Top Takeaways from the Salesforce 2021 Marketing Intelligence Report

How are marketers operationalizing growth mandates, improving visibility into marketing ROI and using data to support business objectives? What are the top challenges integrating marketing data? And what is the role of cross-channel marketing?

These are some of the most pressing questions Salesforce answers in the recently released Marketing Intelligence Report: Data and Analytics Trends to Drive Future Growth, which is based on data collected from a double-blind online survey of over 1,050 marketing decision-makers in leading markets across the world.

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What are the most important takeaways from Salesforce’s new Marketing Intelligence Report?

This report is chock-full of important insights for marketing teams, but three areas in particular stand out to me based on what they mean for organizations going forward:

  • Importance of Planning, Execution and Maintenance. Salesforce finds that marketers who are completely satisfied in their investments and outcomes are 4.8 times more likely to be satisfied with their data integration. This planning piece has always been critical, but it’s even more so now given the accelerated digital transformations most organizations have gone through over the past 12-18 months.
  • Importance of Connecting Marketing Activities to Business Outcomes. In order to measure anything, teams first need to have the right data, in the right place, connected in a way that allows for an accurate picture of all marketing activities and their outcomes. This point really speaks to the importance of gaining that 360-degree view of the customer, which typically happens through a customer data platform (CDP). 
  • Importance of Collaboration With Cross-Functional Stakeholders. According to Salesforce, some of marketers’ top challenges include sharing and collaborating on data analysis, connecting marketing activities to business outcomes (which goes well beyond system integrations) and applying learnings to strategies. All of these come back to collaboration across departments. Most of the data organizations now collect is owned by multiple departments and used for a variety of purposes, but customers don’t care about those distinctions — they expect consistency no matter where, when or why they interact with an organization.

Let’s break those down a bit further. Starting with the first point, what do organizations need to think through when it comes to planning? And where should they start?

Proper planning, integrations and maintenance can make or break a program, and this is something I’m seeing organizations realize now more than ever after so many organizations, especially those on the consumer goods side, took on digital transformations in a matter of months that previously would have spanned years. So what happens now? 

In a world where most, if not all, operations are digital, the next step is to optimize how systems are integrated. Importantly, just because systems are digitally connected, it doesn’t mean they’re efficient. Teams should document both efficiencies and inefficiencies so they can prioritize improving the areas that are most important to delivering the best possible outcomes for their customers.

As part of this effort, teams should evaluate where data lives (all over or centralized) and if it’s connected. If it’s all over, that needs to change. Fortunately, this is an area where teams can start with a few simple steps:

  • Take an inventory of your systems and determine whether they are connected and if they should be connected (remember: there may be some cases where this doesn’t make sense). 
  • Review if they are automated or not and if they should be automated (once again, this doesn’t always make sense). 
  • Prioritize and balance the impact of any needed initiatives with the level of effort involved to complete them. For example, you’ll need to weigh the impact of taking on one big improvement that will span 12 months versus three or more small-medium sized improvements that will take six months.

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As you put that structure in place, it’s critical to connect marketing activities to business outcomes. Why is this so important and how can organizations accomplish this?

Tying marketing activities to business outcomes is essential to gaining line of sight into ROI on those activities. It also empowers teams to make more informed decisions about what to do next.

Getting to this end state starts by mapping data points and their respective systems to understand how they relate. From there, it’s about determining how to best connect data to create that complete view of the customer profile while removing any blind spots. Overall, a CDP is generally the best way for organizations to accurately relate data to marketing activities and individual customers.

Some of the most common questions teams ask center around data cleanliness. For example, how can they keep data clean after they get it in the right place? The answer to this is that data cleanliness starts by designing and implementing processes that minimize manual, time-consuming activities. But that alone isn’t enough. You also need to regularly review current practices so you can identify inefficiencies and determine if they can be updated or replaced by newer, better practices. This should be an ongoing effort, as practices that were once efficient may quickly become inefficient in today’s fast-moving environment.

And what about collaboration, it seems like that’s an important thread that can impact all of these efforts?

Absolutely. With the way data sits across the organization today, collaboration from multiple departments is essential to everything. This reality rings true across the board, but it’s especially apparent in B2B organizations. 

One way to achieve excellence in this area is through the introduction of account based marketing (ABM), which requires true collaboration across stakeholders and departments. This collaboration should lead to alignment on definitions, processes and key data points that enable better coordination of customer-facing activities. Along the way, it’s essential to remember that being in the same room doesn’t necessarily lead to improvements; rather, that comes from an ongoing, concerted effort to get and keep everyone on the same page.

An area here that can get tricky is aligning teams when they use data differently. The best place to start in these instances is to map how each team uses the data. You can then pinpoint any common denominators and decide if and how they should be connected to create a unified profile. Throughout these efforts, remember that gaining alignment is an ongoing initiative.

Of course, knowing what to do is only half the battle: then you have to execute. 

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