Is your business ready for 2018? New technologies and rising customer expectations will dramatically impact your business success. Here are six trends you and your teams should be embracing. Use this list to assess your readiness.

1. Strategy: Customer-led strategy will replace sales-led and engineering-led operating practices. Why? Because following the “if we build it, they will come” business strategy will no longer work in 2018. Success is all about providing an engaging customer experience designed to address real, tangible customer problems. To do this, winning sales, marketing and product strategies must define themselves with an outside-in approach to thinking. Teams that execute on a strategy that is informed by the needs of their customers will demonstrate an ability to build more relevant campaigns and content, delivered through relevant channels. Is your organization prepared to think “customer first”?

2. Operations: Sales and marketing operations teams will (finally) define common goals rather than separate goals. Why? Because the measures of success for both marketing and sales teams will be revenue and profit, not just traditional funnel metrics. Marketers must be able to show how they are contributing to the bottom line. This level of collaboration will especially hold true for SaaS companies, where the marketing and sales cycle requires a well-crafted customer care and value delivery model. Are your sales and marketing operations (and your dashboards) set up to drive the right type of business decisions?  

3. Relationships: Customer Advisory Boards (CABs) will be embraced by most B2B companies regardless of size. Why? because when everything (eventually) becomes commoditized, the only true differentiator is the relationship you have with your customers. While enterprise companies were the first to adapt CAB best practices, in 2018, more mid-size companies, and even start-ups with more than 50 customers, will embrace this valuable and dynamic tool to serve customers better. In addition, for the companies with established CABs, the agenda will shift from one-dimensional strategic planning, to collaborative strategy sessions bringing untapped areas of exploration to the benefit of the host company and its CAB members. Do you know how to integrate a CAB into your broader voice-of-the-customer interactions?

4. Content: Content strategy will become foundational in go-to-market planning. Why? Because content is the key to being relevant. Most companies have no problem producing lots of content. But how much of it is truly relevant to the buyers journey? And, how much of that content is old, confusing, and off target? Marketers need to “clean house” and give careful thought to the right content that is required to help prospects at each stage of their buying journey. High-performing teams will increase investment in developing influencer marketing (content and syndication) as a means of placing timely, relevant content that aligns with their customers’ buying journey. How current and accurate is your map of your buyers journey?

5. Lead Gen: Marketing and sales organizations will leverage more tools that use artificial intelligence and machine learning. Why? Because customers expect immediate, accurate, and relevant interaction on their terms. Automated bots for lead follow up emails and personalized, hyper-targeted digital ads that target the ideal customer profile at specific accounts will become widely adopted. This trend will greatly reshape the distinction between Target Account Marketing (i.e. profiling market segments with specific and relevant messaging and offers) and Account-Based Marketing (i.e. conducting deep research on a specific target company and triangulating multiple entry points to tailor one-on-one messaging and interaction). Those companies that know how to execute and integrate both strategies will be the most successful. Does your organization know the difference between TAM and ABM? 

6. Customer Success: Customer education will continue to grow as a strategy. Why? Because its not enough to sell a product and then walk away. Customers who are able to make full use of the product’s value proposition will become your best champions. This is why micro-learning and in-application training will become more common to provide task specific, accessible, and relevant guidance. This will allow users to learn precisely what they need, when they need it. In order to keep Customer Success Managers (CSMs) strategic, orchestrated customer onboarding journeys will become standard practice. In a similar way that marketing automation helped to define metrics and milestones along the marketing and sales journey, the post-sales customer journey will become more defined and prescriptive. Are your CSMs trained for success?

KickStart Alliance is on the front lines with all of these trends. We are experienced marketing and sales leaders who  know how to execute. We have more best practices and guidance to share on all of these trends. Check out our services & let us show you how to optimize your business for 2018. Contact us to learn more.