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These 4 Marketing Trends Are Reshaping How We Connect With Customers

Team of employees discussing marketing trends in a conference room
As many businesses are charged with doing more with less, marketers are prioritizing getting more out of their existing tools and technologies. [BONNINSTUDIO / Stocksy]

We surveyed 6,000 global leaders to find out how new technologies and expectations are changing the way businesses build relationships with customers. Here are the key findings and tips for success from our newest State of Marketing report.

Over the past few years, marketing trends have forced brands to navigate uncharted and fast-moving waters. Shifts in customer behaviors, an economy in flux, and emerging technologies are all rocking the boat. 

The good news? You can help your company weather the storm by embracing tech tools, personalizing your customer interactions, building for a cookieless future, and prioritizing collaboration with remote teams. The key is to focus on the right solution for right now.

We’ve identified four major marketing trends from Salesforce’s newest State of Marketing report that are reshaping the way we do our jobs and how we connect with customers. 

We hope these insights and tips help you strategize today and over the next year. Ready to dive in? Let’s do it.

The new State of Marketing
report is here

We surveyed 6,000 global marketers to bring you the latest data, prepare for fresh digital experiences, and make the most out of new tech.

Trend 1: Mastering tech tools is marketers’ number one priority – and also their biggest headache

New challenges call for innovative solutions. As customer preferences, buying behaviors, and expectations shift, marketers are adapting to meet audiences’ new demands. We found that 91% of CMOs say they must continually innovate to remain competitive. Over the past year, marketing organizations have changed their top priorities to make this happen.

As many businesses are charged with doing more with less, marketers are prioritizing getting more out of their existing tools and technologies. On the flip side, the ineffective use of these tools and technologies is also their top challenge. 

Marketers’ top 5 priorities

  1. Improving use of tools and technologies
  2. Experimenting with new marketing strategies and tactics
  3. Modernizing tools and technologies
  4. Building/retaining trust with customers
  5. Improving collaboration

Marketers’ top 5 challenges

  1. Ineffective use of tools and technologies
  2. Measuring marketing ROI / attribution
  3. Balancing personalization with customer comfort levels
  4. Building/retaining trust with customers
  5. Resistance to new marketing strategies/tactics

We’ve seen how things like technology adoption, vanity metrics, and a disconnection between marketing and sales slow marketers down. Many marketers are further prioritizing the modernization of their tech stack, with many investing in automation and employee productivity solutions. 

The growth of martech tools has created more data than marketers can know what to do with. The pros? With more data generated than ever before, businesses are able to target customers with personalized experiences with much greater precision. The cons? Marketers must manage the deluge of data types that come in and balance how to personalize without crossing the ethical line.

Quick tip: Often, so much effort is put into the implementation of new, shiny tech, only for it to be used the same way as the old. Martech data is only as good as how it’s shared and implemented. To translate technology investments into business value, marketers (and organizations at large) must focus beyond the platforms themselves and ensure clear, cross-team visibility into their data. Ultimately, this will unlock their tools. 

Trend 2: Marketers are redefining customer engagement with smarter, targeted interactions

Data has gone from being a supporting player in a marketer’s toolkit to a mission-critical component at the heart of today’s digital-first company. As such, marketers need to get the most from their technologies that help use data to make smarter, more personalized interactions. A fringe benefit of this is lower costs and more efficient processes.

Marketing organizations we surveyed use the following technologies

  • 90% Customer relationship management (CRM) system
  • 89% Account-based marketing (ABM) platform
  • 62% Artificial intelligence (AI)

According to our report, 80% of marketers say customer experience is a key competitive differentiator, and they are hungry for more connected data in order to deliver on it. Marketing trends show that organizations continue to increase the number of data sources they’re using each year — with a projected total of 18 in 2023. 

Marketers are using technologies like CRM systems and ABM platforms to unify data and deliver targeted campaigns, while leaning on artificial intelligence (AI) to integrate automation capabilities into a range of marketing activities. Three of the top four AI use cases are related to automation, highlighting the importance of scaling up speed and effectiveness with existing resources.

Marketers are also laser-focused on getting the most out of limited budgets and resources to meet audiences where they are. We found that 83% of marketers say their marketing organization engages customers in real time across one or more marketing channels.

