7 Trends That Are Transforming Sales and Marketing
The growth of artificial intelligence (AI), automation, influencer marketing and other advances in sales technology and techniques will bring new challenges and opportunities to sales and marketing in 2018 and beyond. Businesses that can’t keep up with the pace of these innovations may find it difficult to stand out from the competition. To help you prepare for the challenges ahead, here are seven trends that are set to shape sales and marketing.
1. Increased sales automation will not kill the human agent.
From identifying leads to negotiating deals, advancements in AI will soon allow businesses to automate much of the sales process via “seller bots.” However, according to Forrester, while self-service technologies now enable consumers to handle many routine tasks easily, across many devices and channels, there is still a sense that the “soul” of customer interactions has been lost by the removal of the person-to-person connection.
Organizations that are deploying self-service solutions via websites, IVRs, and mobile apps should ensure that there is always an option to reach a live agent if the customer becomes frustrated or confused. Rather than forcing customers to use bots for every query, companies will need to put a greater focus on finding the right balance between automation and delivering a personalized, emotive service through human agents.
2. Using smart content to personalize the customer experience.
Each customer comes to your website with their own unique content needs. Smart content is a feature that allows websites to deliver content that is personalized to each user based on their previous behavior. Businesses can use this feature to offer targeted recommendations to individuals at different stages of the buying journey. Software as a service (SaaS) that integrates with your content management system and analytics now makes it a lot easier to provide this type of personalized experience, and it can enhance your sales funnel whether you sell B2B, B2C, or both.
3. Messaging apps have become the new face of social media.
Messaging apps have surpassed social media usage. According to a recent report by Business Insider Intelligence, the top four messaging apps—WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger and Viber—now have a larger combined user base than the top four social networks—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. More and more consumers are also using messaging apps to connect to businesses, with brands such as Taco Bell, KLM, and IKEA successfully proving the sales and marketing potential of this new communication channel. You can expect businesses of all sizes to catch on to this trend.
4. Targeting customers through micro-moments will become more important.
Google first devised the concept of micro-moments, defined as an “intent-rich moment when a person turns to a device to act on a need,” and they are becoming more and more relevant with each passing year. Although most people now rely on their smartphone to find answers to their questions, the sheer volume of information available makes it difficult for marketers to get their message through. In this context, the ability to tap into customers’ micro-moments by providing one-touch access to vital information will become key.
5. Native ads will allow businesses to cut-through consumers’ hate for pop-ups.
As ad blocker adoption continues to grow, native ads provide an effective technique for cutting through marketing noise and grabbing the attention of potential customers. In short, native adverting is promotional content that seamlessly blends with the web page or publication people are viewing. Digitally, native ads can take the form of advertorials, search advertising, sponsored posts, and more. This type of ad is effective because it puts engaging content in front of people in a way that is far less invasive than pop-ups.
6. Micro-influencers will continue to trump big names.
According to Elite Daily, 90 percent of consumers trust the opinion of friends, family, and online experts more than traditional advertising. Building a team of influencers is the digital age’s answer to word-of-mouth marketing. However, after recent controversies with high-profile influencers, brands are starting to turn to experts and micro-influencers rather than big names or celebrities. For instance, if you have a specific niche, research indicates you are four times more likely get a comment on a post with micro-influencers than macro-influencers with 10 million followers.
7. Businesses will need to spend more on training sales reps to keep up.
As the number of digital touch points continues to multiply, few people would argue that the art of selling has become more complex. To keep ahead of rivals in competitive markets, businesses will need to invest more money in improving the skill sets of salespeople. Activity tracking and management tools can help sales teams identify, emulate and spread sales success, and gamification software can get your people pushing themselves to hit best practice on every call. Additionally, from social listening to video prospecting, enabling sales reps to take advantage of digital selling techniques will encourage more conversations that help teams to function more effectively and profitably.
Sales and marketing are set to evolve rapidly in 2018 and beyond. Businesses that can capitalize on technology trends will flourish and gain the competitive advantage over companies that are still looking over their shoulders.
Olivier Gachot is executive vice president of North America Sales for cloud contact center provider NewVoiceMedia. His 20-plus years of experience in building and transforming SaaS companies at scale on a global basis include leading several companies from early years to successful IPO and acquisitions.