2017 is finally over. Some assumptions have turned out to be true, and others have simply fallen flat. Most B2B organizations are now working on their new year’s strategy.

More acquisitions and partnerships, an increased role of AI and automation, a rising millennial workforce, and higher costs of customer acquisition are all making the B2B space highly unpredictable and competitive. Amidst this chaos, let’s focus on what will really matter in 2018.

 

Trends to Watch for in 2018

 

1. Data Will Be Key

Robust data lays the foundation for a successful business. But even with the emergence of data management tactics and technologies, most organizations fare poorly by lacking a coherent data strategy.

This will become particularly important within this volatile space. A robust data strategy can help businesses make more accurate decisions, enhance efficiency, improve customer service and determine new opportunities. The trend is likely to rise, and with data analytics-enabled businesses already a reality, it is wise to make more investments in this area.

This also calls for top level executives to be more literate on the data and technology front.

 

2. The Marketing C-Suite Will Need to Be Both Tech & Data Savvy

Technological is advancing, and the market is becoming even more customer-centric. If CMOs are unaware of the data strategy or aren’t tech savvy, they are unlikely to survive for long. Gone are the days of experimentation; the new generation of CMOs need to understand the intricacies, the latest technologies, new market innovations, and embrace the best practices.

This trend is likely to continue and has already resulted in the C-suite expanding. It’s now common to hear titles like Chief Customer Officer, Chief Digital Officer or Chief Revenue Officer.  One with a good know-how of both data and technology is likely to make sense of the systems in place, and stay for long and rise.

 

3. AI Will Be All Pervasive-  Use It to Get Better

The fear of AI replacing humans has been around for quite some time now. But it’s better to consider AI an aide rather than a threat. 2018 will see the development of more new tools and technologies powered by AI.

Hence, it is vital to remain vigilant and use the technology to help SDRs grow. Conversation intelligence platforms like Gong and ExecVision can help enhance team efficiency when used wisely. Boomtrain can also be deployed to engage customers in intelligent conversations at just the right time. So, use the technology to stay ahead, help target right customers at the right time, and equip your workforce better with the latest tools. Nevertheless, remember that human touch still matters.

 

4. Personalization and Customer Experience Will Still Matter

It has become common to see business cards titled Chief Client Officer or Chief Customer Officer. Well, it’s their traditional responsibility to contribute to a corporate and customer strategy in order to maximize customer acquisition, retention, and profitability by creating hyper-personalized experiences.

In 2018, expect an entirely new set of innovative approaches to lure, satisfy, and delight customers. Have you and your team ready to go beyond lead generation tactics for more personalized cross-selling, upselling and referrals, thus strengthening your relationship with the customers. Moreover, with millennials being the largest generational segment in the U.S. labor force, a sales strategy involving them is mandatory.

 

5. Millennials Will Be the New Face of Sales

It is important to harness the dynamic and unique energy of millennials into your sales strategy. Millennials are likely to dominate your organization’s workforce in the coming years.

They are a tech-savvy generation that embraces metrics and data analytics in their workflow, while also preferring to communicate digitally, and they can be easily trained on latest sales technologies. Hence, for 2018, prepare a strategy that can not only address challenges faced by the millennial workforce, but can also consider their preferences and optimize their strengths. The strategy should be inclusive- asking for more coordination and collaboration so the varied age groups in a sales team can work as a unit. Account Based Everything goes well with this philosophy.

 

6. Account Based Everything Is the Way Forward

Account Based Everything (ABX) is the new buzzword after Account Based Marketing (ABM). ABM has now been there long enough to creep into all aspects of a B2B marketer’s workbook. But ABM alone may not be sufficient in the current context, where more coordinated and synchronized efforts are required.

ABX involves orchestration across Marketing, Sales, Business Development, Customer Success, and the C-Suite. The entire team must take responsibility and work in coordination to deliver value through customization. However, this effort should be directed towards the right channels to reach the intended audience, maintaining the consistency of the message.

 

7. Increased Omnichannel Experience

The prospects are all over the place nowadays, and technology has completely disrupted the retail industry. The buying pattern has become omnichannel. The National Retail Federation Thanksgiving Weekend survey found out that an estimated 151 million people shopped either in stores, online or both over the weekend. Out of these, 103 million said they shopped online, and nearly 102 million headed to stores.

It is imperative that companies follow an omnichannel approach. This gives customers a seamless shopping experience whether they are shopping online from a desktop or a mobile device, or a brick and mortar store. However, this does not simply mean to have a presence on every channel, rather it asks for a strategy that is based on a deeper understanding of the target customer personas.

Find out where your target audience hangs out (channels), and research their behavioral data to create an aligned user experience through all relevant channels. And amidst a variety of the available channels, social media seems to be getting quite popular.

 

8. Growth of Social Selling and Content Marketing

Engaging with people through social media is becoming vital. If SDRs are not getting involved on social, they are losing big time. According to a survey by Statista, 69% marketers stated that social media marketing helped to develop loyal fans for their businesses. Moreover, by spending as little as six hours per week, 66% of marketers see lead generation benefits with social media (Social Media Examiner, 2015)

In addition, content is becoming a popular way to reach customers. According to the Demand Gen Report 2016, 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. According to Demand Metric, content marketing generates approximately 3 times as many leads as traditional marketing and costs 62% less. Hence, engage with your customers through powerful customized content, and make sure your happy converted audience provide you with constructive user reviews, which will not only help you to improve but will help you attract more customers.

 

9. Review Sites Are Still Important

You will be amazed to know that in just under two years, G2 Crowd, a leading peer review site for business software, has seen the number of reviews written grow by over 6X – from 60k to 390k. So, why is this happening? Who reads these reviews?

A recent research by Fan & Fuel reveals that 92% of consumers hesitate to make a purchase if there are no customer reviews, and 97% say customer reviews factor into their buying decisions. Additionally, 94% typically read written reviews and 73% say written reviews make more of an impression on them than the star/number ratings. It clearly shows that online reviews hugely influence buyers’ decisions. Start asking your best customers to write detailed reviews for you, and tackle negative reviews as soon as possible by helping your customers to find a right solution to their problems.

The above trends are likely to dominate 2018, and hence, deftly include these trends into your marketing strategy to increase your chances of success. Moreover, with technological advancement, it is quite possible that an entirely new set of tools and technologies enter the market to replace the existing ones. In that case, simply remain vigilant and embrace the change, if useful, to lead the market. Happy 2018!

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