We’ve all had a front-row seat for the marketing transformation: digitization, real-time, social media, content marketing, marketing measurement and dashboards, marketing automation, and inbound marketing. These were not ephemeral ideas. They had the power to transform the very nature and role of marketing–and transform we did during the past decade.

CMOs have been exceptionally adept at identifying and deploying these new ideas throughout their organizations. Just look at some of the new roles and teams our industry has created: Community Manager, Content Marketer, Social Media Manager, Inbound Marketer, Marketing Operations, and Marketing Technologist. They didn’t even exist a few years ago, and today they are central to marketing. Think, too, about how we have brought more accountability and respect to marketing by moving to hard metrics that matter most to the CEO, such as pipeline creation and revenue attribution.

I celebrate the agility of today’s successful CMO. But I also ask the question: What’s next?

Right now, virtually all of our marketing data is backward-looking. Clicks, Web visits, open rates, downloads, and tweets all happened in the past. What if we could take this data and use it to predict what customers were going to do next? Could we possibly answer questions, such as:

  • Which of my customers are most likely to terminate service? What steps could I take now to remediate this?
  • Of the thousands of prospects my sales team are speaking to, which ones are most/least likely to buy? How can I align my sales team’s time with those most likely to buy?
  • Which of my current customers are most likely to buy some of my other products? Which products should I try to cross-market to which customers?

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