Over the last few years, marketing technology or martech, a collection of tools and platforms used to achieve marketing goals and objectives, has increasingly gobbled up a more significant percentage of a company's marketing budget.  Today, according to Gartner, martech claims more than a quarter of the annual marketing spend at corporate enterprises, a proportion which will trend even higher in 2018, according to another recent survey.  

While the crowded marketing technology landscape can be quite daunting, a good starting point for most businesses is to execute upon the martech basics most appropriate for them and assess new trends and innovative solutions for fit and benefits.  It has been gratifying for me to help many companies do so and see their sales pipeline and revenues grow, whether in the Chief Marketing Officer role at VFA and PlatformQ Health or as a consultant to technology companies.  For example, after executing on martech basics like marketing automation, CRM, and search, the mobile and digital focus was crucial at VFA and community engagement was vital at PlatformQ Health.

Martech excellence will be particularly important in 2018 when most marketing executives expect their KPIs to shift from leads and traffic to revenue and conversions.  Here are three martech trends to watch for 2018, and how you can be ready to take advantage:

1. Intelligent Content

I wrote about marketing technologies in 2015 and cautioned that content overload loomed as a serious risk factor. Sadly, this prognostication has come to pass, and poor content performance represents a huge challenge for marketers today.  One way to address this issue is by investing in "intelligent content."  Jim Yu recommends looking at content through the SMART lens to ensure it is targeted, optimized, and activated across devices and the marketing stack. Intelligent content:

  • Helps engaged buyers find all the pertinent information they need to make a purchase decision, and;

  • Identifies when a buyer really engages by tracking how much time they spend consuming content.

This approach helps marketers focus on the best buyers, enabling them to take action when they demonstrate real intent. Finally, ensure you incorporate visual content as well; this adds appeal to a segment of consumers and will continue to grow in 2018.

2. Search Optimization

Google continues to refine its algorithm, putting pressure on marketers to keep apace of these changes. The prolonged dwell times for this in-depth, super helpful content and context leads to higher rankings through the Google machine learning tool Rankbrain.  Google has announced that it will rank based on the mobile version.  This mobile-first index will be rolled out in 2018.  Prep by switching to responsive design if not there already and ensure you have consistent content across all platforms.  Also, use embeddable images in your visual content; this makes it easy for other sites to embed them into their content. When they do so, they'll usually link back to you.

Incorporate high response videos and optimize for fast-growing voice search, which tends to have longer-tail queries than text search. See Brian Dean's blog for more details and other tips.

3. Artificial Intelligence

Given the tremendous amount of marketing and advertising to which consumers are exposed, advertisers need to find creative ways to stand out in the clutter.

With artificial intelligence (AI), we can derive insights from massive quantities of data and take actions needed to meet the growing personalization needs. AI technology can process reams of unstructured data and deliver relevant information about the target accounts regarding their needs, competitors, likes, dislikes, and much more, allowing companies to deepen their customer connections.

Ordering simple products using chatbots is relatively easy because there are few variables. In 2018, chatbots will begin to handle more complex products and transactions. AI-based chatbots are an efficient solution for customer care requirements, addressing reasonable customer queries and, in combination with other data, providing better consumer insights. While AI will not be fully implemented in 2018, this is the year you can prepare your data, people, and processes for it.

Finally, Regardless of your comfort level with martech, 2018 is the year to redouble your investments in and commitment to a solid marketing technology strategy. Though the tools may have evolved, the business principles of remaining competitive, filling your sales funnel, and increasing your ROI are the same as they have ever been.

About the Author

Ameeta Soni is an innovative marketing executive and business consultant with a proven ability to drive revenues and profits. Ameeta's background includes marketing, consulting, and board experience for SaaS and digital health companies.  Her expertise includes strategy, new product introduction, building the sales pipeline and growing market share. She is always looking to leverage Martech to gain competitive advantage.   Ameeta is a member of the investment committee at Maroon Venture Partners Fund and is a mentor at Techstars. She is a Springboard alum and past chair of the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge.