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Q&A: A Look Ahead to 2018 & What Trends Marketers are Watching

We asked Jeff Rappaport, CEO of Outlook Marketing Services, Inc., what technology and business-to-business clients will experience related to their marketing and sales integration initiatives heading into 2018. Read on to hear what he had to say!

Q: What are some of the top trends you see for marketers in 2018?

A: I see three important trends happening next year. We’ll experience more applications that integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) with the marketing function.  Additionally, the evolution of return on investment (ROI) on the marketing investment will get better, but it won’t be entirely automated. The only way to get at true ROI will be a blend of automated and manual processes that deeply include sales and customer inputs. Finally, and most importantly, it comes down to people in the marketing organization. People will increase their analytical skills to understand the data from the interplay of marketing programs and the impact it can make on the organization.

Q: How will AI get traction in the coming year?

A: Companies have invested heavily in marketing process/program management technology, as well as analytic tools. AI will help drive the integration of the data generated by this technology.  According to Andrew Stephen, contributing writer to Forbes on the topic of AI, “Marketers have more insights-related tools at their disposal that facilitate true data-driven decision making but AI is needed to help integrate across tools, datasets and platforms.” He goes on to say, “The nature of marketing work is changing, but not necessarily becoming completely technical and focused on data science. Instead, the infusion of AI into marketing work can aid decision making and automation can free up valuable executive time.”

AI use is at the tip of the iceberg. AI is at a point where marketers are beginning to uncover opportunities to better understand the customer environment across multiple channels. Expect to see more bundled AI technology specifically built for marketers that can be implemented quicker than previous martech applications.

Q: How would you rate the integration between sales and marketing?

A: It is getting better, but it’s still a journey. The integration is based on trust and the unified processes and structure to facilitate timely communication between sales and marketing. Next year, we will see a stronger emphasis and culture of transparency and sharing of information between the sales organization and marketing teams. Additionally, the emergence of sales advisory groups that regularly work with marketing is becoming a standard operating procedure that can help contribute to marketing program innovation and better utilization of sales tools that drive revenue.

Marketing is also being asked by the C-suite to continuously demonstrate its value to the sales. This visibility to management helps better sync marketing with the business, providing information that is actionable to the sales organization about customers and markets. This includes a better understanding of the customer environment, understanding the customer’s customer, buyer/specifier/influencer behaviors and its impact on sales, and the company’s differentiation in the market.

And, I can’t talk about this without needing to bring up AI again here. AI will help facilitate better integration. James Canton, Chairman and CEO of the Institute of Global Futures quoted in Business Insider offers a peek into jobs of the future, “Traditional roles are going to disappear because many workplaces are going to disappear, so the whole structural hierarchical system is going to disappear. You’ll end up with a system, a network of humans and artificial intelligence, crowd-based intelligence — they’re all going to get mashed up.” I like the idea of sales, marketing and customers being on the same page, or “mashed up” as Canton puts it. Great things are coming to the evolving world of marketing.

Q: Is there anything else you would add?

A: Yes. I would like to wish all of our clients, Outlook team members, partners and people we will get the pleasure to meet and work with in 2018 a very happy holiday season, and a healthy, fulfilling New Year.

To learn more about marketing and sales integration, visit our Services page!

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Jeff Rappaport is CEO and Owner of Outlook Marketing Services.

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