1) AI will (still) be the new black
One topic that was covered ad nauseam in 2016 was AI. While it’s important to be cautious about all of the AI hype (especially when it comes to use cases that sound like science fiction), the reality is that this technology is going to evolve even faster from here on out. It’s just in the past few years that innovative business-to-business companies have started using AI to achieve specific business outcomes.
Keynoters at this year’s IBM World of Watson conference highlighted ways in which it is already delivering impressive business value, as well as examples of how it might help a CEO decide whether to buy a competitor, or help a doctor diagnose a patient’s symptoms in just the next three to five years.
2) Marketers will do some stack pruning
The average stack these days is made up of around 17 disconnected, underutilized applications. By streamlining their martech stack to minimize complexity and improve connections between applications, smart companies are honing their best-of-breed strategies and technologies. Their stacks are like fully automated battleships with technologies helping to automate key functions. And with a layer of predictive intelligence that spans everything, the battleship (or sales and marketing organization) can achieve better accuracy, targeting, performance and engagement than would ever be possible without actionable insights to rely on.
3) Open architectures will become a must-have
Modern sales and marketing technology buyers require all their tools to talk to one another. Companies want all of their martech apps to support pervasive experiences, rather than be constrained within the walls (or user interface) of a single logo. This mindset shift is also fueled by the pain of disjointed customer data. Studies find that the top barrier to a single customer view is having technology to integrate customer data points in real time, and the top obstacle to achieving marketing’s goals is access to more advanced analytics for smarter decision-making. These problems will increasingly be solved by an open architecture approach to martech.
4) Salestech and automation vendors will consolidate
In 2016, we saw several young sales technologies either get acquired or close up shop, and I think we’ll see that trend accelerate in the coming year. While a few leaders like Outreach are rising to the top as valuable add-ons to the major CRM platforms, other new players will struggle to enter a crowded market in the battle to own front-line reps’ workspace. The solution to this cluttered technology landscape won’t be yet more “clouds,” rather it will be all about keeping sales communications and activity in one place with CRM as the foundation for everything.
5) Demand gen will experience a democratization of tools
When it comes to the other end of the customer funnel, I expect big changes in the many technologies companies use to find net-new leads for demand generation. Filling the top-of-the-funnel is expensive, and demand gen teams want more insight to where the data is coming from so they can diversify their lead sources, cherry pick the best leads from each vendor, and ensure they’re getting the best contacts and accounts. In 2017, new vendors will meet this need by bringing far more transparency into the list buy model.