The future of marketing is now! Actually, it happened already.

After reading through a plethora of “the future of digital marketing” predictions permeating the digi-sphere so far this year, I’ve come to observe two common consistencies among them (aside from the incessant Mad Men references):

  1. Almost everyone has predictions, and they’re almost all the same.
  2. Many marketing foretellings have already been in play with modern marketers for some time.

For those with a seat at the head of the evolutionary marketing spectrum, the conventional future is yesterday’s news. Mobile. Social media. Automation. The list goes on. But what comes next?

Here’s just a few trends on the digital horizon for the future and for.. the future of the future of digital marketing (evil laugh).

The future: Inbound-focused marketing
The future future: Consent-only marketing

Does your organic opt-in traffic convert better than traffic from strangers? Yes? So does everyones’.

For this reason, many outbound batch-and-blast focused efforts have a newfound skewed inbound rod-and-reel twang. Conversion rates rise and consumer aggravation over unwarranted marketing inundation falls.

As new emphasis on attraction grows stronger, it trends towards a world where all traffic is organic and all outbound communication is full-blown double-opt-in consensual.

Sound crazy? Check out Canada. As of last summer, all email marketing to Canadian recipients (B2B and B2C) must be opt-in according to law. That even includes non-Canadian companies marketing into the country. Violation of the rule could result in a five figure deep slap to the wrist… per email sent.

Some speculate that the new Canadian laws might serve as a litmus test for other countries, who could eventually decide to pass similar legislation depending on the outcome in the great white north. If the US follows suit, it would change top-of-the-funnel strategy for-ev-er.

The idea of full consent is bound to apply to more than just email. We’re approaching a landscape where digital advertising is more intelligent and so tailored to behaviors, it only makes sense that each and every web surfer will eventually have a totally unique user experience on the web wherever they go, ads included. No irrelevant ads? Believe it or not, we’re getting there.

The future: Big data
The future future: Smart data

In marketing, smart is the new sexy. As companies continue to amass multitudes of consumer intel, the protocols to store and leverage that data must become more intelligent to use it effectively. This makes the fear of big bad data kind of irrational.

In an old blog post, I likened such smart data structures to an everyday bath drain. If the drain is in place and is water-tight, it doesn’t matter if the tub is half way full or at the brim, the water will pass through its predetermined path.

With a database that has smart fields, stored in a medium (your proverbial tub) that could handle the volume, and integrated into other systems (your drain), then chances are you could take your plumber’s number off speed dial.

The future: Content marketing
The future future: Content outsourcing

Who cares about content marketing? Everybody. Well, almost. 74% of small businesses say they’ve used content marketing and only 4% had no plans to do any in the near future, according to recent survey results by Business Bolts.

I can’t quite imagine a business that wouldn’t benefit from releasing informative, lead-bearing content deliciousness to its target audiences. A webinar. An eBook. A blog about the future of digital marketing. (See what I did there?)

But already we recognize the king that is content. It’s the lead generation gift that keeps on generating. What’s new is the trend forming into a new standard of outsourcing the actual content creation.

In the early days of content marketing’s rise to the top of the priority list, copywriters, designers, bloggers and the creative likes were hot commodities. DM teams were being outfitted with a diversified fleet of content curators. A worthy investment given great ROI on organic content marketing.

However, as the value of good content rises so does the need for more of it. And it becomes a bit daunting for marketing departments of any size to handle internally.

A lot of groups now have the content process down to more of a streamlined scientific structure, leveraging trusted part-time consultants, agencies and even overseas freelancers for help.

I don’t mean to imply all things content are brushed off to others. The department of course steers the ship by providing outside crew with things like outline, topics, defined voice and style, while third-parties handle the tactical creation elements based on those guidelines. Low commitment, high impact content goodness.

The future: Targeting
The future future: Geo Targeting

Targeting audiences is nothing new. Basic spray-and-pray tactics have boiled down to demographic and behavioural targeting and eventually to mobile targeting. Even geolocation targeting is nothing brand new, but the way it’s combining with mobile and being used with more pinpoint accuracy is.

Targeting geo is becoming so intelligent that some retail stores are able to push coupon notifications to consumers the moment they enter their store.

On the data front, tracking geo down to the footstep allows marketers to uncover actionable trends of how and when you shop, and allows an even more relevant and personalized content experience for consumers. Creepy, perhaps. Effective, definitely.

The future: B2B Marketing and Sales Team Synergy
The future future: B2B Sales Team Displacement

For the past few years, we’ve seen an interesting new intimacy among sales and marketing groups within B2B organizations. Formerly dueling parties living under a universal mentality that sales makes the money while marketing spends.

With the rise of smarter marketing, content nurturing, lead funneling and clear attribution, many teams have bonded in a newfound love affair. But will the honeymoon last? Sources say… yes, and no.

While synergy between groups is likely to remain strong, and even intensify in nature, new trends suggest marketing roles within corporations increasing, while B2B sales roles are declining. This only makes sense if you think about it.

Good marketing teams run programs to nurture and generate wallet-out leads that need just a bit of personal touch during the process. Marketing nurtures with content so the buyer learns what they’re getting, and marketing operations enable a simple user experience to buy.

As things move in that direction, the need diminishes for old-school sales team roles like cold callers to start conversations, explainers to personally nurture things to the next level, and order takers to deal with non complex buyer dynamics

Hubspot posted some research from Forrester that suggests 1 million B2B sales jobs to vanish by 2020.

Marketing warms up the leads and sales supports that process and closes the deals. That dynamic lets groups not only play nice together, but reduces redundancy on the sales side and makes both teams equally as imperative to the sales cycle. Some modern marketing-centric B2B companies like Marketo have this mentality in mind, and employ about the same amount of marketers on their growth team than sales reps, according to sources.

Conclusion

The future of marketing is exciting. The future of marketing’s future.. even more so.

Formulating more intelligent systems to streamline elements like acquisition, data and content while getting to know consumers more intimately than ever will be key to taking digital marketing to the next level of evolution.

So may you stay relevant as the ground continues to shift, or may Darwinism take its course.