When looking at the explosive growth of marketing technology (there are now roughly 7000 marketing software products on the market), one sees some important trends. These include so-called "smarketing" (the technology-driven alignment or merging of sales & marketing), data-driven and autonomous decision-making, and more focus on a superior customer experience.
In fact, customer segmentation is now going through a slow death, and is being replaced by AI-powered audience management and hyper-personalisation. The same goes for cold-calling. Now, sales teams only have to work on hot leads that have been qualified and nurtured by marketing automation systems fully integrated with their CRM system.
The message is clear: companies that don’t embrace these new technologies will be left behind – perhaps never to recover.
It's imperative for business leaders to start the journey towards data-driven and autonomous marketing, so that they can offer their customers the benefits of personalisation and a better all-round experience.
Moving forward, sales & marketing teams will need to become fluent in data analytics and software technology, and understand the value of breaking data silos and integrating various IT systems. In particular, we need deep integration between sales software and marketing software, as well as integration with ecommerce, customer support, and digital logistics systems.
New technologies – like cognitive AI and traditional machine-learning – are propelling these trends at a rapid rate. Most people I meet think that AI in marketing is only about chatbots, product recommendation engines, and perhaps churn and customer lifetime value prediction. This is a gross underestimation of the true potential.
While doing the research for my last book, I came across well over one hundred different use cases where AI (or rather, machine-learning) is already being used to improve everything from sales prospecting and lead scoring, to conversion rate optimisation (CRO) and the purchasing of digital ads.
There are even AI tools that digitally assess the personality and psychographic profile of customers, while other tools can figure out who the best people on the sales team are and train the rest to perform at the same level.
With all these powerful capabilities available, organisations need to act responsibly, ethically and in line with privacy legislation. This is also a new area of responsibility for sales & marketing leaders that requires new management skills.
We can safely conclude that sales & marketing is undergoing a transformation. In some cases, even a complete disruption. It is your job as a sales & marketing professional to educate yourself and ensure your company outperforms the competition in this area. Reading the Digital Sales Transformation Handbook by Columbia Road is a great start for diving into the underlying themes of the transformation as well as finding ways to thrive through disruption.
Welcome to the future of sales & marketing!
Magnus Unemyr is the author of ‘Data-driven marketing with artificial intelligence’ and several other books. He has spent his entire career working in software and marketing roles in the global tech industry.