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9 Predictions to Look Out For in 2022

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9 Predictions to Look Out For in 2022

As a blend of robotics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI), automation takes care of the mundane tasks we’d rather not spend time on, the work we don’t want to mess up with human error, customer interactions that require instant responses – and so much more.

While automation has been evolving at lightning speed over the last few years, it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down. So what does the future of automation look like? We’ll cover that and more in this article.

1. Automating High-Value Actions

Right now, the low-hanging fruit for automation is boring repetitive work. Automating front-office functions may be more challenging harder but it’s becoming more common.

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More organizations will soon be using technology to automate quality customer experiences (CX).

According to the HubSpot Blog’s 2022 Marketing Trends Report, roughly 17% of marketers currently integrate automation or artificial intelligence as part of their marketing strategy.

future of automation: graphic with data from hubspot blog's 2022 marketing trends report

Another HubSpot Blog research survey on media and content planning revealed that over a quarter of marketers surveyed say they plan to leverage automation in their media planning strategy.

With the data showing that consumers are prioritizing CX more and expecting more personalization during brand interactions, this forces brands to consider automation for bigger-scale, higher-impact sectors of their businesses.

2. Prioritizing Marketing, Sales, and Success Alignment

Automation cannot be successful when operating in a silo.

That’s why it’s key for teams – particularly marketing, sales, and success teams to be in alignment as they greatly impact the customer journey.

It’s no longer enough to automate marketing emails. What about contact handovers when a contact moves down the funnel? Or follow-ups once a lead completes a high-intent action?

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Because marketing teams are only one part of the journey, it’s essential that automation workflows account for user behavior beyond marketing.

3. Automation as a Vital Part of CRMs

According to a 2021 LinkedIn report, 75% of sales professionals use technology — usually a CRM — to close more deals.

Despite this, today’s salespeople spend just a great deal of time catching up with admin work and data entry instead of selling.

As sales and marketing teams realize the potential of automation to tackle repetitive tasks, more of the top CRM tools are developing powerful automation features.

These will enable companies to automate routine tasks to speed up sales cycles, send personalized marketing messages, and proactively resolve customer service cases without lifting a finger.

4. Automation for Greater Personalization

Nearly half of consumers say they will likely become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience with a retail brand, according to Twilio’s 2022 State of Personalization report.

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future of automation: graphic displaying twilio's data

Following the pandemic, the need for personalization grew and brands must respond or risk falling behind.

From audience segmentation and drip campaigns to product recommendations and cart abandonment notifications, personalization cannot operate at scale without automation.

This new shift toward personalization means automation will become a higher priority for brands.

5. Automation Across a Company’s App Stack

Businesses have more tools than ever before at their fingertips.

In the future of automation, more companies will have a Head of Business Systems role to oversee their huge number of tools — and this position will hold a vast capacity for impact and change.

More than ever, the SaaS tools we choose will help our businesses become more productive, profitable, and impactful.

For best results, companies will connect their tools to enable automated two-way data syncing and greater accuracy.

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6. Business Chatbots as Full-Time Agents

According to a 2021 Vonage report on customer engagement, one in five consumers use live chat or in-app chat daily.

While today’s businesses mostly use live chat to facilitate real-time conversations between consumers and business representatives, more companies are setting up chatbots.

With bots, companies can provide answers to frequently asked questions and even resolve issues without a team member’s involvement. Increasingly, the best chatbots serve as full-time customer support agents.

The key to a bot’s success is intelligence, which still has its limitations, but is improving fast.

In the future of automation, bots will become more useful, more intelligent, and may soon incorporate voice functionality.

7. AI for Automated Decision-Making

Decision-making is tiring.

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You need the right data at your fingertips, to look beyond your biases and get agreement from other stakeholders. AI will increasingly provide a solution to this, delivering high-quality data that can help inform the best decisions.

In a 2021 State of B2B Marketing Automation Report, 58% of B2B professionals say the #1 tactic that most amplifies the success of their marketing automation tool is quality data.

future of automation: graphic displaying B2B marketing automation data data

While some decisions can be instantly acted on with automation, many will – and should – go back to humans for consideration from an emotional and empathetic side.

8. Automating Data Collection and Reporting

Automating data management is essential to ensure data quality and integrity.

However, reporting doesn’t have to involve confusing Excel exports and hours spent manipulating data.

By consolidating all of your customer data with an iPaaS solution, your tools can deliver more accurate reporting with the information at hand.

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9. RPA Helping Businesses Become More Productive

RPA, also referred to as ‘robotics’ or ‘robots,’ is defined as the automation of rules-based processes with software that utilizes the user interface and which can run on any software, including web-based applications, ERP systems, and mainframe systems.

This could include opening emails and attachments, moving files and folders, or filling in forms.

Going forward, RPA is likely to become a more standard part of our workflows, whether via stand-alone tools, features of the tools we’re already using, or integrated apps.

