Salesforce State of Marketing 2016 - it's all about customer engagement

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan March 30, 2016
Salesforce's State of Marketing 2016 report highlights some significant growth rates in key areas of digital marketing.

With Georgia having re-applied for admission to the 21st century through Governor Nathan Deal’s veto of discriminatory legislation, the Connections digital marketing conference is set to go ahead in May.

In advance of that, Salesforce yesterday released its 2016 State of Marketing report, based on responses from 3,975 marketing professionals (not limited to Salesforce customers) in the US, Canada, Brazil, UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, the Nordics, Japan and Australia.

One difference to point out from last year’s survey is that this year’s only polled marketers holding what Salesforce calls ‘leadership roles’ within their organization.  The firm argues that this has allowed:

deeper discovery around team performance — and a closer look at what separates the world’s most successful marketers from the rest.

The top line finding is that customer engagement is an increasingly important driver for marketing budget, but it’s good old brand awareness that remains the top priority. For high-performing marketing teams, the biggest challenges are  keeping  pace with customers, producing unique content, and recruiting the best talent.

Meanwhile, the claim is made that there’s really no need to specify digital marketing as marketing can now be assumed to be digital. This rather challengeable assertion is backed up by a stat that says that marketers are spending more than two-thirds (70%) of their total budget on digital marketing channels, while over the next two years, 97% of ‘marketing leaders’ plan either to increase further or maintain their level of spending on digital marketing.

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Source: Salesforce Research

The study goes on to pick out nine key practices of high-performance marketing teams as a checklist of to-do items. These are:

Have a customer journey strategy.

Whether a marathon or a series of sprints, well-executed journeys must be contextual to the moment and personalized to individual customers.

In other words, know your customer and what he or she wants and how they’re going to interact with you. According to study respondents, 73% says that having a customer journey strategy positively impacts on customer engagement levels.

Integrate the customer experience.

Often, touchpoints of the customer experience live outside of marketing in either sales or customer service. Top marketers are knocking down the silos to gain a single view — and, more importantly, to deliver a unified experience for customers.

This is the 2016 way of talking about that Holy Grail of CRM - the single view of the customer. Most organizations struggled with this a couple of decades back when the customer interaction points and channels were basic and limited. Today, with social media, online, mobile etc, getting that single view is potentially much more difficult although a bullish two-thirds (64%) of high-performing marketing teams reckon they are “excellent” at having this focused and all-encompassing insight.

Get smart with the tech.

Successful marketing teams are not only using more tech — they’re notably using more advanced types of tech.

This is obviously one of the more important tips from Salesforce’s point-of-view as a marketing cloud provider. The study says that 72% of top teams will increase spending on marketing tools and tech in the next two years, while just over half (54%) see themselves as heavy tech adopters already. On average, top teams use more than twice the number of tools and technologies that under-performers use. The top five technologies for top performers are marketing analytics (56%), data targeting/segmentation tools (51%), marketing automation (50%), use of lean/agile methods (49%) and predictive intelligence (49%).

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Source: Salesforce Research

Align marketing with business leadership

When the commitment to marketing starts at the top, companies prioritize marketing and walk the talk with their investments.

Another of those Holy Grails. It used to be about bridging the gap between IT and business. Now it’s about making sure the senior business leaders have bought into the marketing plan so that there won’t be too much fuss about the marketing budget being allocated. Eighty-three percent of high performers say their executive team is completely committed to supporting the overall marketing strategy, compared to only 31% of under-performers.

Align marketing channels

Your customers are cross-channel so your marketing must be cross-channel. It’s been said countless times because it’s true — but even from the marketer’s point of view, the lines between channels grow blurrier by the minute.

Among high performers who have integrated their digital marketing channels with their overall marketing, at least 95% rate the integrations as very effective or effective.  Some 64% of high performers have integrated their email marketing strategy with the overall marketing strategy, 63% their social media marketing strategy and 60% their mobile marketing strategy.

Think mobile

If the marketers who are planning to pilot push messages and mobile tracking in 2016 actually do so, these tactics could also reach a critical mass by 2017.

Mobile momentum had hit a tipping point, is the conclusion here, with a 98% year-on-year growth in mobile app usage and a 111% growth in SMS usage. Starting from smaller 2015 bases, there’s also been a 145% growth in mobile push notifications and a 149% rise in location-based mobile tracking. Exclusive deals and loyalty programs  are cited as the most effective mobile campaign types, followed by browse retargeting, post-purchase on-boarding, and post-purchase communications. Overall, 79% of all respondents see mobile marketing as core to their business, with half of that number saying mobile tech is directly linked to their primary revenue source.

Use intelligent email to drive revenues

Gaining a deeper, behavior-based understanding of customers allows marketers to be smarter in creating next steps along the customer journey.

With email personalization another key objective of 2016 digital marketing, top performers are exploiting predictive intelligence technology and data science to improve their capabilities here. Loyalty programs are the most effective email campaigns (79%), followed closely by exclusive deals (78%), social selling and promotional content (each 77%) and mobile opt-ins (76%).  Nearly half (49%) of marketers say email is directly linked to their business’ primary revenue source, up from 20% in 2015. While 54% of marketers said email directly generated ROI in 2015, that rose to 79% in 2016.

Use social for ROI growth

Social channels give marketers a forum to build digital rapport on a highly personalized scale — one retweet, like, and comment at a time.

Some 75% of marketing respondents overall report that social is generating ROI, up from last year when only 28% said as much. That said, social publishing tools are rated as very effective by only 59% of high performers, while social listening tools are ranked as very effective by 58%, so there’s still some room for improvement there.

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Source: Salesforce Research

Spend on advertising on social platforms

Personalization and targeting are key to successful advertising campaigns. Ninety-one percent of marketing leaders now use data to segment their advertising.

Nearly two-thirds of marketers (65%) are boosting budgets for advertising on social platforms in 2016, the third largest area for increased investment and one that 71% of respondents rank as very effective/effective. That’s compared to 62% using display or banner ads and 54% who favor video or native advertising.

The key to success here is, once again, customer data being used to increase personalisation. In this regard, 87% of high performers exploit website activity data, while 83% use both customer data (based on, for example, email or phone data) and demographic data to segment and target ads.

My take

Some interesting growth rates being reported in some key areas. I'm not convinced by the 'it's just marketing, not digital marketing' argument, but clearly the debate is advancing in only one direction. More of this to come in May at Connections I'd assume.