The new world of predictive marketing

At Econsultancy, we conduct events and research focused on B2B marketing. Indeed, the upcoming <a href="">Festival of Marketing</a> has a stage dedicated to it. A recurring theme is the relationship between sales and marketing.

Ashley Friedlein

In most B2B organisations, sales is still the dominant function. We often hear that sales and marketing should work more closely together, focus on the entire customer journey, establish agreed processes, terminology and definitions (what do we mean by a ‘sales qualified lead’?), and so on.

Marketing automation, including lead scoring and lead nurturing, is an established skillset in B2B marketing. We are starting to see B2C marketers, including brand marketers, increasingly interested in marketing automation as they become more directly involved with ecommerce, customer data capture and analysis. The sophisticated data skills of, say, a gambling company are being sought by FMCG brands but so too are the marketing automation skills often best practised by B2B marketers.

Marketing automation enables marketers to more accurately predict future sales performance and ‘own the pipeline’. It’s this area of control and ownership where the friction between the sales and marketing functions arise. But if marketers are increasingly to become CEOs, it is important not only that they ‘get’ digital, technology and data, but also that they can better predict, and deliver, sales.

So I suggest a dimension to marketing that is closely aligned to sales, forecasting and pipeline management, which I’m calling ‘predictive marketing’ for want of a better name. Perhaps ‘proactive marketing’, ‘predictive prospecting’, ‘pre-marketing’, ‘inbound outbound marketing’? As marketers I am sure we can come up with a suitable name for it. But how is it different?

Of course, we know about variations on the AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action) model. We know about marketing and sales funnels and brand marketing. More recently we have seen inbound marketing, earned media and content marketing gain traction where we use content as a magnet to attract customers directly and indirectly.

But what if we could dynamically predict that an organisation, or individual, will buy our product or service before any contact is made, before any sales or marketing effort is expended? Do you remember pre-crime from the film Minority Report? A bit like that but pre-marketing.

If you can define the attributes of ‘what good looks like’ for a customer then predictive marketing technology can mine numerous data sources, many new or emerging (social, online behavioural), in real time to proactively present target organisations or customers that should be interested in what you have. It is different from context-based marketing, such as cookie-based behavioural targeting or Google AdWords, because the ‘context’ is the digital imprint people or businesses make in the global datasphere.

This is beyond the top of the funnel, beyond marketing for awareness. It’s predictive prospecting that sits somewhere between marketing and sales. Armed with these new prospects you can get busy with your programmatic marketing and your brand marketing to lure them into your owned media sphere and draw them down the funnel with marketing automation.

Is this new or just an evolved form of direct marketing? It’s a bit like digital marketing: it’s not that new conceptually in terms of what marketing is but very different in how you execute, what you can do and how you do it. This predictive marketing technology already exists; it is an emerging technology segment but I expect to see a surge of vendors and interest in the coming years.

I met someone recently who has developed a clever LinkedIn app to market his own business. You teach it the attributes of suitable prospects including behavioural triggers such as ‘has recently changed job’. It logs in as you and auto-visits tens of thousands of algorithmically identified prospects on LinkedIn. Some of them notice that ‘you’ have visited their page. Curious, they get in contact. And from there on it is classic marketing automation and the funnel. A cute idea and perhaps a small example of a new dimension coming in marketing: predictive marketing.