Salesforce report: ‘We’re not competing against competitors; we’re competing against our past’

Salesforce State of Marketing Report - Fifth Edition

As marketers struggle to outpace the competition, many find that the status quo, outdated technologies, and siloed operations internally are holding them back. In fact, one marketer who participated in the research behind the fifth edition of the Salesforce State of Marketing report released today (13 December) said, “We’re not competing against competitors; we’re competing against our past.”

It’s a competition that today’s marketers must win if they’re to triumph out in the market.

Fortunately, internal dynamics are shifting. According to the report, which surveyed more than 4,100 marketing leaders from across the globe, marketing is becoming the fulcrum of cross-functional customer experiences. Addressing the need for companies to meet customers’ ever-rising expectations, 54% of high-performing marketing teams now lead customer experience initiatives across the organization and 56% are actively mapping the customer journey across their company.

It’s a work in progress, but a surprising number of respondents are bullish on their success thus far. Nearly half (49%) of marketing leaders believe that their company provides an experience that’s completely aligned with customers’ expectations. And 62% say that individuals and team within their organizations are more aligned with each other than ever before. One likely reason: accountability. Sixty-five percent of marketing leaders polled say that all the team members within their organization share common goals and metrics.

Marketing teams are also sharing goals and metrics with other customer-facing teams:

  • 61% share common goals and metrics with the advertising team
  • 50% with the commerce team
  • 52% with the sales team
  • 53% with the customer service team

This alignment is essential if marketers are to find more agile ways to engage consumers, Jon Suarez-Davis, chief strategy officer for Salesforce Marketing Cloud, noted during a press event.

“Marketers are going through an amazing transformation,” Suarez-Davissaid. “Connecting with customers in new ways and driving growth are top priorities.”

Salesforce executive vice president and chief marketing officer Stephanie Buscemi added that there’s a “maniacal focus” on customer experience among marketing leaders today.

It’s no surprise, then, that marketers’ top priority is engaging with customers in real time — which is also their number one challenge. Buscemi pointed out that items two through five on each of those lists are the “how.”

Among the top priorities for achieving the real-time customer engagement marketers covet: Unifying data sources to get a more holistic view of customers. Currently, 47% of marketing leaders say they have a completely unified view of customer data sources. That’s encouraging considering that the median number of data sources marketers used in 2018 was 12; respondents expect that number will rise to 15 in 2019.

Suarez-Davis noted that marketers are trying to determine the right technology to handle all that data. Many marketers, he said, want to cull to a “manageable set of solutions” instead of the many that they currently use.

Getting data management right is imperative because of the need for quality data to feed the AI and machine learning tools that marketers are using more and more for personalization. For example, 29% of respondents say they use AI for activities such as personalizing offers sent via email based on web browsing behaviors. According to the report, marketers’ adoption of AI has grown 44% since last year. But as AI adoption soars, privacy concerns loom large. Only 30% of marketing leaders are “completely satisfied” with their ability to balance personalization with privacy.

“There’s an awakening that customer trust is especially important and that data [privacy] is everyone’s responsibility,” Suarez-Davis told The Drum.

Despite the challenges of achieving real-time customer engagement, marketers are seeing successes. More than half (52%) say they engage customers in real time across one or more marketing channels, and 52% also say they adapt their marketing strategy and tactics based on customer interactions. About a third of marketing leaders say that their individual channels are dynamically coordinated with others. Despite these advances, only 28% of marketers polled are completely satisfied with their ability to engage customers across channels at scale.

Knowing how difficult real-time customer engagement is to deliver, that 28% may actually seem high. “Overall, people scored higher levels of satisfaction and confidence across key areas than we expected going into the study,” Buscemi told The Drum. “We’re still disenchanted with all the channel [silos], though. Even if you lead a channel, you need to lift your head and look at the others and take a broader view. Widen your lens. Don’t be myopic.”

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