Salesforce: take your cues from highest performers in 2018 State of Marketing study

February 20, 2018
Ward Alles President and Brand Consultant

One big takeaway; three strategies to make it happen

If you’re the Chief Marketing Officer or VP of Brand at your healthcare system, your challenges are myriad.

Not the least of which is aligning your forces (both your internal team and outsourced partners) around delivering your brand promise to a changing (informed, finicky, critical) healthcare consumer across all channels.

Here’s an “executive summary” of a recent study published by Salesforce that could help you structure your thinking and carve out a plan to improve. For complete details, see the information here.

The customer experience is your brand’s battleground

According to their fourth annual “State of Marketing” report, Salesforce researchers suggest that improving the customer experience is the major strategy for both winning new customers and keeping current ones happy. In other words, you win and lose on delivering positive experiences. That means all experiences, all touchpoints.

“Whoa! Hold on a minute,” you protest. “I’ve got enough on my plate without having to worry about how well we satisfy patients on an operational standpoint.” We understand and agree. You can only influence the marketing part of the customer/patient experience.

However, be emboldened by the following:

Sixty-eight percent (over two-thirds) of the marketers who took Salesforce’s survey* believed that Marketing should lead the charge in conversations around customer experience improvement, working closely with counterparts in operations, sales, service and IT. In our opinion, marketers within healthcare systems should be ready and equipped with the right tools. to lead these inter-departmental conversations as well. The fulfillment of your brand promises are riding on it.

(*3500 worldwide b2b and b2c marketing leaders, including those in healthcare, took part)

Out of those surveyed, not all marketers felt as if they were succeeding in creating great customer experiences. When asked, “how well are your brands/teams performing?” only 12 percent were extremely satisfied, 12 percent were dissatisfied and the lion’s share (76 percent) ranked themselves as moderately satisfied (the default answer on many such surveys).

This data begs four questions.

  • How would YOU answer that question?
  • What can we learn from the 12 percent who rated themselves extremely satisfied?
  • What could you potentially do about it?
  • If you’re dissatisfied … why? What problems do you have to address?

Learning from the top performers

Salesforce researchers found that the top marketers focused their teams on three major strategies to improve the customer experience.

  1. They aligned roles and assignments along customer journey touchpoints.
  2. They shared a single way of collecting/distributing data about the customer.
  3. They focused on delivering consistent and personalized experiences across all channels and touchpoints.

Let’s break down each point.

Re: Aligning roles. Nearly two-thirds of all marketers said they were starting to evolve their marketing departments from a traditional structure to a model centered around the customer journey. In other words, do you still have designers, writers, PR professionals and the like on your team … or do you have marketers who understand, attract, nurture, inform, engage and convert customers?

How are you structured these days? Does it make sense for the work of improving the patient experience?

Re: Sharing common customer data points. High performers were 4.2 times more likely than lower performers to be satisfied with their ability to leverage customer data to create better experiences. They were measuring what matters and sharing a common CRM tool, scorecard and language so that they could gain insights and connect the dots for their customers in a faster and more relevant fashion.

How well are you sharing a common language and set of customer data points within your healthcare system?

Re: Delivering a consistent, omni-channel message. The higher performing brands were nearly 13x more likely than lower performers to heavily coordinate marketing efforts across channels, e.g. email, website, mobile (e.g., SMS, push notifications), social media marketing, display/banner ads, advertising on social platforms, organic search, paid search, video advertising, and native advertising/sponsored content.

How well coordinated are your branding messages and experiences across all media and with the use of all devices?

A few more factoids on channel marketing

As the leading marketer within your healthcare system, if you think things are moving fast and feel a bit overwhelmed by all the channels you need to manage, you are not alone. According to the study, on average, marketing leaders say 35 percent of their budget is spent on channels they didn’t even know existed five years ago. That’s a lot of change, and it is not likely to “let up” any time soon as we continue to invent more “owned” methods of communicating and “shared” methods of engaging with our audiences.

However, lest you think you have to be exceptional at delivering your message on all available channels, take heart. The higher performing brands focused on delivering quality experiences on strategically chosen channels, rather than worrying about covering them all. Perhaps this is good advice for healthcare systems as well.

And finally, if you are interested where most of these worldwide brands are planning to increase spending in 2018, the top three areas were:

  • social media
  • advertising on social platforms
  • video advertising

What plans do you have for such mediums? And how can they help you improve the customer experience?

So what does this survey really tell you, the experienced healthcare marketer?

Salesforce will continue to conduct its annual survey of the marketing profession, asking experts from all fields and around the world for their opinions on the state of marketing today. You will either be inspired by it, simply informed about it, or ignore it altogether. The choice is yours.

For those of you wishing to be inspired, the survey suggests that creating “a connected customer journey” can result in benefits throughout your organization. Depending on your goals and strategies, any number of key business metrics could be impacted, including:

  • Loyalty
  • Revenue growth
  • Engagement
  • Referrals
  • Patient satisfaction scores

My guess is: If you’ve at least scanned this article, you are the type who will seek to lead tough conversations with your team, to look at things through your patients’ eyes, to align your resources around the customer journey, to measure what matters, and to deliver personalized, consistent messaging using all of the best channels at your disposal.

Why? Because, according to the research, that’s just what top marketers do.


Ward Alles is a Brand Consultant and President at Core Creative, a branding agency that specializes in telling the life-changing stories for mid-market healthcare systems and the emerging med-tech world.



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