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Top 2017 Takeaways From Product Executives

“I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent.” – Thomas Edison

When I first read the phrase “Age of the Customer” in a colleague’s email it stopped me in my tracks. Not because it was some newfound phraseology that I had never heard of, but because it resonated and aligned extremely well with current trends we’re seeing in the B2B space.

Businesses are focused more and more each day on driving value, rather than simply selling a product or service. Marketing teams are increasingly taking extra measures to personalize messages that tie into pain points. Sales is hyper-focused on building long-lasting relationships – often times partnering with their counterparts in customer success to do so. The B2B space as a whole is moving towards caring about the customer, addressing their pain points, and fulfilling their business needs.

But it’s not just this major paradigm shift that is affecting how we do business – executives are also putting the spotlight on marquee trends in their space and being more deliberate about using insights from the market to fuel their strategy each year. That’s why I’m thrilled to share highlights from a recent webinar we hosted which featured several top executives from some of the most innovative sales and marketing technology companies.

Blog - Executive Roundtable Webinar - Panel

While the webinar itself is a must-watch, the insights in this post will give you a look into the biggest innovations we’ve seen from 2016 and predictions for 2017 – both of which will largely influence the way you think about your business strategy for the coming months.

Mapping the biggest innovations from 2016

Prior to jumping into 2017 predictions, our executive panel shared some of the major innovations they were excited about and its implications for the future. The discussion was broadly centered around 3 key topics:

1) Companies are doubling down on their data strategy

It should come as no surprise that there has been an exponential growth in data for companies today. Whether you chalk it up to digitization of information, more robust technologies, or better insights into buying journeys, businesses have more customer data than ever before.

To support this growth and to draw meaningful insights from data, companies have also started to consciously implement data strategies to manage this information flow throughout the funnel.

It’s not just about feeding data in, it’s about actually providing data out. Think about transforming a sales and marketing organization. You want to take those highly skilled knowledge workers, those sales professionals, those sales development reps, those marketers, and you want to empower them, with not just a lot of data, but the best data. The most current data.

Mark Woollen, Chief Product Officer at Radius

Besides having great data, there was also considerable focus by the panel on the role of both strong data and algorithms – combining them to provide meaningful insights for go-to-market teams. A crucial point to note with the growing presence of AI.

2) Data stewardship is key for driving revenue and growth in the long-term

Building from the commoditization of data and the increased focus on a cohesive data strategy, the conversation delved into the importance of adopting an ongoing focus on data stewardship.

Arguably one of the most common issues plaguing most marketing and sales teams is the prevalence of inaccurate, stale, and incomplete data across CRM and marketing automation technologies (MAT). While data has been a priority for companies in the past few years, many are just now shifting their philosophy on data management – moving away from the old, seasonal data refreshes to a more scalable, ‘always-on’ model that ensures long-term data integrity.

Recommended article: Hear from Radius CEO, Darian Shirazi, about the importance of foundational data and why companies need to address data quality in order to succeed with AI.

3) Go-to-market teams are more strategic and targeted with their outreach

Our executive panel also discussed the shift in go-to-market teams particularly when it comes to their outreach. The growing trend highlighted here was that GTM teams have become more strategic when reaching out to target accounts, using high-quality data to fuel insights and personalization. What’s interesting to note here is that this trend can be seen across both marketing and sales.

From a marketing perspective, teams are moving away from the old approach of buying stagnant lists and putting them through the grinder only to pump out subpar leads that are called MQLs. Instead, marketing is now leveraging emerging technologies like account-based marketing, predictive, and others to identify the right people in the right accounts. As Mark Woollen puts it, “It’s not just about getting to the right business. It’s about getting to the right person who’s the right decision maker in that division of that business.”

Concurrently, sales has evolved – trading conventional strategies in the hopes of making sales teams more customer acquisition focused. As Sean Kester mentions in the discussion, from a communications standpoint sales has become more intentional and analytical – personalizing their communication to prospects. They’re now focusing on the data, analytics, and customers themselves:

When they have these go-to-market strategies they realize they can’t burn down the forest, and they can’t sacrifice the total adjustable market that they have by blasting content at [prospects] that doesn’t really resonate with them. It’s not catered to their specific needs.

Sean Kester, VP Product Strategy at Salesloft

The “Gordon Geckos” and “Don Drapers” of the world are on their way out. Sales is much more of a holistic approach than it used to be, encompassing marketing, sales development, sales, and customer retention strategies.

Tracking game-changing capabilities in 2017

Now that we’ve covered some of the major innovations from the past year, let’s review the predictions our product executives shared in the webinar:

More agile experimentation and testing across data sources. One of the first predictions in this webinar came from Martin Longo who talked about seeing an emergence of customer engagement & data platforms (like Usermind) that make it easier to test data sources and reduce risk. These platforms would enable GTM teams to experiment with various data sources in an agile manner and empower users with cross-channel orchestration.

In 2017, companies like that, that allow you to quickly plug into a new data source, leverage it, experiment and learn and then, from a lean perspective, validate that your hypothesis has some merit and if not, pivot.

Martin Longo, CTO at Revana Inc.

Data and insights will become more centralized for sales teams to act on. On the sales front, Sean highlighted the need for a sales workspace that centralizes all the data and insights sales teams need to perform outreach. The workspace would include key signals about the account and prospect and even share a wide variety of data from firmographic to personal information. The goal being to house all relevant information a salesperson may need in one central location and surface key insights throughout the sales journey.

Bringing in all those data sources into one single pane of glass not only keeps [sales teams] better informed, but it keeps them on track, keeps them accountable, lets them execute more efficiently and effectively.

Sean Kester, VP Product Strategy at Salesloft

Network Effects will increasingly play a role in ensuring data quality. With all the focus on getting high-quality data, Mark highlights Network Effects, a relatively new concept in B2B, as an emerging trend that will fuel verification and validation of data. Network Effects is a proven concept originating in the B2C space, which leverages a consortium of companies that contribute data to a network, which improves the accuracy, comprehensiveness, and freshness of data for all users.

Rise in natural language processing tools for more scalable content. Lastly, the entire panel resonated the increase in natural language processing tools which would allow companies to create personalized messaging at scale. While there is still the challenge of making it as natural sounding as a custom piece of content, the rapid growth of technology may eventually lead to widespread adoption of such tools.

Looking ahead…

While these are just a few of the insights highlighted in the webinar, the overarching conversation seemed to be focused on data stewardship, adopting the right technologies for your business, and working towards more personalized go-to-market efforts.

There is no magic pill to drive revenue, but companies can take small, fundamental steps to ensure they’re moving in the direction of scalable growth.

Watch the webinar to get all the insights from Mark, Sean, and Martin. Also, stay tuned for our upcoming prediction series that will highlight game-changing capabilities you should expect to see over the next year.

Webinar - Executive Roundtable Transform Data into Dollars in 2017

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