With 2019 just a few months away, it’s time to talk about a few clear trends that will have substantial impact on how leading firms go-to-market in 2019. For 25 years, we’ve been fortunate enough to work with top brands and senior executives to identify and capitalize on key go-to-market trends. This year has proven to be just as substantial for Sales and Marketing executives and their teams to build competitive advantage shifting and adapting their go-to-market strategies and programs.
Through the first eight months of 2018, Chief Revenue Officers and Chief Marketing Officers have told us about their challenges and opportunities. We’ve identified the following 6 Key Trends that have come up again and again…and which could be what helps you outperforming your competition in early 2019.
1. Digital Signals Driving Personalized Messages
The ever-growing volume of social and digital conversations, and the ability to listen to those conversations, are presenting new opportunities for marketers to understand what customers care the most about in their own words. Top CMOs and CROs are focused on actioning those signals and insights rapidly into go-to-market programs. The key is distilling the high volume of social and digital conversation data, and then getting insights directly into the hands of talented marketers and sales reps quickly and concisely so that they can personalize messaging with a relevant comment or discussion about what is happening right now. This means that cost-per-touch may slightly increase for the first time in a long time, as it becomes clear that carefully crafting outreach is outperforming mass-customized, lower yielding content.
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While language-based AI and MarTech tools have made huge strides over the past several years, we are not hearing that these tools can effectively produce or write hyper-relevant content. The middle ground is an “insights distribution system”—which can be as simple as email or collaborative message tools (e.g., Slack) or as complex as APIs into a CRM system—that help team members put the right context into a conversation, or write that email that will break through.
Tip: Top marketing teams should source digital conversations, conversation trends, and other “real-time” insights to quickly and directly modify campaigns and sales plays, to make these messages more relevant to increasingly saturated decision makers.
2. Human Intelligence Filling AI Gaps
Substantial VC money is flowing to AI and machine learning applications to improve marketing and sales effectiveness, but it’s remarkable how the basic blocking-and-tackling of go-to-market execution remain the same. If anything, the executives that we’ve spoken to are frustrated with the lack of team member skills to intelligently operate all of the widgets out there—and with data science teams that see “success” as models that require no human intervention, or have trouble understanding business requirements and practical impacts.
Companies are now realizing that one of the best ways to take advantage of machine learning and big data is to get organized data and patterns into the hands of smart human analysts, marketing experts, and go-to-market team members to quickly process and make decisions. This is something that intelligence agencies realized long ago; there are several layers of the “intelligence cake”, from gathering the intelligence (in-person or via “signals” intelligence) to synthesizing it, to interpreting it and finally to prioritizing it.
Tip: Until AI tools can more consistently and reliably deliver on Sales and Marketing targeting, messaging, and customer engagement requirements, it’s still the “human intelligence” that sits within go-to-market team members that will deliver the most value to your go-to-market programs.
3. Content is Aligning the Buyer-Seller Journey
Self-serve, online content has been the focus for business-to-business marketing and sales organizations for years, as buyer shave become increasingly resistant to intrusive sales calls and ceaseless email outreach. Marketing dollars have shifted towards more and better content and better instrumentation of online content delivery systems.
However, seller-served content—the critical outreach and even consultative selling at the point in the buying cycle that will make a real difference—and the sales channels that utilize that content have remained fairly siloed from the online content sharing and tracking systems. Executives see great opportunity in integrating these two approaches, equipping sales forces with the tools and content to know exactly what self-serve content a prospect has engaged with, and when to add what seller-served content into the mix.
In a way, this points to the long-promised “integration of marketing and sales” that has been a frustration point for CEOs for over 20 years. Sales systems (CRM) and marketing automation remain siloed because the two organizations have always been siloed—but it seems increasingly imperative that the buyer’s journey be the single rallying point around which marketing content (self-serve) and sales content (seller-served) align.
Learn more about aligning content to the buyer journey in our six-step framework for marketing content optimization
Tip: Sales and Marketing organizations that focus on integrating the delivery of self-serve and seller-served content across the entire buyer journey will deliver a more consistent and positive experience to prospects while producing superior ROI on the growing budget around content production.
4. Account-Based Marketing Focusing on Cross-Sell
It’s no secret that the ROI of increasing revenue in existing accounts outstrips the ROI of new customer acquisition. At the same time, continued merger and acquisition activity in multiple sectors of the economy makes big accounts larger and larger—and riper for cross-sell. This makes true Account-Based Marketing even more of a priority for B2B companies.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is based on the idea that an account of a certain size is an ecosystem made up of different players with different roles – and by tailoring marketing and sales messages just to that account’s needs your conversion rates, and incremental revenue, increases. Whereas ABM to date has been applied heavily to new customer acquisition, the best potential value appears to be within existing accounts ripe for cross-sell.
