Marketing Innovation Summit 2017 Recap

I had the pleasure and privilege to speak and attend the Demandbase Marketing Innovation Summit in San Francisco. The conference, initially focused on account-based marketing, has branched out to be all about the Future of Marketing.

What does the future of marketing hold? A few common themes ran through all of Marketing Innovation Summit.

True 1:1 Personalization

In the past, marketers struggled to achieve mass personalization. Even with the most sophisticated, scalable marketing automation software, we still presented contextually inappropriate marketing to large swaths of audience because we were unable to scale customization well. We might designate someone a part of the CMO audience at Fortune 500 companies with revenue greater than $500M per year, but even a narrowly defined segment such as this risks out of context personalization. The CMO of Fortune 500 telecom has significantly different needs and challenges than the CMO of a Fortune 500 consumer goods company. Even two companies in the same sector face different challenges.

The promise of machine learning and artificial intelligence is that we will be able to segment and customize to the individual, to the human being rather than the persona or archetype. Instead of targeting marketing VPs at mid-size American PR agencies, machine learning software could target me specifically and show me content suggestions which apply only to me.


We already see technologies like this in market, especially from large companies like Google and IBM as well as specialized companies such as Demandbase; expect much more of this in the future.

The Complete Customer Journey

A number of marketers struggle to understand even the basic customer journey. Now, modern marketing has added a new twist: understanding the customer journey on properties we don’t own.

Thanks to data aggregation services like data management platforms (DMPs), we have more potential insights into the customer journey than ever before. A properly implemented DMP allows us to see the customer journey as customers browse the web, visit our owned media properties, and then leave for new destinations.


Consider what convinces a buyer to buy. For complex sales, sales with more than one decision-maker, we often see a combination of factors. A webinar might educate the customer, but rapport on social media might make them view us favorably. A news story they read about us lends credibility to our claims. Yet we measure very few of these activities effectively, because the majority of them occur on properties we don’t own.

The next wave of marketing technology and marketing automation promises to integrate offsite intelligence via DMP data so that we see the full picture of what our customers do, where they consume media, and how they spend their time. Combined with sophisticated statistics and machine learning, we may soon be able to understand the complete customer journey across many forms of digital media.

Marketing as a True Profit Center

Marketing is traditionally thought of as a cost center, and many of our marketing efforts focus on making marketing more efficient, extracting more bang for the buck. However, with the advent of AI-powered account-based marketing and true personalization at scale, we have the opportunity to realize another future for marketing: marketing as a profit center.

What if marketing became a revenue generator? One of the classic methods of categorizing people, the A/B test, has a serious flaw: if you’re not a member of the “winning” test, you receive messaging and marketing which isn’t optimized for you. Suppose we ran an A/B test that generated 60% favorable results and 40% unfavorable results. In the past, we’d simply ignore the 40% and realize as much revenue as we could from the 60%.

Now that we have personalization at scale, we don’t need to throw away the 40% of audience that didn’t respond favorably to our marketing. We could either test multiple messages, or we could offer them different products and services entirely. There’s no reason we can’t partner with non-competitive companies to offer complementary services and products to our “wasted” audience. Instead of generating revenue from only part of our audience, we could generate revenue from our entire audience.

The Future of Marketing is Bright

Marketing’s future is a bright one; with scale and efficiency from AI, with the complete customer journey, and with the right products for the right audience, we will take marketing to an entirely new level. The future is bright – and it will be here sooner than you think.

Christopher S. Penn

Vice President, Marketing Technology

Disclosure: Demandbase is a client of SHIFT Communications. Demandbase paid for me to attend the Marketing Innovation Summit.


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