Integrated marketing strategy is a must-have, says Salesforce exec

Companies now need to share information between sales, marketing and service to ensure that customers get seamless service and companies gain maximum insight.

As marketing continues to wedge its way into sales and service, one of the key watchwords is integrated marketing strategy. Without it, companies can’t serve customers cohesively and comprehensively.

Vala Afshar, chief digital evangelist at Salesforce, sat down with SearchSalesforce to discuss some of the key trends in marketing, including creating links between sales, customer service and marketing departments, and how marketing departments can now use platforms like Facebook and combine that data with internal customer data from CRM systems to gain insight into customers and prospects.

What kinds of attributes define high-performance marketing in 2016? How do marketing departments differentiate themselves?

Vala Afshar: Salesforce did a study with nearly 4,000 marketers, where they self-reported on whether they perceived themselves as high or low performers. First, only a handful -- 10% or less -- are comfortable with technology. We asked them to rate themselves as high, average or low performers.

It was a self-identified term, but we asked, 'Are you a high-performer, average performer or underperformer?' High performers were fully satisfied with their marketing outcomes.

The most staggering delta between high and low performers was that high performers were 24 times more likely to self-describe as agile ... versus underperformers who said, 'We're not agile in any way.'

High performers are also excellent collaborators. And they [are] three times more likely to have [an] increase in budget. Great collaborators move fast and, in turn, [are] able to ... secure commitment and budget.

Salesforce COO Keith Block has discussed the importance of integrating sales, service and marketing. How does an integrated marketing strategy benefit companies in a real way?

Afshar: In my previous role, we used Salesforce [and integrated marketing strategy with service]. My service organization was able to generate millions of dollars in incremental revenue by simply adding a button [to the service console] for front-line agents and then training them on buying signals.

[For example], a person might call about a product that is about to go end of service or sale, and [the agent is] trained to say, 'Here's a substitute product.' They could then click the button, and that would create an automated workflow. Then, it would go right to inside sales, [who] would immediately contact the customer and explain an up-sell opportunity. The credit would go back to support. We would close seven-digit sales -- completely net new from a customer calling into support, and then routing to sales and marketing.

You also mentioned that marketing got involved. How so?

When you do targeted outreach, you don't have to rely on cookies anymore.
Vala Afsharchief digital evangelist at Salesforce

Afshar: The marketing element was creating different personas that they could engage with. We started creating content based on different personas we engaged with. We saw that the buying team is made up of six or seven people, as many as 10. As soon as we identified the main advocate, we would try to feed her the relevant content that she could pass along to her peers, and say, 'Dear CIO, here's is content that might be useful for your CFO.' They could act as an arm of marketing. The only way we could do that was with an integrated platform. A lot of companies have a lot of catching up to do.

How is marketing changing in its use of user identity? Does it make marketing more intelligent?

Afshar: High-performing marketers are doing targeted advertising because they work with Google and Facebook. They lean into CRM, get the information from a customer, then go to a platform like Facebook and do audience matching and do a targeted campaign based on attributes that match the data in their CRM.

When you do targeted outreach, you don't have to rely on cookies anymore. You partner with an identity-based platform -- like a Facebook or a Google -- so you already have insight about preferences, demographics. It's doing it at scale and bringing connected devices into it. We'll see these examples with Fitbit user, mobile devices, Apple Watch. It's information you will provide, and all that is maintained as part of your identity. We have an opportunity to learn more about customers.

At my company, we saw ROI increase in email, social advertising and better use of CRM through use of targeted information -- mobile marketing, email campaigns. The secret sauce is the platform and the ability to integrate, and analytics will ultimately separate high performers from average performers.

For more, check out part two of this interview with Vala Afshar, where we discuss the importance of technology like cognitive computing and machine learning to marketing software.

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