important part of the decision-making process, in every area of business.
We’ve covered a lot of ground over the previous pages and in our video interviews, but there’s one piece of advice that stands out. Philip Cheves, the Director of Marketing for Carolina One Real Estate Services summed it up perfectly when he said:
“We’re really interested in not chasing the bright, new, shiny object. We’re trying to stay focused on the fundamentals and on keeping our customers front-and-center. By doing so, we ensure that our future will be every bit as successful as our past.”
As Philip pointed out, as sexy as AI, predictive analytics, and other emerging technologies are, it’s a good idea to stay grounded. Focusing not on the technology itself, but how it can improve customer experience and company revenue-the core goals of marketing and sales-that’s how your business can thrive in 2018 and beyond.