Salesforce “State of Marketing” Report: Better Happy Than Good

Salesforce has released their “2016 State of Marketing Report”, a massive 70-page tome and the result of surveying nearly 4,000 marketing executives worldwide. The report covers a wide range of trends and topics, but focuses on the best practices most common amongst “high-performing” marketing teams. You can download a copy of the report here (registration required.)

State of MarketingThere’s much useful information to be gleaned from the report, but my one major quibble comes from the term “high-performing.” In Salesforce’s defense, there’s little practical way to define high-performing marketing teams short of every company in the survey being able to report on the same metrics, preferably ROI. So instead Salesforce resorts to this:

“High-performing marketing teams are defined as those extremely satisfied with current outcomes as a direct result of their company’s marketing investment.”

In other words, if you’re extremely satisfied with your marketing outcomes, independent of what those outcomes are or the metrics employed, you’re labeled one of the best.

Any marketing veteran will tell you that happy marketers aren’t always good. In fact, there are many companies who may be perfectly ecstatic with marketing outcomes, until you dig deeper to discover that their campaigns aren’t really generating the results that matter.

None of this renders any of the information in the report false or useless, but it may be wise (in my view) to consider the term “high-performing” with the proverbial grain of salt.

With that disclaimer, two of the more telling conclusions from the report are these:

1. 53 percent of high-performing marketers qualify as “heavy tech adopters”, compared with only 7% of underperformers.

No surprise here – the leading sales and marketing technology company says that investing in sales and marketing technology is a good thing. But even the most cynical view is forced to conclude that martech investments are paying off. The cautionary note here is the same for all marketing technology – namely, that software alone doesn’t solve problems. To achieve maximum ROI, companies still need the talent, the message, and the content to execute effectively. (Put another way, even the best technology can be undone by lack of skills, a faulty value proposition, or content that doesn’t resonate.)

2. 75 percent of high-performing teams report that social is generating ROI.

In my view, social media remains one of the great untapped opportunities for marketing ROI, especially in B2B. No longer the sole province of PR teams, companies are finally waking up to (and seeing results from) social media as a true demand generation engine that drives engagement, leads, and revenue.

A related statistic that helps explain the massive jump in social marketing – Salesforce says that 80 percent of high-performing marketers plan to increase spending on social advertising, making it the third largest area reported for increased investment. Question: does advertising on LinkedIn “count” as social media, or should it really be viewed as another advertising channel, i.e. Social PPC? (I’d be curious to know, if you were to take Social PPC out of the mix, how many “high-performers” are reporting measurable success with their organic social media channels.)

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