The best and most modern organizations have leads flying in from all directions, conversion rates are high and customers referrals are more a rule than an exception. At the same time when slow-moving teams are still figuring out how to create content regularly and how to activate and guide the sales team to the right direction these first-movers operate in a completely different level. As a results of this we expect that there will be several old school Vice Presidents of Sales / Marketing who are forced to step down from their positions as the new generation of digitally skilled talent is claiming their seats in the executive teams.
This time of the year blogs are full of predictions for the coming year. Predicting the future is a difficult task. Just go to google and search for the trend predictions from the previous years and you'll see that it's not that easy to accurately foresee the future development. Typically we all have a tendency to overestimate the short term development and underestimate long term changes. Another thing to keep in mind when reading these predictions is the writer's own agenda. It's very common that marketers in company blogs forecast a rapid demand spike for their own service and product offerings. People often foresee the future that coincides with their own wishes.
“In 2016 we will see a new technology category bridging the gap between CRM and marketing automation."
In the last few years the trend lists for B2B sales and marketing have been dominated by the following trends: marketing automation, sales & marketing alignment, multi-channel & omni-channel customer engagement, growth hacking, buying personas, digital sales & buying process, social selling etc.
Most sales and marketing teams have only scratched the surface of the topics above. The boring part of our prediction is that most organizations will spend their year 2016 still figuring out their own approach to these areas. The number of service providers and technology vendors focusing on these themes will continue to grow and we expect that content marketers of these vendors will face some new challenges in 2016. There might be an oversupply of content tailored for these trends not only in English but also in many other languages. This type of "content war" will set the bar higher for content marketers as differentiation requires more compelling, more creative and more targeted content than ever before.
Some new trends will also rise in 2016. Below we will present six topics that we believe at least early adopters will bring to the table in the coming year.
1. The year of modern sales development and the role of SDR
The modern sales organizations don't have a shortage of sales leads. Automated prospecting and lead generation tools are sending leads to the beginning of the sales funnel at a ever-faster pace. Majority of the leads, however, don't meet the criteria set by the sales department. The new role between sales and marketing is rising to solve this problem. Sales Development Representatives are already common in many software companies and in 2016 we will see many other industries posting similar job offerings. The role of SDR is to qualify leads for sales and account managers. This includes everything from making outbound calls and emails to setting qualified appointments with inbound leads. Outbound focused SDRs typically focus on the top prospect accounts and use not only phone and email but also other means such as ABM campaigns and social selling tactics.
2. Marketing automation meets Sales Automation
Modern sales and marketing organizations already have their Marketo, Eloqua or Hubspot accounts live generating leads that are sent to Salesforce.com, Pipedrive or basically any other CRM in the cloud. After several years of steady rise in marketing automation in 2016 the same automation trend will also arrive in sales departments. Sales automation means all tools and systems that accelerate the sales process. It's the technology that bridges the gap between established software categories of CRM and marketing automation. New apps will be introduced every week and most advanced applications are evolving into platforms and start gaining strong momentum also outside the classic group of early adopters.
3. Technology platforms are not enough - it's all about how to use them
Sales and Marketing technology landscape has exploded in the past few years. There are thousands of vendors offering some sort of app or platform with a promise to make your sales and marketing teams more effective. This has led into a situation where technology platforms are developing faster than sales and marketing teams' ability to use them. To some extent we expect 2016 to be the year when companies realize they need create systematic and scalable processes for each technology platform they already have in place instead of introducing new apps for their sales and marketing teams several times a year. For technology vendors this means they need to put an extra effort on usability, measurability and intuitivity of their apps.
“Technology is developing faster than sales and marketing teams' ability to use it."
4. Micro targeting
Personalization has been a marketing buzz word already for a while. In 2016 we will see some companies taking personalization to completely new levels. The most advanced content marketers will create segments that are smaller than ever before, sometimes as small as one company or even one department in a specific company. If you are, say the CEO of an accounting firm you'll start to see more and more case studies tailored to your industry and pain points when visiting websites of the service providers. And if you have just implemented a new analytics app don't be surprised if some marketers are able to take that into consideration when they approach you with their sales and marketing messages.
5. Three sources of customer data
The process of collecting and analyzing customer data will be redefined in many organizations in 2016. More and more companies will draft three main sources for their customer intelligence data. First, they use the data that lies in their current internal systems such as CRMs and ERPs. Second, behavioral data is part of the equation in more and more organizations. Website traffic, content consumption and engagement habits are tracked and analyzed to a greater degree. Third, 2016 will mark the year that open and public data indexed from the web will be used as a source of strategic customer data. Predictive analytics is nothing new in B2B scene but the predictive models built on top of this new richer customer data will be smarter than ever before and data-driven sales & marketing will have a more measurable and strategic discipline.
“Technology is eating the world and in 2016 old school sales and marketing directors are on the menu."
6. The knowledge gap between strong and weak sales & marketing teams will explode
Technology is eating the world and in 2016 old school sales and marketing directors are on the menu. The best and most modern organizations have leads flying in from all directions, conversion rates are high and customers referrals are more a rule than an exception. At the same time when slow-moving teams are still figuring out how to create content regularly and how to activate and guide the sales team to the right direction these first-movers operate in a completely different level. As a results of this we expect that there will be several old school Vice Presidents of Sales / Marketing who are forced to step down from their positions as the new generation of digitally skilled talent is claiming their seats in the executive teams.