Fearless Predictions: What’s Coming for Marketing Tech in 2017?

It’s the first week of January – time for the annual round of prognostications in just about every knowledge domain imaginable. Herewith, a few thoughts on what may be in store for the arcane world of marketing technology over the next 12 months….

On the “Big CRM” front, we’re watching the Microsoft/LinkedIn combination with great interest. Now that the acquisition is final, can we expect to see MSFT start bundling LinkedIN’s treasure trove of business data into its Dynamics CRM offering?  Can data privacy hurdles be overcome?   Only time will tell.

Other large combinations to watch: Oracle/Eloqua and Salesforce/ExactTarget/Pardot.  In these acquisitions, significant marketing automation players were snapped up by market-leading CRM vendors. More than two years later, both Salesforce and Oracle have adopted the “marketing cloud” moniker for their offerings.  However, despite the potential, many customers are not yet experiencing a fully integrated, end-to end offering from either vendor.  Integration takes time and money – but perhaps 2017 is the year when the promised synergies from these deals will take hold.

More generally, CRM vendors will continue upping their game in the user experience arena. Niche cloud players like Insightly and Zoho are already offering simplified, streamlined, highly visual CRM interfaces to the small business market. While these solutions are too limited for most large enterprises, they demonstrate that a CRM screen doesn’t have to be complex and non-intuitive.  Expect larger vendors to increase their focus on user-responsive design, adopting contextual interfaces and “customer journey” principles to insulate users from the underlying complexity of their engines.  SAP’s next-gen Fiori interface points the way.

Particularly in the B2B world, we expect CRM data enrichment to take off in 2017.  Vendors like Thomson Reuters’ ContactNet and IntroHive offer to enrich contact data by mining email, text and telephone traffic into and out of a corporate network.  Boardex and similar providers offer integration with reliable, up-to date databases of public company directors and officers. The promise of these solutions is higher-quality customer and prospect data – with reduced effort from end-users.  What other offerings will emerge (and possibly merge!) in this space?

Also in the B2B market, it appears Marketing Automation still has room for growth in 2017.  A survey by ClickZ states that 59% of Fortune 500 B2B companies have implemented marketing automation platforms.  What’s intriguing, though, is that the B2B marketers themselves may be a little behind the curve.  Depending on which survey you read, between 18% and 30% of B2B marketers report that they are not using marketing automation at all.  This implies a significant skills gap – one that will inevitably affect current B2B marketers’ careers if it’s not bridged.

And finally — we expect “Agile” to be the MarTech word of the year.  Agile Development – an approach that focuses on speed, collaboration, quick wins and iterations – has gained many adherents in the software development community over the past several years.  The principles and vocabulary of Agile have a lot of crossover appeal for marketers tasked with delivering complex, multi-channel campaigns and programs. For an insightful introduction to Agile Marketing, read this great article from McKinsey & Co.  In the coming months,  look for vendors of marketing workflow software to respond by building Agile concepts into their offerings.  Also, check out what Dilbert has to say on the subject…