We’re two weeks into 2017, which means you’ve had more than enough time to think about what your business did — or didn’t — accomplish in 2016. Or you could skip over the part where you dwell on the past and just start making plans for the future.

Where to start? We recently spoke to a handful of savvy business leaders across different industries who offered up some very insightful marketing and sales predictions for this coming year, and we want to share them with you. Hopefully their words will help you transform your 2017.

Customer Service Will be Much More Than a Differentiator

Sales, marketing, and customer service are continuing to merge. It’s all about making customers successful from their first interaction.

Customers have greater expectations than ever. They expect the businesses they deal with to know who they are, and to deliver an amazing experience every time, without exceptions. Great customer service is no longer a differentiator — it’s table stakes to build a brand and a business that will thrive over the coming years.
James Gill, CEO at GoSquared

Marketing Goes to the Movies

No one actually wants to read anymore. Instead, everything is about binge-watching videos with kids and millennials glued to YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook Live Feed videos for hours on end, liking, commenting on, and sharing video content.

Sure, video has been popular in the past years, but it’s practically taking over marketing in 2017 because it is a much more enjoyable way to get information sought without the hassle of trying to search through words to get to the heart of the matter. Plus, it appeals so much more to the emotions that your audience is bound to remember any video marketing you do for longer.

Part of the trend will be toward ephemeral videos — that’s short, temporary videos now populating Snapchat and Instagram. This is a way to generate excitement and need in your audience because they are now afraid they might miss that really cool video that all their peers saw.

John Rampton, Founder and CEO at Due.com

Closing Deals Via Text Will Be Totally Normal

The sales team of the future will need to be comfortable communicating and even closing deals through newer media channels, such as text and Facebook Messenger. These channels, which were formerly reserved for marketing and customer care teams, will become the preferred means of conversational selling as consumers shift their everyday communication habits away from the phone and email and toward text and messenger apps.

There are two big trends driving this shift in conversational selling: First, for most people under 40, texting is every bit as intimate as talking on the phone, so the idea of making a purchase from someone you’ve merely “texted” is no longer strange. Second, thanks to the web and marketing automation, consumers are better educated than they’ve ever been, meaning that by the time they’re reaching out to a salesperson, they’re usually more than halfway through the sales cycle, and in some cases are ready to buy right now without jumping through the usual hoops and formalities that often come with phone calls and online demos.

For example, at DigitalMarketer.com, our sales team is closing more and more big-ticket deals through Facebook Messenger, without ever talking to the customer on the phone. Similarly, we now have our customer success team answering questions via text/SMS, and giving customers the opportunity to buy right then and there on their phones. And best of all, since chat and Messenger allow you to maintain multiple, simultaneous 1:1 conversations, we’re able to qualify and close more deals with less salespeople.

If you play your cards right and stay up to date, you can expect shorter sales cycles, shorter training cycles, and less experienced sales reps bringing in larger deals over less expensive and more efficient communication channels.

Ryan Deiss, CEO at DigitalMarketer.com

Ecommerce Will Rule 2017

2017 will be the best year yet for B2B ecommerce. I know it feels like ecommerce is anything but a phenomenon for most of us anymore, but there still is vast potential for expansion. Considered purchases characterize the B2B space much more than B2B’s impulsive B2C counterpart and, for that reason, the former hasn’t gotten much love, relatively speaking, during the meteoric rise of buying stuff on the Internet.

I already see it during my day-to-day at work and on my personal social feeds. Consultancies are investing more heavily in their online presences, accounting firms are advertising on my Instagram feed, and a business attorney friend of mine keeps me abreast of the cases he wins for his clients via Facebook.

Close your eyes and think of someplace you were five years ago. Now try to imagine those three things happening (more important, happening effectively) back then.

—Brandon Staton, Marketing Director, Transportation Impact