Eighteen is the age of adulthood, so perhaps it's fitting that in 2018 some major emerging trends in B2B marketing will start to show signs of maturation.
Like 18-year-olds (who are still teenagers, after all), some of these trends will still be developing—but will also get on track to shape or influence the future of marketing.
In the new year, a combination of technology advances, organizational cultural shifts and buyer-behavior changes will pull B2B marketing in new directions.
Here are four trends that will begin to mature in 2018.
1. Individualization will become the new personalization
Machine-learning algorithms are becoming more sophisticated, opening new possibilities for marketers to gain insights into customer behavior and the courses of action that are most likely to resonate with the buyer.
Such capabilities have become essential as B2B audiences increasingly self-educate on a company's products before they ever talk to a salesperson, which has raised the bar on Marketing's need to deliver the right content at the right time.
This example from the Marketing AI Institute paints the picture: Let's say there are 10,000 downloads of a company's e-book across five personas, originating from multiple channels and requiring personalized emails and website experiences based on the users' history.
"Humans are unable to conceive of the optimal set of instructions to guide the machine on how to personalize experiences at this scale," the institute says. "This is where artificial intelligence excels. It takes data-driven, complex tasks and makes them look easy. But artificial intelligence doesn't stop at setting up the initial rules to maximize performance, it uses machine learning to constantly evolve its actions. In other words, it learns, it gets smarter, and it creates its own algorithms."
Rising AI adoption will drive a growing shift from personalization to individualization in 2018. Delivering more personalized experiences has been marketers' goal for years, but it has essentially remained a mass-communication exercise, based on buyer personas or market segment analyses—a template of what a buyer's behavior is believed to be.