Research reveals five key practices of world’s top marketers

Conventional wisdom always dies hard, but maybe nowhere harder than in marketing. A recent study shows there’s a massive shift under way in global marketing practices, and ideas long taken as foundational are now crashing down into rubble.

The 2016 State of Marketing report produced by the research arm of Salesforce reminds us that brands are no longer controlled by companies, but instead exist in the hearts and minds of customers.

Marketers must adjust. These days, their work is more about having sustained conversations with customers and prospects, no matter how those individuals connect with the company.

Marketers—the new stewards of customer experience

The Salesforce team surveyed nearly 4,000 marketing leaders from around the world to learn more about overall marketing trends, the approach taken by high-performing marketing teams and the latest insights for digital channels. The report’s key finding?

Customer experience—the culmination of all brand and customer interactions—now matters more than anything.

Marketing isn’t just about filling the top of the funnel anymore. Instead marketers have to tend to the entire customer journey, taking into account traditional nonmarketing functions such as sales, customer support and community building. The report also urges another key change: greater use of technological tools such as predictive analytics and CRM.

Those two threads—the customer journey and the technology—come together in the creation of personalized customer journey maps. As we noted in a recent article, the approach used by the most successful digital companies (Google, Netflix, Instagram, Twitter and so on) is machine learning.

Self-learning sense-and-respond systems do the hard work of analyzing data and writing business rules in real time. Once these rules are applied, the data analytics system can start to collect its own data instantly, evaluate the efficacy of the rules based on success or failure, and adjust accordingly. This way, the system goes beyond building a collection of rules that keeps expanding like an out-of-control menu. Instead the rules evolve and improve over time, continually advancing business outcomes by delivering insights for marketers so they can make decisions in moments.

Five characteristics of high-performing teams

At 71 pages, the Salesforce report gives marketers a lot to chew on. In case you don’t have the chance to absorb it all, here are the five key takeaways for marketing success:

  1. Take care of every touchpoint. “Whether a marathon or a series of sprints, well-executed journeys must be contextual to the moment and personalized to individual customers.”
  2. Own the customer experience across the business. “Customers want one experience whether they’re interacting with marketing, sales or service.”
  3. Take advantage of technology. “As the opportunities for data-driven marketing grow, marketers have a seemingly infinite toolbox for connecting with customers.”
  4. Be more mobile. “With even more marketers reporting significant ROI for mobile, email and social this year, it’s crucial to orchestrate these channels in support of a seamless customer experience.”
  5. Use data to target ads. “In the age of the customer, one-to-many communications fall flat.”

The entire study is worth paging through. It will likely encourage needed change in your organization—or validate the path you’re already on.

You can read the complete report here.