B2B marketing in 2016: what lies ahead

Vik Singh, CEO and founder of Infer and one of MIT Technology Review's 'Top 35 under 35 innovators' shares his thoughts on what themes will drive the world of digital B2B marketing in 2016.

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Will 2016 be the year of smarter, more specialised B2B marketing?

Just like any area of business, the B2B marketing is undergoing a revolution thanks to specialised automation and data intelligence. 

The Balkanisation of marketing automation

We’re seeing a huge shift in how marketing is working with sales. Their roles are blurring and there’s a lot of fluidity in where the lines are drawn between tasks that are the responsibility of a marketer vs. a sales rep.

> See also: Businesses use social media for marketing, not interaction

Salespeople are creeping up the funnel, while marketers are creeping down. For example, sales teams are now using what would traditionally be considered email marketing tools to do things like sending (and tracking) personalised 1:1 emails as opposed to generic newsletters.

Specialised apps like Yesware, Outreach.io, and Autopilot have become so sophisticated that they’re now starting to infringe on what has historically been considered the territory of monolithic marketing automation systems - email templates, drip sequences, etc.

This year the role of marketing will evolve, and we’ll see more CMOs start to share responsibility for the revenue metrics with their counterparts in sales.

A changing in the guard in enterprise GTM

Anyone who’s tried to build an enterprise sales team has probably heard from their recruiters that they should be targeting talent from iconic enterprise software companies like IBM, Salesforce or Oracle.

These businesses have huge sales machines and well-defined sales training, and most enterprise software startups want to replicate their playbooks. But there’s a changing of the guard underway when it comes to these shining stars of enterprise go-to-market.

Now the leading experts are those who’ve cracked the code on how to leverage data science for sales and marketing. Emerging icons like Zendesk, New Relic, and others are scaling rapidly and hitting insane growth rates much faster than most legacy software companies because they’re taking a truly data-driven approach.

These startups are embracing open architectures and APIs to build best-of-breed technology stacks that meet their GTM needs. In 2016, all eyes will be on these innovative companies to see how they re-write the book on enterprise GTM best practices.

Predictive intelligence grows up

According to David Raab, principal at industry analyst firm Raab Associates, 2015 has been the breakout year for predictive analytics in marketing, with at least $242 million in new funding for startups that pioneer this new technology, compared with $376 million in all prior years combined. 2016 is poised to be an even more disruptive year.

Businesses increasingly depend on external data signals to develop sales strategy

Traditionally, businesses have only had access to their own internal sales data, from which all strategic decisions were derived. Predictive intelligence startups are now able to continuously unlock hidden value from virtually unlimited external data that can help businesses make more informed sales decisions.

Sales becomes increasingly automated

2015 saw an incredible influx of solutions that provide useful sales intelligence, however much of it is presented by way of a difficult-to-manage 'firehose' of information.

In 2016, predictive analytics will become smarter and, rather than simply providing data for businesses to sift through, predictive platforms will offer businesses dynamic recommendations based on changing variables and sales conditions.

> See also: Why robots will never replace humans in marketing 

M&A activity heats up 

Established sales and marketing vendors like Salesforce, Oracle (Eloqua), Marketo, and more will choose to snap up smaller, more specialised startups to build out their predictive intelligence offering. We saw a number of acquisitions in 2015 and with the recent flurry of investment, we’re sure to see even more in 2016.

Sales development tech slows revenue loss

A 2014 study conducted by Accenture and CSO Insights found that sales inefficiencies cost companies more than 3.2% in possible revenue and that recapturing this potential revenue requires a combination of training, technology-enabled sales tools, and better use of data and analytics.

'Our latest research of high-growth business-to-business organisations showed that 72.4% plan to buy sales development technology in the next year,' said Craig Rosenberg, head analyst at TOPO.

'The sales development automation movement is driven by a number of key factors including the increasing importance of sales development, the trend toward targeted outbound prospecting, and the emergence of predictive technology that helps companies to hone in on their ideal customer profile. The big buying trends in sales development over the next year are predictive platforms to manage and optimise all of their sales communications.'