Is automation changing work as we know it?

The short answer is yes, but for the better.

A 2021 PWC survey found that 61% of people globally believe that automation is putting people’s jobs at risk. However, the truth is automation is not removing employment opportunities, it’s redefining roles.

The role of automation is to take care of the tasks that machines can do better than us, removing human error and allowing for scalability.

One common misconception about automation is that it’s a set-it-and-forget-it approach. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

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While it does free up time, that time is used to feed and optimize to produce better results. So, automation doesn’t mean losing the human side, it means empowering workers to focus on more impactful work.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in Oct. 2021and has been updated for comprehensiveness. 

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MARKETING

6 martech contract gotchas you need to be aware of

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6 martech contract gotchas you need to be aware of

Having worked at several organizations and dealt with many more vendors, I’ve seen my share of client-vendor relationships and their associated “gotchas.” 

Contracts are complex for a reason. That’s why martech practitioners are wise to lean on lawyers and buyers during the procurement process. They typically notice terms that could undoubtedly catch business stakeholders off guard.

Remember, all relationships end. It is important to look for thorny issues that can wreak havoc on future plans.

I’ve seen and heard of my share of contract gotchas. Here are some generalizations to look out for.

1. Data

So, you have a great data vendor. You use them to buy contacts and information as well as to enrich what data you’ve already got. 

When you decide to churn from the vendor, does your contract allow you to keep and use the data you’ve pulled into your CRM or other systems after the relationship ends? 

You had better check.

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2. Funds

There are many reasons why you would want to give funds in advance to a vendor. Perhaps it pays for search ads or allows your representatives to send gifts to prospective and current customers. 

When you change vendors, will they return unused funds? That may not be a big deal for small sums of money. 

Further, while annoying, processing fees aren’t unheard of. But what happens when a lot of cash is left in the system? 

You had better make sure that you can get that back.

3. Service-level agreements (SLAs)

Your business is important, and your projects are a big deal. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get a prompt response to a question or action when something wrong happens. 

That’s where SLAs come in. 

It’s how your vendor tells you they will respond to questions and issues. A higher price point typically will get a client a better SLA that requires the vendor to respond and act more quickly — and more of the time to boot (i.e., 24/7 service vs. standard business hours). 

Make sure that an SLA meets your expectations. 

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Further, remember that most of the time, you get what you pay for. So, if you want a better SLA, you may have to pay for it.


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4. Poaching

Clients and vendors alike are always looking for quality people to employ. Sometimes they find them on the other side of the client-vendor relationship. 

Are you OK with them poaching one of your team members? 

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If not, this should be discussed and put into writing during the contract negotiation phase, a renewal, or at any time if it is that important.

 I have dealt with organizations that are against anti-poaching clauses to the point that a requirement to have one is a dealbreaker. Sometimes senior leadership or board members are adamant about an individual’s freedom to work where they please — even if one of their organization’s employees departs to work for a customer or vendor. 

5. Freebies

It is not unheard of for vendors to offer their customers freebies. Perhaps they offer a smaller line item to help justify a price increase during a renewal. 

Maybe the company is developing a new product and offers it in its nascent/immature/young stage to customers as a deal sweetener or a way to collect feedback and develop champions for it. 

Will that freemium offer carry over during the next renewal? Your account executive or customer success manager may say it will and even spell that out in an email. 

Then, time goes by. People on both sides of the relationship change or forget details. Company policies change. That said, the wording in a contract or master service agreement won’t change. 

Make sure the terms of freebies or other good deals are put into legally sound writing.

Read next: 24 questions to ask ABM vendors before signing the contract

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6. Pricing factors

There are many ways vendors can price out their offerings. For instance, a data broker could charge by the contact engaged by a customer. But what exactly does that mean? 

If a customer buys a contact’s information, that makes sense as counting as one contact. 

What happens if the customer, later on, wants to enrich that contact with updated information? Does that count as a second contact credit used? 

Reasonable minds could justify the affirmative and negative to this question. So, evaluating a pricing factor or how it is measured upfront is vital to determine if that makes sense to your organization. 

Don’t let contract gotchas catch you off-guard 

The above are just a few examples of martech contract gotchas martech practitioners encounter. There is no universal way to address them. Each organization will want to address them differently. The key is to watch for them and work with your colleagues to determine what’s best in that specific situation. Just don’t get caught off-guard.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


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About The Author

Steve Petersen is a marketing technology manager at Zuora. He spent nearly 8.5 years at Western Governors University, holding many martech related roles with the last being marketing technology manager. Prior to WGU, he worked as a strategist at the Washington, DC digital shop The Brick Factory, where he worked closely with trade associations, non-profits, major brands, and advocacy campaigns. Petersen holds a Master of Information Management from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brigham Young University. He’s also a Certified ScrumMaster. Petersen lives in the Salt Lake City, UT area.

Petersen represents his own views, not those of his current or former employers.

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