Of more than 100 individual predictions analyzed in a recent meta-analysis of marketing trends for the coming year, roughly a third related to content marketing while almost another quarter centered on developments in martech.
From expanded use of established tools to the embrace of new capabilities, here are the four top trends in B2B martech from leading industry influencers and bloggers.
Artificial intelligence (AI) will show up everywhere.
AI was in the headlines across business disciplines in 2017, from supply chain planning and finance to production and, of course, marketing. Average daily searches for the term doubled from January to December 2017, according to Google Trends.
It’s not a tool itself, but AI technology is being applied to marketing tools like ad serving to help target ads more effectively; marketing automation software to personalize content; and analytics tools like PaveAI to find patterns at a speed and scale humans can’t match.
The most common application of AI technology in marketing is chatbots, which have been called the gateway drug for marketing AI. Chabots were barely on anyone’s radar as recently as March 2016; average daily searches for the term have increased 20X since then.
Social media marketing is another area where AI technology is being used to enhance tools. Dan Newman reported in How AI Tools are Improving Social Media Marketing Effectiveness that:
“A company called Post Intelligence has developed an AI application called PI that tracks social trends along with a given user’s history of recent posts to predict their level of engagement, recommend content and even generate social media posts. Pinterest, another social media giant, acquired Kosei, a company that facilitates personalized recommendation modeling, using data to provide product recommendations to Pinterest users that are more likely to be relevant to them. Social media company LinkedIn acquired Bright.com in 2014. Bright uses machine learning to better match employers with job candidates.”
Marketing will (continue to) become more data-driven.
Data-driven marketing, as the phrase is understood today, is hardly new. Interest began to grow in early 2013 and average daily searches on Google have jumped roughly 4X since then.
Part of what’s driving increased use of data in marketing is that the tools are simultaneously getting more powerful, easier to use, and less costly, enabling small to midsized B2B companies to compete on a more even playing field with their larger counterparts.
In addition, savvy marketers are collecting prospect and customer data not only from obvious sources like email opens and website visits, but also from trade shows and corporate events, and tying this information back to their CRM and marketing automation systems to build richer profiles.
Web-based dashboard and analytics tools like Klipfolio, Chartio, and Cyfe enable marketers to combine data from their website tracking apps, social media accounts, and other data sources to get a more complete visualization of marketing performance to help drive strategy and tactics.
Tim Asimos believes marketers will also get smarter about what data they choose to collect and analyze. On the circle s studio blog, he writes:
“Instead of being guided by the endless amount of data that can be culled from analytics, B2B firms will start to identify smarter and sometimes unconventional ways to measure, which will ultimately drive better business decisions. This means marketers will increasingly start to rely on MarTech tools fueled by artificial intelligence to sift through the vast amount of collected data, but it will also mean a rethinking of what metrics matter in the first place.”
Marketing automation will get more sophisticated.
Implementing marketing automation suites was the hot trend of 2016. While there remains considerable room for sales growth by marketing automation vendors among more conservative firms and late adopters, the foundational technology and concepts are no longer cutting edge.
What’s predicted to change in 2018 is the level of sophistication and personalization of content in the use of these systems. Unfortunately, some of the early adopters of marketing automation tools simply used them as a way to spam their sales prospects more efficiently. Today, the emphasis is on using data to time and target messages more effectively.
Syed Balkhi wrote in Entrepreneur that “Although (marketing automation) technology is in its early stage of maturity, marketers are pushing themselves to exploit the possibilities to deliver relevant and timely communications to prospects to nurture leads.” Michael O’Neill sees smart use of marketing automation as key to success with account-based marketing (ABM), adding on Brafton, “Combining the powers (of) marketing automation platforms for optimum efficiency and the surgical tactics of ABM is a recipe for big wins in the future.”
Investments in martech will increase.
Look for marketing teams to spend more on martech tools in 2018, driven by two developments. The first is the increasing breadth of tools available, addressing every stage of content marketing from content strategy planning and research through development and optimization to distribution and sharing and finally the analytics that help enhance the strategy and planning.
The second is the increasing sophistication of martech tools, incorporating emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) as well as AI (as noted above) into the martech matrix (not a stack).
These developments lead Tim Asimos to conclude, “2018 will see many firms exploring how to leverage these emerging technologies,” and Todd Lebo to add, on the KoMarketing blog, “marketing technology is achieving ROI in 4-6 months,” encouraging marketers to invest more “in technology and specifically technology that helps…with predictive modeling and data management.”
To sum up the top four trends in marketing technology for 2018: marketers will invest more in martech tools like marketing automation and chatbots that take advantage of data and AI to better personalize marketing content. The trail still being blazed should ultimately lead to more qualified leads at lower cost for B2B marketers, and more relevant content and ads, with less clutter, for buyers.