When Salesforce releases a research report, it makes sense to listen. So, when the enterprise cloud and CRM giant released its 7th State of Marketing Report this summer, we took a look to see just which of its takeaways are most relevant to marketing and sales leaders today.
You can download your own copy of the report on the Salesforce website. If you don't have the time for that step, keep reading to learn about the highlights from 8,000+ respondents that might be relevant to you.
1. Marketing innovation needs to lead to increased integration
In today's marketing environment, innovation isn't optional. Customer expectations and behavior have changed permanently, thanks in no small part to the COVID-19 pandemic. As Salesforce quotes Tariq Hassan, CEO of Petco:
"The speed of change over the last year has propelled us towards never-before-seen levels of marketing innovation... It's amazing to think of how far we've come with the digital experiences we can now deliver."
That need and desire for change has led to innovation being the top priority for marketers in 2021. It has also resulted in an increased need to create a more cohesive customer journey across channels, and the need to improve collaboration across the entire organization (#3 and #5 in the priority list, respectively). Revenue organization unification is something we talk a lot about here at Gradient Works.
2. Digital customer experience reigns supreme
According to 80% of respondents, customer experience is their key competitive differentiator. That emphasis becomes even more significant when considering that 86% of top-performing companies lead customer experience initiatives, while only 72% of underperforming companies do the same.
That means going digital:
- 88% of customers expect companies to accelerate their digital initiatives as a result of COVID-19.
- 69% of customers say companies should offer new ways to get products and services.
- 92% of marketers at top-performing companies agree that customer expectations are changing.
The clear takeaway: go digital, or go home. It's probably not a shock, then, that 91% of marketing organizations now actively utilize social media, 69% use mobile messaging, and 66% use audio media like podcasts or streaming ads.
3. Video is the star, but channel integration is key
Among digital channels, none stands out more than video—which has been the North Star of digital marketing channels and messaging for years. And over the past year, it has seen the single largest increase in use among any marketing channel, even driving the increasing adoption of virtual and hybrid marketing and sales events. This is also due in part to the Covid pandemic.
At the same time, it's not just about the channels in isolation:
- In 2018, 31% of marketers described their channel mix as integrated, while 29% described it as siloed.
- In 2020, 53% of marketers described their channel mix as integrated, while 15% described it as siloed.
- In 2021, 68% of marketers describe their channel mix as integrated, while just 8% describe it as siloed.
In this more integrated approach, messages dynamically evolve based on customer actions and interactions. Marketers engage their customers in real time across the most relevant channels, building a more cohesive customer journey in the process.
4. Cross-departmental collaboration takes on new meaning for customers
We know the Covid pandemic has shifted workplace arrangements considerably, and according to Salesforce, 75% of marketers saying that they have permanently adjusted the ways in which they collaborate and communicate at work. But, importantly, customer expectations haven't changed:
- 77% of customers expect consistent communication across departments
- 54% of customers say that it seems like departments don't share information.
Cross-departmental collaboration, in other words, has become more important than ever in this new, digital environment. Sharing goals and metrics with sales teams, making technology purchasing decisions with IT input, and suppressing marketing efforts to customers who are actively working with customer service teams are all vital to creating a more consistent customer journey.
5. Marketing and data become inextricably connected
We've long heard about the importance of data in marketing. With the average number of data sources increasing from 10 to 15 among B2B marketers in just two years, that best practice is quickly becoming necessity. But here's the problem:
- 78% of marketers say that their customer engagement is data-driven.
- 33% of marketers are completely satisfied with their ability to create more relevant customer experiences using data.
The biggest data challenges are no surprise: marketers are largely concerned with the quality, completeness, accessibility, timeliness, and integration of information. Once again, integration between marketing and sales, particularly when it comes to transactional and reconciliation of known digital identities, has to take center stage.
6. Metrics and KPIs are increasingly integrated
As revenue and ROI continues to become more important as a true measure of promotional performance, marketing leaders are looking to more integrated metrics to show success. In 2021, respondents are prioritizing:
- Revenue (78% of companies, a 12% increase over 2020)
- Marketing/sales funnel performance (77%, an 18% increase)
- Customer satisfaction analytics (75%, a 22% increase)
- Customer acquisition cost (73%, a 26% increase)
- Customer retention rates (72%, a 19% increase)
To successfully track these metrics, marketing and sales integration is crucial. Only cross-departmental efforts to track and evaluate efforts can accomplish a true measure of marketing and sales success.
7. Account based marketing still has room to grow
Over the past few years, account-based marketing has rapidly gained popularity. But, as Salesforce's report shows, there is still plenty of room to grow.
Even though ABM programs now take up an average of 15% of B2B marketing budgets, fewer than half of B2B respondents are completely satisfied with their efforts to date. Among the most frequently cited areas with room for improvement are:
- Identification of target accounts
- Relationships with buying committees
- Personalization capabilities
- Coordination with sales and service teams
- Strategic planning
- Measurement and tracking of results
And yet, the ascent of this marketing strategy won't stop anytime soon. As Heather Malenshek, CMO of Land O'Lakes, puts it,
"Account-based marketing continues to deliver a sizable return on investment for our business. The investment is big — it's not easy to achieve the required level of alignment across marketing, sales, and service teams. But the experiences we deliver and the customer relationships we build in return make it more than worthwhile."
(If you're interested in learning more about implementing an account based marketing program at your company, we have some great ABM resources here.)
Navigating the brave new world of digital marketing
Of course, Salesforce's 2021 State of Marketing report is just one snapshot of the environment B2B marketing and sales teams face today. But it's helpful to see that the issues our own companies are struggling with are pretty much universal.
As customers continue to move online, expectations will continue to shift. Only continuing integration across teams, channels, and the entire customer funnel can lead to sustainable, successful strategies and campaign execution.