If you’ve been in the tech or startup world for any longer than a few years, you’ve probably read (or heard countless people quote) Marc Andreessen’s 2011 Wall Street Journal essay, “Why Software is Eating the World.” It’s a brilliant piece and few would argue that Andreessen’s core theory hasn’t proven true. Software has taken over — and will continue to take over — virtually all significant aspect of our lives.
Along those lines, there’s a related — and equally disruptive — shift that’s happening: old, human-powered sales processes are being devoured by automated, machine-powered marketing platforms. Or, to put this trend in Andreessen parlance, Marketing is eating Sales.
Consider these numbers:
- By 2020, Gartner predicts customers will self-manage 85% of their relationships with companies without ever directly engaging a human (hello, Marketing…).
- In the next 3–5 years, more than 50% of respondents to an Economist survey said Marketing will own the customer buying experience. By comparison, less than 20% of respondents said sales will own that experience.
- As of January 2015, there were nearly 2,000 vendors of marketing technology services. Even Accel Partners’ highly vetted and carefully curated list contains 600 entries.
And that’s just the beginning.
As adoption of technology and automation continues to expand, Marketing will become an even more dominant part of the buyer journey. In fact, as buyers grow accustomed to getting personalized information on-demand without the help of a human sales rep, they’ll demand more of those types of hyper-relevant automated experiences, and much less human interaction. (After all, none of us long for the days of human toll collectors on the Golden Gate Bridge, do we?).
Three Key Drivers of Marketing’s Rise
Today, the Marketing and Sales funnel is changing rapidly. There are more channels than ever before and more interactions within each channel. As a result, marketers must assume responsibility for a greater portion of the sales process. But it does come with a new challenge: with the explosion of marketing channels and data, the complexity of marketing has increased geometrically.
In this new world, there are three key drivers that will continue to influence Marketing’s rise up the food chain:
- The evolution of the Internet and mobile. It’s easy to overlook how much has changed in just 10 years. In 2005, the world hit a milestone with 1 billion Internet users. Ten years later, that number has tripled to more than 3 billion. And by 2020, that number is expected to exceed 4 billion. But even those numbers underestimate the pervasiveness of the web. Thanks to the explosion of mobile (and, in the future, wearables), people are always online. This changes how Sales and Marketing operate in very fundamental ways.
- More channels = More complex buyer’s journey. As I mentioned above, the modern buyer’s journey — whether it’s for a consumer or business product — traverses a complex path through multiple channels and platforms en route to a sale. Whether it’s social media, email, user reviews, or the good old-fashioned telephone, there are countless ways to connect with customers (and them to us). This has turned Marketing into a bi-directional, social operation that requires the constant delivery of highly personal — and contextually relevant — campaigns.
- The adaptation of human behavior. In tandem with our connectedness and the complex nature of the modern buyer’s journey, human behavior is changing, as well. For proof of that, just look at millennials — a group that comprises one-fourth of the U.S. population and boasts $200B in buying power. In this generation, word of mouth, authentic user reviews, and social media play an increasingly important part in driving sales. According to one study, 91 percent of millennials say they’d consider buying a product if a friend recommended it. This trend is another big win for Marketing, which has long been responsible for brand awareness and customer advocacy.
How These Trends Impact the Future of Marketing
Each of these trends increases the burden on Marketing, and requires more involvement from various disciplines under the modern marketing umbrella — which now includes nine unique roles, according to Slack’s CMO, Bill Macaitis.
Ultimately, more automation and connectedness means that the humans — whether B2B customers or B2C consumers — win. The more marketers (and their machines) deliver intelligent, authentic, personalized experiences that address consumers’ unique interests, the easier it will be to make the best decisions about products and solutions.
In many companies, Marketing’s impact on revenue generation is finallybeing acknowledged — a once unimaginable goal for marketers who were saddled with the “cost center” label. As a former VP of Marketing myself, and now as the CEO of a company that serves some of the best marketing teams in the world, I can’t wait for a day when all marketers see their hard work tied to revenue.
So, to my fellow marketers, I say: Bon Appétit!