Maybe it’s just part of the job description, but despite the hellish macro-economic climate of today, marketers remain optimistic and self-confident, with 87% of them believing that their work provides greater value for their organizations than it did a year ago. In fact, that’s ten percent higher than the same data point last year.
That’s one of the top line conclusions coming out of this year’s State of Marketing report from Salesforce - (sign-up needed). The report is based on responses from 6,000 polled marketing managers, directors, VPs and CMOs across 35 countries and provides a snapshot of prevailing trends in the marketing sector.
The backdrop to this year’s study isn’t helpful, with that macro-economic climate throwing up problems such as inflationary disruption, supply chain issues, and the ongoing Great Resignation. Some 71% of respondents say they’re finding it harder to hang on to people in their teams than it was a year ago. All this and budgets are inevitably getting tighter.
What to prioritize?
With 91% of CMOs saying they must continually be innovating, the top priorities for marketers in 2022 are improving their use of tools and technologies, followed by experimenting with new marketing strategies/tactics; modernizing the arsenal of tools at their disposal; building/retaining customer trust; improving collaboration; and balancing personalization with customer comfort levels.
On the flipside, the challenges facing the profession are depressingly familiar - ineffective user of tools/technology; difficultly in measuring ROI; hitting that personalization/customer comfort balance; building/retaining trust with customers; and running into resistance to new strategies/tactics.
In terms of how to make ends meet, there’s some variation between the budgetary priorities of B2B and B2C organizations. For B2B companies, advertising takes up 16% of marketing spend, followed by content and Account-Based Marketing (ABM) on 15% each. For B2C firms, advertising also leads on 18%, followed by ABM on 17%, but content comes behind events/sponsorship (16%) and level with agency support on 15%.
Despite tools and technology being cited as marketing’s overall number one priority, investment here comes in fourth place for B2B firms and third place for B2C, 14% and 16% respectively. In terms of what tech is being used, 90% of respondents use CRM systems, followed by 89% of B2B and B2B2C marketers with ABM platforms, and 62% using Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The emphasis placed on ABM by both B2B and B2C firms is indicative of the importance placed on personalization to drive greater engagement, something seen first in B2C organizations, but now reaching into the B2B space. ABM is being used to drive cross-channel experiences. The study cites 89% of B2B marketers using an ABM platform to create a seamless, personalized journey across departments.
As for AI, some 68% of marketers reckon to have “a fully-defined AI strategy” in place. Use cases are led by automation of customer interactions, cited by 90% of respondents, followed by automation of data integration (89%). Personalization of the customer experience is cited by 88% of respondents, as is predicting customer/prospect behavior (74%) and improving customer segmentation (74%).
Video is playing an ever more important role as a marketing tool. Some 89% of respondents say they use pre-produced video, up ten percent year-on-year, while livestream video is up 21% and also used by 89% of those polled. Interactive content, cited by 83%, has seen the biggest year-on-year growth, up 37%, while so-called influencer marketing has seen the lowest, up eight percent to 72% of respondents.
But it’s good old email that continues to prevail as the predominant marketing tool, accounting for 84% of all outbound messaging. That is down on the 97% that was recorded back in 2020, but while push and mobile messaging are on the rise, email is still perceived as a hugely successful digital channel. As the report notes:
Customers say that email is among their preferred channels to interact with brands, second only to the phone.
From a staffing perspective, marketing teams have been as impacted by the shift to remote and distributed working due to the pandemic as any other sector, and that seems unlikely to change greatly. Some 70% of respondents report greater investment in collaboration technology to make this work as this shift is regarded as permanent. B2C firms invest more in people (15% of respondents) than B2B (12%), although in both cases, that ranks second to bottom in terms in budget priorities, ahead of ‘Other’.
In terms of marketing careers, as talent gaps remain a top challenge for one in three marketers, key skills remain in high demand. Over the next two years, the most important elements of the marketing résumé to improve are in the areas of content marketing, campaign strategy, creativity, data analytics and communication.
My colleague Jon Reed may have his own view on a stat that says that 37% of respondents have made a strategic shift to investing in virtual/hybrid events, with 63% saying that this change is permanent. As we’ve seen an uptick in real world events this year, there has been a disappointing tendency on the part of some organizers to move away from the online model that prevailed at the height of the COVID crisis and gone with a push to get punters back in the convention hall room. Others have sought to strike a hybrid balance, merging offline presence for those who can (and will) attend in person, with online for those who can’t (or won’t).
From my perspective, any organization that decides to throw away the lessons learned during two years of isolation and makes a wholesale shift back to being on the ground or not all is making a fundamental error, particularly when expended geographical targets is cited by 35% of respondents as a strategic shift since the pandemic. With 66% of them saying that this is permanent, the point must be made - it’s a damn sight easier to expand geographical reach via a virtual event than it is expecting people to fly around the world.
Looking ahead, what’s to come? Web3 is on the minds of marketers, with 51% of respondents reckoning to have a Web3 strategy in place, while a further 43% say they don’t just yet, but they plan to. Only three percent say they have no plans. Fine. Next question - what is in a Web3 strategy? According to that 51% who believe they’re up to speed, the three top elements are virtual products, VR/AR and cryptocurrency. It’s a start, but there are a lot of blanks to be filled in here. It will be interesting to see what next year’s study shows in respect of this topic.
A useful read for anyone in marketing.