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The Monday Stack: Do Go Chasing Waterfalls

When you find yourself in a back room at the Venetian-Palazzo, on the occasion of SiriusDecisions 2017 Summit, sitting down with Jay Famico and Kerry Cunningham of the hosting research and advisory firm, it’s a good opportunity to ask them about major trends in B2B lead gen. So that’s what I did.

Cunningham is senior research director and team leader for demand creation strategies. He’d delivered a Summit keynote on the next gen iteration of Sirius Decisions’ Demand Waterfall. “Where are things headed? The predictive analytics vendor space: They want to be your system of record for the addressable market. It’s never been a very good idea to have reps deciding who to call, how often, and when.” Wherever your making data-based decisions in your organization, that’s a place where “there’s a position for AI,” he says.

AI and predictive are making waves in B2B, Cunningham and Famico both emphasized, because the days when B2B vendors functioned with limited quantities of highly structured data are over. “The amount of data B2B marketers are now generating is night and day different from what is was ten years ago,” says Famico, VP, client-facing technology and practice director technology and services. Another factor, Famico agrees, is that expectations of B2B purchasers are increasingly set by their B2C experiences.

Even so, Cunningham says, “While [B2B] buyers do get a lot of information online, they still talk to people en route. But they continue self-educating.” The message from buyers to vendors: “If you’re not paying attention to what I’m learning, you won’t be relevant to me.” AI and predictive technologies now power smarter segmentation, predictive personas, and what SiriusDecisions calls “tactic matching” — personalized lead nurturing based on directing messaging and content “tactically” to segments and personas.

But technology, if I understand Famico correctly, is not necessarily top-of-mind for SiriusDecisions when it comes to innovative B2B marketing strategies. “Everyone in the [Summit] audience has everything they need,” said Famico. “If you have sales force automation or marketing automation, you can do it. You can even do it in Excel.” Not that he’s recommending the latter. “We’re never going to tell a client, buy this vendor.” What SiriusDecisions does offer are models and frameworks for the tech acquisition decision process; but success is “heavily process related,” says Famico.

Speaking of processes, the Waterfall is an approach to tracking and scoring progress at key stages in the lead nurturing process. At Summit, SiriusDecisions introduced a new way of defining B2B buyers engaged in the process: “demand units” — distinguished from “accounts” as the actual teams engaged in a specific purchase process within an account or business (more about ABM from SiriusDecisions later this week). Cunningham explained they’ve also been adding to the Waterfall at the top end, given greater available visibility into which companies should be, or are about to be, in market for a product.

That’s become possible because of advances in understand intent. Intent vendors: another important space to watch. The question they’re tackling, says Famico: “How do you associate multiple [demand units] to an opportunity, at scale.”

We spent last week discussing the potential impact of AI and machine learning on marketing productivity and the bottom-line; but the march of the bots, of course, promises to make our environment better in all kinds of ways. For example, combating poachers. Neural networks are at the ever-shifting cutting edge of AI. They make up the deep learning models which have enabled huge advances in the ability of machines to recognize patterns, greatly improving natural language processing and image recognition.

If deep learning models can now recognize animals like elephants and rhinos, it can also recognize the poachers that menace them. Neurala, which brings deep learning to drones is doing something non-scary with its technology, namely assisting the Lindbergh Foundation’s Air Shepherd program in using predictive analytics and night-flying drones to spot and stop poachers before animals are harmed. The partnership was announced May 20, the 90th Anniversary of Lindbergh’s solo transatlantic flight. Video here.

March of the bots? Make that onslaught of the virtual assistants. Startling data emerged from research and consulting firm Ovum last week. By 2021, which isn’t that far away, 7.5 billion active devices will have virtual assistants natively installed. That’s more devices than there are people in the world. Ovum is predicting a steep trajectory for Google Assistant, which will dominated the voice/AI market with over 23% of that vast market, followed by (surprise?) Samsung’s Bixby; then, more predictably, Siri, Alexa, and Cortana.

It’s true (if Ovum’s right). We’re going to be outnumbered.

Monday Stack logo by Hilary Allison

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