The New Year is upon us. I have been thinking about 2016 and want to share with you the three business themes I see as becoming even more critical this year, which I also shared with MarTech Advisor. Data is the common thread, and as more companies cross the chasm from just having more data to finding intelligence and insights within that data, I predict that these themes will be top of mind for those leaders focused on more success and more growth in 2016.

1. Sales and marketing alignment.

The effective alignment of sales and marketing teams has been a priority for InsideView for several years, and we’re now seeing this turn from a trend into a key component of business success.

Companies know that their sales and marketing efforts need to be tightly aligned to achieve revenue, but how to get that alignment is a challenge. For B2B companies, sales and marketing both touch customers many times across the lead-to-revenue cycle. If you don’t have a consistent and shared way to track customers across all those touches, your company risks inefficiency at best. At worst, you can annoy and lose a customer.

Unfortunately, even if sales and marketing teams are aligned on strategy, they are often working from different systems with different databases. Getting a single, uniform picture of a customer’s business, demographics, and their behaviors that is then shared between sales and marketing is the key to increasing revenue.

You can learn more about sales and marketing alignment here and here.

2. Data-driven messaging and targeting.

Gut feel is no longer the driver of good marketing strategy. Yet, in the recent sales and marketing alignment survey that InsideView conducted (to be released soon), we found that 56 percent of you still market “from the gut” instead of being informed by your data. Consumer companies have made an art out of learning as much as possible about their customers and leveraging that for marketing. B2B companies are starting to do the same, and I think we will see more progress this coming year.

In 2016, companies will raise the game for B2B marketing by leveraging a number of trends that focus on data. First, predictive analytics is ready for prime-time. More and more B2B companies are using predictive technology to understand where their best customers and prospects are, and what drives them to buy. Second, predictive analytics technologies are making use of more data from more reliable data sources in order to refine their predictions. Finally, more companies are realizing that they don’t just need a lot of data about their customers, they need clean data.  No matter how advanced a predictive technology is, if you’re putting garbage in, you’ll get garbage out.

The companies that understand these trends can apply data science to improve lead scoring, customer engagement (frequency and quality), and messaging.

3. Increasing focus on data strategy.

If 2015 was the year of the data scientist, then 2016 will be the year of the data strategist.

We’re in an explosion of sales and marketing technology, and every system relies on data. The more data you have, the more important your ability to update and sync that data becomes. Companies are consolidating systems and that is driving the need to implement a strategy for customer data that resides in multiple places. Otherwise, you get silos of customer information.

Good data strategy considers the flow of information, the accuracy of the data, and the consistency of the data. To do that well requires someone focused full-time on a company’s strategy for their data.

What do you think? Do you agree with my top three themes? Do you have any others to add?