What we learned from Salesforce’s State of Marketing Report 2017

It’s no secret that marketing objectives and methods have undergone a paradigm shift in recent years, and the pace of change seems to be accelerating. It’s crucial for businesses to stay current on emerging trends to hold a competitive edge.


For the past four years, Salesforce has compiled an annual State of Marketing report to highlight marketing insights and trends for businesses. This year’s report, based on a survey of 3,500 marketing leaders across the globe, identifies a few key concepts that can help steer better customer experience practices, improved process adoption, and optimized utilization of technology in marketing.


“Marketers move to evolve journeys, but data woes linger”


Above all, the biggest takeaway from this year’s report is the steep price of a poorly executed campaign: 52 percent of customers and 65 percent of buyers within companies will walk on a brand if its messaging is misaligned with their needs.


While higher- and lower-performing marketing teams both face persistent issues in aiming to provide the best possible customer experience, their challenges are quite different.


Most higher-performing teams report that creating a “single view” of their customers across all channels is among their top grievances. And lower-performing teams struggle with organizational issues such as budgetary restraints and the consequent lack of resources and technology, which limits their ability to leverage valuable data. But both agree that the ability to aggregate data and connect with customers across multiple channels is crucial to the customer lifecycle.


Finding ways to make the most of these channels within budget while creating a holistic view of the consumer is indeed proving to be a challenge; top marketers surveyed said 34 percent of their monetary resources are dedicated to avenues they didn’t know existed just five years ago. The explosion channels such as video advertising and native/sponsored content has enabled better customer visibility, but has also made marketing campaigns exponentially more complicated.


As such, teams who are realizing value in their marketing efforts hold heavy channel coordination in high regard. High-performing marketers pay special attention to how they’re coordinating marketing across channels as opposed to increasing the number of channels they touch. However, these respondents recognize the difficulty of creating a true one-to-one messaging experience and say that only a quarter of their content evolves in this highly personalized way. The trend is notably imperative to these teams, though few (23 percent) have unlocked a strategy that works satisfyingly well.


“Shifting priorities spark organizational change”


It would seem that traditional marketing roles are becoming less and less of a mainstay for marketing teams — to meet a changing consumer demand, 61 percent of marketers surveyed acknowledged a departure from old-school methodologies and are moving toward customer journey-centric stratagems. And this, in turn, is marking a need for organizational change within companies.


Aside from calling for the creation of different roles within their department, 64 percent of marketing leaders believe customer journey strategies require organizational shifts — for example, redefining how sales, service, and marketing teams work together. A tool that has gained tremendous traction over the past few years is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology, which grants a centralized view to all departments, promoting a cohesive development of customer data. CRM technology is decidedly effective: High-performing companies are three times more likely than their underperforming counterparts to extensively use CRM tools.


A considerable emphasis is now being placed on improving audience segmentation and the development of buyer personas (60 percent of B2B marketers). The rise of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) looks to drive more individualized messaging in place of the top-of-funnel approach traditionally used in marketing.


Companies are also increasing their focus on their relationship with the customer after the sale. The role of service in branding cannot be overstated. Most service professionals, in fact, feel that service has the largest impact on how customers perceive their brand. Regardless of whether marketing agrees with that sentiment, the takeaway is that a brand’s reputation hinges on collaboration between these departments. Addressing social media inquiries and assessing the state of various service issues is a job that must be tackled in tandem between marketing and service departments.


“Marketing tech makes waves”


In our ever-increasingly digitized world, no single facet of business is exempt from the shockwave of change exacted by improved technology, marketing included. On the precipice of this monumental shift, such rapid and varied change can seem daunting. However, top- performing teams are proving the measurable benefits of technology adoption when implemented correctly (top teams are 14 times more likely to be heavy tech-adopters).


These tech systems augment marketing processes and are enabling comprehensive collaboration and increased productivity, while also improving data analytics and insight. High- performers note the utilization of technologies such as data management platforms, CRM, and marketing analytics/measurement tools as being integral to effective marketing.


The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is a huge priority for nearly every business today, and it definitely holds value to marketers. Marketers anticipate AI applications will grow by 53 percent — a much higher rate than any other type of tech. About half of marketing leaders (51 percent) are already using AI, with more than 25 percent planning to pilot its use in the next two years. The ability to automate time-consuming and expensive operations frees up teams to focus more readily on the customer.

To view the entire report, click here. Now that you’re armed with the latest and greatest knowledge in marketing trends, go forth and crush the competition in the coming year…and commit to staying up to speed on emerging practices for success well into the future!

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