2017: The Year of Engagement, Consolidation, and Account-Based Marketing

As we're almost into mid-January already, it's time I recap on the past year and reveal my predictions of what 2017 will have in store for us.

For everything that happened in 2016, I think it's best summarized as the "year where our collective analytics and predictive prowess failed us," at least in the U.S. when it comes to predicting little things like the presidential election.

While everyone was largely predicting a win for Hillary in a "landslide," we saw the exact opposite. Even the great Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com, someone I personally respect and follow, gave Trump less than a 30% chance of winning. In spite of nearly every predictive model, Trump went on to win the electoral college in a relatively decisive fashion. Regardless of political affiliation, I think very few people saw that coming.

Which begs the question, if our predictive models are getting better all the time, why did they perform so poorly in 2016 relative to the U.S. election? There's an article I recalled from 2008 in Psychology Today which asserts, if our behaviour (as humans) is completely predictable, then it makes it easier for other people to take advantage of us. Ergo, our cognitive system is willing to pay the price in the short-term in order to be unpredictable. Safe to say that we humans were "unpredictable" in many ways in 2016 and most notably on election day in the presidential election.

2016 had a few surprises in store for us. Here's what I'm predicting for this New Year.

Prediction 1: The Engagement Economy Has Arrived

I believe we'll see a dramatic acceleration of adaptive and intuitive applications and technology like never before. Regardless of the labels we apply to the technology; things will just get smarter. The apps we use on our phones. The ads we see in those apps and online. Frankly, the applications we use at work and play HAVE to get smarter, or we will get bored and disengage… which is the kiss of death for a product or app or even traditional online marketing.

To that end, I am declaring this notion of the "engagement economy" will dominate discussions between marketers, sellers, and anyone else concerned with engaging customers. This is a simple notion yet profound: The runaway effect of digitization is in overdrive, and the only way for organizations to "win" is to find ways to engage with people in an authentic and personalized manner—at scale. That seems contradictory, but it is absolutely achievable.

Prediction 2: Cloud Consolidation Will Accelerate

Every day, when I come in the office, I have no fewer than 20 different cloud applications that I'll need throughout the day. Most of these applications are from different vendors, and there is no integration other than single sign-on between them. This system will not be tenable over the long haul. You'll see best-of-breed applications in segments like inbound marketing get bigger and broader. This will, of course, not be limited to one particular market segment in cloud—but I predict some big acquisitions in cloud computing in an effort to consolidate.

I firmly believe embracing more adaptive and intuitive systems, like smarter and automated ways to engage with customers, has little downside. Assuming we get privacy and security right, this is where all companies will invest forward. I also believe it's not exactly epiphanic to state that companies want more/broader capabilities from strategic vendors. At Flawless Inbound, our customers are asking me daily to expand our capabilities relative to marketing and deliver an adaptive and intelligent "platform" for the marketer. We have been and will continue to do just that!

Prediction 3: The Rise of Account-Based Marketing

One simple way to add 7% to revenue growth: It's called account-based marketing (ABM). It's simple notionally, in that larger companies are moving away from a single decision-maker "model" for making strategic purchases in medium and large organizations to a "consensus" buying model with multiple decision-makers. It's incredibly challenging for companies to engage with another organization with a large committee that inevitably has to arrive at a common consensus in order to make a decision. Think about it. When was the last time you sold something of value to an enterprise organization and only interacted with one person? This "model" is being formalized, and procurement is sponsoring this behavior in a big way! This trend, consensus buying, will dominate decision-making in 2017.

Related: How to Market to the C-Suite

2017 will undoubtedly be the year where we see applications deliver the human touch, at scale, far better than any human ever could. 2017 will be a game changer, and I wish all of you an incredibly prosperous new year!