See how cross-sell analytic techniques fit into the broader marketing analytics landscape in the Marketing Analytics Family Tree
Two clear factors, (1) new market insights and (2) cross-sell analytics, are accelerating ABM’s effectiveness within existing account coverage. New market insights on named accounts can now be sourced from social and digital conversations—the bigger the account, the more available intelligence—and be incorporated into ABM messaging to yield greater relevance to target buyers. Additionally, sophisticated cross-sell analytics can now effectively identify patterns in decision making units (teams), their purchase cycles, and the cross- or up-sell solution to promote first. ABM will continue to grow in importance, with cross-sell becoming the #1 priority for most large enterprise-focused Chief Revenue Officers.
Tip: For existing Enterprise accounts, elevate your ABM efforts by incorporating account-specific, near-real time insights from social data while concurrently identifying, and then capitalizing on analytics-based patterns in who your buying unit likely is, when they are likely to buy, and what solution to promote to accelerate existing account cross-penetration.
5. GTM Programs Becoming More Scalable
The executives we’ve talked to this year are looking for scalable solutions everywhere. That includes go-to-market programs – the marketing campaigns and recurring sales plays that create and convert new revenue pipeline. These GTM programs can measure in the hundreds each year for Sales and Marketing organizations within a Fortune 1000 firm. Many, if not most, of these GTM programs are highly manual in how they are designed—determining the prospects to target, messages to promote, content to include, sales channels to engage, sales enablement material needed, etc.
More advanced companies are now exploring a more formulaic approach to developing GTM programs – at considerable cost savings and pipeline conversion impact. These scalable “playbooks” are based on repeatable templates for either marketing campaigns or sales enablement programs and can retain the best aspects of past successful demand genDo th programs, accelerate the time to productivity for new sales reps, and arm channel partners with the necessary content to penetrate a new market.
Once developed, playbook updates can be deployed quarterly, highlighting actionable insights surfaced about industries or even accounts—along with best practice examples surfaced from GTM programs. The key to making playbooks actionable is driving adoption—and that takes trial and error. Marketing and Sales teams will build and use playbooks that work, are detailed and prescriptive, and yet are not overly complex.
Tip: Marketing and Sales Enablement execs should set a standard to build repeatable playbooks for GTM programs, with clearly defined and reusable components to each template, that can accelerate time to new program development, increase team productivity, and standardize measurement of pipeline impact across GTM programs. This can be applied to both marketing campaigns and sales enablement programs alike.
6. Consultative Selling Required for SMB Digital Transformation
Digital transformation might be well underway within the Fortune 1000 (and well understood by those executive buyers), but for small and mid-market business executives, keeping up with technological advances can be a big struggle. For example, small insurance agencies might know they need to move away from paper applications or claim submissions and move to mobile friendly forms, yet getting there is another story. There simply isn’t the money to hire a software developer, much less an expensive consultant to deliver something that might or might not work.
This represents a perfect opportunity for consultative sellers to paint a picture of a digitally-transformed company, and even help the buyer get there through some value-added services. We’ve heard from our clients’ customers that are exploring digitizing their processes and operations that they are looking for easy to initiate, sequential roadmaps for digitizing their businesses. That includes adopting IoT infrastructure, upskilling mobile workforces, migrating to agile cloud computing solutions, and more. These buyers are expecting sellers (field sales or channel partners) to effectively advise them through a complex purchase process, and in many cases simplify that process to see quick wins fast.
Of course, this requires sellers to know more than just the latest features, competitive differentiation, and pricing of what they are selling. It requires a constant evaluation of seller readiness to go beyond feature-functionality knowledge and delivery of enablement content and insights to facilitate consultative selling to SMB buyers.
Tip: Developing scalable techniques to evaluate seller readiness across all channels, remediate skills gaps with easily consumable sale enablement content, and recommend tactical ways for sellers to employ consultative selling practices, especially to SMB customer segments.
These 6 Go-to-Market Trends and Tips for 2019 represent our early indicators of the best opportunities for Sales & Marketing executives to capitalize on now. We will periodically update this list based on ongoing feedback and insights from our conversations as well as from clear indicators of what is driving competitive advantage for our clients.