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Alexa, slow down the pace of change.

You've got to give marketers credit for trying to keep up with the constant changes in customer behavior over the past five, ten, and fifteen years. After the advent of email and social came a reliance on mobile, IoT, and now AI — and marketers are expected to meet every behavioral change with personalized touchpoints and relevant content.

It's a tall order. But Vala Afshar believes marketers are up to the task, and he's got the data to help us through.

On this week’s episode of the Marketing Cloudcast , the marketing podcast from Salesforce, we’re discussing The State of the Connected Customer research with Vala Afshar, Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce and author of the book The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence.

You may also be following Vala on Twitter (@ValaAfshar), where he shares business and marketing insight with his 160,000+ followers.

This research is a survey of 7,000 consumers and business buyers worldwide, revealing what it truly means to be a connected customer and shining a light on the resulting business directives. Vala is the perfect person to dive into what that really means for the state of the connected customer in 2017.

Check out our Marketing Cloudcast interview with Vala on iTunesGoogle Play Music, or Stitcher.

Preview the episode by listening here:

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few highlights from our conversation with Vala.

Customers expect an intelligent relationship with brands. If they don't get it, it's easy for them to take their money elsewhere.

“Customers expect every touchpoint with companies to be immediate, to be personalized, and to be proactive. The ability to anticipate customer needs is at the forefront of what the report covered. In fact, 65% of consumers expect companies to interact with them in real time,” says Vala.

If you don’t anticipate needs, respond in real time and an intelligent manner, you risk losing the customer. As Vala points out, “7 out of 10 consumers stated that technology has made it easier than ever for them to take their business elsewhere.”

Brands can get ahead by leveraging data and being proactive with content. “Only 15% of companies have advanced analytics, processes, and tools to engage in a digital economy. There’s 85% room for businesses to understand and leverage technology to improve and delight customer experience,” he explains.

Yet many marketers are irresponsibly passing along so-called leads to sales.

“When it comes to the top two success-critical factors to achieve advanced capabilities, the first is analytical skills, talent, and tools,” says Vala. “The second . . . is alignment within the lines of business in an organization,” he says.

However,  “According to HBR study, over half of marketers today pass leads to sales unqualified. Essentially they’re burdening sales with the job that a good marketer should do. Frankly, it’s irresponsible,” says Vala.

As Vala points out, you don’t know someone until you know what they need and want. “The role of marketing today is to be able to anticipate those needs and then work with different lines of business to create meaningful engagements,” he shares.

Social media is the #1 use of the web.

“I don’t think the majority of marketers have absorbed the fact that social networking is the number one use of the web,” says Vala. People are constantly sharing information about you and your competitors on social. “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. The web is the room,” says Vala.

As a digital marketer, you not only have to bolster your social listening skills, but you also have to think like a publisher to identify those moments of truth in real time across every channel. Vala advises, “When you realize there’s a moment to educate, inspire, and ignite action, you have to have access to that content so you can deliver across the right channel, at the right time, to the right audience, with the right value proposition."

Marketers must consider not mobile-first, but mobile-only.

“Mobile is at the epicenter of instant gratification. The connected customer feels that there shouldn’t be any lag time when it comes to communicating with a company. 80 percent said that a company responding immediately influences their loyalty,” say Vala.

Yet, many brands still aren’t harnessing the power of mobile. He continues, “In spite of customers' preference to use mobile for key buying activities, only 8% of B2B sales organizations and only 13% of B2B sales teams have the ability to provide outstanding mobile sales."

“By 2020, 6 billion people will have a supercomputer in their pocket, on their wrist, or on their face with the next generation of Glass. As digital marketers, we have to consider not a mobile-first, but a mobile-only ecosystem,” Vala says.

Marketing, selling, and customer service are converging.

When it comes to servicing B2B customers, “70% of all customer touchpoints come through the customer service organization. They are your brand. They are the individuals and line of business that ensure companies deliver on their promises,” says Vala.

But as Vala explains, “The key here is that the customer owns the conversation and the channel preference. For you to earn their attention, you have to be informed, available, trustworthy, and proactive. That’s a team sport.”

His mandate for marketing, sales, IT, and community: “Have a 360-degree view of the customer that’s shared across the business so that in those moments of truth, you can engage the business as a whole and to deliver to the customers needs in a proactive and intelligent manner."

Vala (@ValaAfshar) shared many more useful marketing mandates for 2017 in our full podcast episode with him.

Get Vala's episode and join the thousands of smart marketers who already subscribe to the Marketing Cloudcast on iTunesGoogle Play Music, and Stitcher.

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