As quotable baseball great Yogi Berra once said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” It’s probably even tougher after a tumultuous year like 2020, which our upended lives in so many ways. But in the B2B marketing and martech sector, there are clear trends playing out now that suggest ways the industry will evolve in 2021.

Here are five trends we’ve noticed that will shape martech in 2021:

  1. Data integration will drive martech innovation: We already know how consequential data integration can be — B2B marketers who’ve added their company’s CRM to the marketing solution stack and adopted advanced measurement techniques to analyze CRM data, tend to be better aligned with sales, have more efficient campaign investments and more effective operational processes. But people are adding new martech solutions at a fast clip, and they need to find ways to integrate all of the data to drive martech innovation. (Hint: make friends with the CIO!)
  1. Marketers will become more sophisticated about measurement: When in-person events were canceled due to the pandemic, marketers redirected funds to digital channels. The great thing about digital channels is that they can capture rich data on each interaction. Marketers who have the right tools in place can measure each customer encounter from click to close and gain insights that allow them to continuously improve ROI on investments and make processes more efficient. In 2021, excellence in measurement will become a standard rather than an exception.
  1. The agile marketing approach will continue to make inroads: Agile marketing was already gaining popularity before the pandemic, and an uncertain business climate is accelerating the shift. Agile methods can work well in any economy, but the nature of the approach, which features short-term projects (called “sprints”) conducted by multidisciplinary teams, are especially suited to times that require quick pivots to innovate, take advantage of emerging opportunities and mitigate risks. More than 40% of marketers are using at least some agile methods now. Look for that percentage to increase in 2021.
  1. Agile marketers will add a “measurement sprint” to their projects: The rising popularity of agile marketing and the increasing sophistication of measurement techniques will converge to enable a new concept: the measurement sprint. It’s imperative to measure during sprints to demonstrate campaign impact and make adjustments along the way. Whether they call it a “measurement sprint” or not, marketers who use an agile approach will need to identify baseline metrics for the sales cycle and capture lead progress through the funnel during the sprint. They’ll do so with a sprint that is focused on defining success and funnel metrics.
  1. Funnel stages will get more focus: Related to the point above, in agile marketing, sprints are typically a week to three weeks in length, which may be shorter than the sales cycle, especially in the B2B realm. Marketers will look for ways to get a “sneak-peek” at campaign impact using funnel metrics to view lead progression through funnel stages. For example, this would enable them to test the impact of various ads, measuring click-through rates and making adjustments as appropriate to maximize ROI prior to capturing sales data.

If there’s a single through-line in these five trends that will shape martech in the year ahead, it’s a focus on data and measurement. That makes sense considering the forces that are influencing the marketing world today (and will for the foreseeable future): more use of digital channels and budgetary pressures due to economic uncertainty.

Marketers who have a single source of data truth that is credible outside the marketing department and the ability to analyze performance that generate actionable insights, will be in a better position to succeed in 2021 and the years to follow.

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