Quick tip: Fully understanding your customer demands a new way of using the data you have. This is why integrated tech like customer data platforms are more relevant than ever. Using the insights provided by the right platforms will help you optimize the critical moments in your customer’s journey and build better marketing strategies that require less course correction.

Trend 3: The cookieless future is pushed back, but marketers continue to prepare

As marketers move forward in their quest for more data sources in the decline of third-party cookies, they’re pivoting to data given freely by customers (zero-party data) and data companies directly collected from customers (first-party data). 

This change puts marketers in the driver’s seat and enables them to engage the right customers more efficiently — and maximize marketing dollars.

Actions marketers say they have taken to prepare for privacy changes

  • Providing information-sharing incentives for customers: 56%
  • Creating a first-party data strategy: 54%
  • Creating second-party data-sharing agreements: 52%
  • Investing in new technologies: 51%
  • Reducing internal data silos: 49%

As deadlines to phase out third-party cookies continue to be delayed, 75% of marketers say they still rely on third-party data. However, marketers aren’t allowing this pause to hinder progress.

Our study shows that 68% say they have created a fully defined strategy to shift toward first-party data as they adapt to changes in privacy regulations and calls for data transparency. Streamlining the number of data sources will also help marketers be more efficient and reduce costs.

While not all third-party data is cookie-related, marketers will need to reconcile this strategy with looming changes in privacy regulations. Strategies such as providing information-sharing incentives for customers can help bridge the gap by enriching customer data profiles.

The growth of data sources in the near-term underscores the need for technology that will help marketers unify disparate data sources into a single view of the customer. Current marketing trends back this up: We found that 32% of B2B marketers say that sharing a unified view of customer data across business units is a challenge.

Quick tip: So what else can you do as we wait for a cookieless future? Incorporate more inbound marketing into your strategies and offer value through content and digital experiences in exchange for your audience’s consent to use their data. Although this approach for B2C marketers may feel like a complete turnaround after years of investing in brand marketing across various platforms, building owned digital experiences will still allow you to access valuable data — with complete control as the cherry on top.

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Get an inside look at how we unify customer data with Customer Data Platform powered by Data Cloud.

Trend 4: It takes more than an investment in tools to unlock collaboration

Remote work has fundamentally changed the marketing landscape, making collaboration that much more difficult. We found that 69% of marketers say it’s harder to collaborate now than before the pandemic. 

Many marketers continue to juggle communications, processes, collaboration, and problem solving, all while moving in a hybrid world. And they believe this marketing trend is here to stay — 70% expect investments in remote technologies to be permanent. In response, marketers are investing in collaboration technologies to ensure that work gets done, regardless of location.

Marketers who said they use the following collaboration technologies

  • Video conferencing: 46%
  • Channel-based collaboration platform: 45%
  • Instant messaging or chat apps: 45%
  • Enterprise social networks: 44%
  • Email: 43%
  • Shared documents: 42%
  • Voice messaging: 41%
  • Phone: 38%
  • Virtual whiteboards: 36%

Marketing organizations have adapted to the shifting needs of their workforce, adopting an average of four collaboration technologies to unify global marketing teams.

Taking the lead are technologies like video conferencing, channel-based collaboration platforms (like Slack and Microsoft Teams), instant messaging or chat apps, and enterprise social networks. While email makes it into the top five, it’s clear that communication tools that enable instant, asynchronous work are preferred to interact with one another. 

Quick tip: Integrating one platform that streamlines multiple applications and workflows can break silos and better coordinate marketing efforts. But it’s the adoption of the platform that can actually empower teams. Is the leadership team encouraging teams to use collaboration platforms, but are not actually using it themselves? Are content teams using one tool, but designers using another? To thrive in a work-from-anywhere world, collaboration requires an all-in approach to tools and processes that make teams agile and aligned. 

What else is top of mind for marketers?

Get more insights from 6,000 global marketers in the 8th edition of Salesforce’s State of Marketing report.

Bobby Jania
Bobby Jania Senior Vice President of Marketing, Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Bobby Jania is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Marketing Cloud, leading teams focused on messaging, positioning, and go-to-market strategy. He has 20 years of marketing experience at high tech companies.

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