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I’ve been in marketing for over 12 years and, boy oh boy, the changes and transformations in this field have been wild! The rise of ecommerce and the digitalization of marketing have propelled marketers into an abyss of channels, tools, and trends none of the textbooks we studied in college could have prepared us for. To make things a little harder, the expensive nature of marketing has put us under a magnifying glass and, while expectations have not ceased to increase, budgets have not ceased to shrink (or stay tightly locked). When you consider all of this, it’s no wonder why our poor CMOs have had the highest turnover among C-levels. And, it’s also no wonder why, in a last-ditch effort to stay ahead of the curve, marketing leaders have fallen prey to flashy technologies and predictions that just never took off.

In an analysis looking at over 2,000 marketing and commerce predictions made in 2021, Emarsys (SAP's Customer Engagement platform) found that one out of four predictions never came true. Smart glasses and the rise in voice search were among the predictions that flapped. The importance of privacy however, along with the growth of influencer marketing and the rise of ecommerce, turned out to be true.

What the results of this analysis reminds us is that futuristic technologies and gadgets are distractions from the less flashy realities surrounding marketing. What’s more, trends just don’t pop up overnight from 31st December to January 1st. Chances are, we’ve already spotted them in our day-to-day job.

To build a solid marketing plan, what you need is indeed—not a crystal ball, bummer, our lives would be so much easier then—but a good look at your customer data and regular check-ins with your marketing team. What’s your data telling you about your customers, their preferences, your campaigns’ performances, the channels you manage, new revenue streams and growth pockets? What’s your marketing team struggling with, desiring most, and wanting less of?

In its (Un)predictions report, Emarsys identifies the top seven marketing priorities marketers should be looking at in 2022. Unlike most of the marketing predictions’ authors, Emarsys’ claims are driven by years of data analysis and ongoing conversations with marketers around the world.

The top three priorities that speak most to me are:

Artificial Intelligence (AI, or all that algorithm which does the math for us)

Business Intelligence teams might still be around to help C-levels understand where their business is/should be heading, but—when it comes to marketing—the days of relying on humans to crack big data are long gone. The fast-rising demands of consumers combined with the multitude of channels we collect data from have made data analysis a super-human task. So, if you want to keep up with your customers and prospects, avoid any nervous breakdown within your marketing team, and essentially set the foundation for a solid marketing plan, reach out to AI.

Marketing Automation

Email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, brick-and-mortar stores, paid ads, post mail, and the list goes on. On top of there being a multitude of marketing channels from which to engage with customers and prospects, each of the later come with their own preferences and expectations (does Customer Experience, CX, sound familiar?). So how do you keep up with it all? Well, again, you can’t do it alone. You need a Marketing Automation tool (powered by AI, may I add!) to help you create and manage workflows for every possible scenario. And, through the power of AI, marketing automation will trigger the right messages at the right time for the right audience making revenue streams flow like magic.

Tech Stack

Did you know there are over 8,000 martech solutions on the market? According to Emarsys’ Unpredictions report, enterprises use an average of 91 marketing cloud services. Wait? What? And we’re still talking about avoiding siloes and creating a more seamless customer experience? How does that add up? It doesn’t. So, save yourself some precious budget and bring back a sense of sanity in your marketing team—look for a one-stop-shop solution. That will not only allow your marketing people to catch their breath, but it will enable them to consolidate data from multiple sources, execute personalized campaigns across channels, and measure success.

Having said all of this, I realize none of what I wrote is ground-breaking news. If you’re in marketing, you probably knew all of this already. Yet, I have a feeling most of us are still letting our fast-paced, demanding, chaotic, noisy, and profit-driven world disconnect us from the simple truths and realities surrounding us. This year, and in the years to come, try to slow down, act rational (based on facts, numbers, data), and—most of all—listen to your team. Instead of holding on to trendy trends and flashy predictions, reconnect with the people you recruited to do the heavy lifting. Machine learning and AI might be essential tools to achieving your goals this year, but without a motivated and talented team behind them, they’ll stay just that: tools.