Here’s the third article as part of our expert series with Ellen Valentine, Martech expert and Managing Partner of Marketing Action Network – a must-read for marketers gearing up for the new decade.

As we head into the final holiday of the year, we’re also taking a peek into the future as we furiously design next year’s marketing plans. The end of 2019 and the anticipation of 2020 are no different. The final six weeks of 2019 present a unique opportunity to take stock of what is working and begin planning for a strong start in January. We can plan in a vacuum, only looking at our people, products and market to make our plans, however, the best marketers will look at larger trends and indicators to give context to all the initiatives and budgets. Here are five important macro trends that marketers must take into account when finalizing plans for 2020. 

  1. Economic Slowdown

    There isn’t a week that goes by that Business Insider doesn’t have some financial guru opining about the upcoming slowdown or even recession. In the US, we’ve been in a bull market since March of 2009, which makes it the longest in history. Many are thinking that 2020 is the year this run will come to an end. As marketers, we tend to forge ahead without taking into account how we would behave in either a short or prolonged contraction.

    We know from past down cycles that marketers are under heightened scrutiny to justify their budgets and even justify their existence. The next down cycle will be no different. Now is the time to begin improving your justifications and results reporting so that your executive teams fully understand the contributions marketing is making to the bottom line. The more thoroughly you can prove your results and your value, the more likely you are to enter a slowdown with a strong business case for continuing and maybe even expanding marketing.

    What is needed to thrive under this heightened scrutiny is accurate, complete and comprehensive data access to fuel our analytics and decisions. Your email marketing, social media, event, and webinar systems must be tightly connected to your CRM systems. Enhancing accessible data by taking a full lifecycle view of the customer experience with customer satisfaction data, onboarding and help desk information will allow you to further mine the data for trends and strategies for not only happy customers, but also more new business sales.

  2. Rise of Data Science

    Data-related degrees are now being offered and specialties are sprouting up at academic institutions around the world. These programs train graduates to mine data for trends and stories using the latest technology. It is now possible to crunch vast amounts of information to spot trends and anomalies. If you can, this is a great time to invest in data science master’s degree candidates or recent graduates to help you jump start and improve your analytics practices.

    Please remember that it is not about data for data’s sake. It is about unified access to the right data, and using analytics and visualization techniques to make the data more easily understood and to support great storytelling practices.

    You want to give data scientists and trained data analysts within the business functions the complete picture of your operation so that their conclusions have strong foundations. Unified data access will give data scientists the most comprehensive view of your customers and prospects. The more of the right data they can have at their fingertips, the better job they can do for you in supporting your plans and activities.

  3. A Move to Real Time

    For decades, marketing has produced monthly and quarterly reports. The time period ends, and analysts dust off their Excel macros and begin the tedious process of preparing the reporting package.  Presentations are made and distributed to peers and colleagues throughout the organization.

    2020 is the year to step back and review this practice. For one, there is probably a lot of unnecessary work going into reports that are never used to inform future (and impactful) decision making. Two, by the time the data is reviewed, it’s old, and any conclusions may no longer be applicable or appropriate. Business moves far faster than that. Real-time insights are needed so the organization can be nimbler, allowing you to quickly react to changes.

    Real-time (or “live”) data must be accessible. Rules must be written to automate information distribution – in a governed manner – providing immediate alerts to those who need to know. Real-time alerting and automation don’t have to just be about bad news. It can also mean immediately congratulating a marketer who has deployed an innovative tactic that is really resonating with prospects.

  4. Predictions and AI are Moving Beyond the Hype

    For years, technologists have been predicting the rise of artificial intelligence and other predictive technologies. In 2018 and 2019, industries such as financial services and manufacturing have been using predictive engines to spot trends and opportunities. 2020 is the year for these technologies to enter the B2B marketing department.

    Once you’ve stepped up your game with real-time data as discussed above, 2020 is the year to begin predicting conversion rates, audience growth and even customer attrition. Use artificial intelligence to anticipate your customer’s next move and improve the customer journey. In order to begin employing these techniques, you need comprehensive access to the right data at the right time.

    Many of the prediction engines will become more accurate the more data you can feed into them, so plan on connecting information from your marketing and customer experience operational systems into the machine learning modules.

  5. Next-level Marketing Data Management Begins

    Marketing automation has been around for a decade and email marketing even longer; these systems, combined with a CRM system have been the marketing database of record for a long time. Savvy marketers are moving to all-inclusive customer data platforms or data lakes, integrating data across the whole experience and across all channels.

    As marketers we’ve been generating a massive amount of data; every click, interaction and download creates a data point. Left in its own system, this siloed data can do little more than generate a simple report. But combining all the data about each customer and prospect into a data management platform or a data lake – or at the least making it accessible to your reporting and analytics solution of choice – can unlock new insights about everyone in your target market. Plus, combining the marketing data with financial, help desk and customer systems will allow you to spot even more trends.

Get the Full Picture in our eBook Better Together: The Power of Connected Data

While it might seem like a substantial project to aggregate and normalize all key data, simplifying the provisioning and management of the connections between data sources and applications that rely on that data can be relatively simple. With the help of solutions from the experts in unified data connectivity and integration – Simba – you can enhance and simplify the access and management of both operational and analytical data.

Taking these five trends into consideration as you wind down 2019 and get ready for a fast start to 2020 will ensure you and your marketing department are in the best shape for success.