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Marketers’ Top Investment Priorities for 2017

Marketers’ Top Investment Priorities, Strategies Being Used and Which Marketing Tactics and Channels Get Results

The 2016 State of Customer Journey Marketing survey conducted by Autopilot, provides insight into how customers want to receive information that influences the buying decision. The report confirms the need for transparency and building customer relationship with both prospects and existing customers.

Autopilot surveyed 505 US-based marketing decision makers to discover where they are investing, the strategies they are adopting to achieve high growth, and which marketing tactics and channels get results.

Customers are connecting with brands on social media and mobile devices at any time, from anywhere. By focusing on the customer’s journey, high performers are producing more leads, turning one-time buyers into repeat buyers, and converting new customers more rapidly.

  • 88% of high-performing marketers get results by investing in customer experience initiatives including analytics, content, social and nurture-based strategies for growth.
  • 73% of high-performing marketers are very satisfied with their results, while 61% of everyone else feel they could be doing a better job.

High performing marketers get results

Key Findings:

  • High performing marketers make up 24% of the 505 marketers surveyed. Defined as attainers of 80% or more of their lead or performance goals, they grow revenue 58% faster than everyone else, generate more leads for their companies, are 2.5X happier with their performance, and have more satisfied customers.
  • All marketers are prioritizing brand awareness, converting leads to sales, and generating new leads. But high performers are investing in customer events and marketing, referral and satisfaction programs, and analytics and attribution, rather than in online ads, to get there.
  • 71% of high performers have mapped their customer’s journey, and an astonishing 88% say this initiative is driving better customer acquisition, satisfaction, and retention.
  • Marketing automation adoption is up more than 4X in two years. Cost, not lack of awareness or complexity, is now the main impediment to use. 64% of high performers send automated emails to their contacts at least once per week.
  • 70% of marketers now rank social media as their top performing non-email channel, 81 percent are using data to personalize their marketing, with the majority saying it creates a better customer experience.
  • 48% of marketers list budget constraints as their number one challenge, B2B marketers are most concerned with converting leads into sales, while B2C marketers seek high ROI-approaches to grow with thin margins and tight budgets.
  • 84% said marketing owns or is a key stakeholder in their customer journey initiative. Marketing leaders who have not done so already should start a cross-functional initiative that aims to grow leads, conversions, and customer satisfaction.
  • 48% of marketers intend to invest in predictive analytics. Expect SMBs to get more data-driven in how they allocate budget and prioritize key campaign decisions as simpler, more affordable tools emerge.

What Makes a High Performing Marketer?

We defined high performers as those who attain “80% or more of their lead or performance goals this year.” 24% of survey respondents met this definition of a high performer.

So, what are the attributes of a high-performing marketer? High performers grow revenue faster – by 58% on average. This is consistent regardless of their company size or business focus, with high performers outperforming peers by as much as 122% in Enterprise and by 74% in B2C-facing companies.

High performers produce more leads and grow faster. 43% of high performers create more than 500 leads per month. In every lead bracket except for companies generating 20 to 100 leads per month, the high performers create 23% more leads on average and also drive higher year on year revenue growth.

Year-year revenue growth


High performers delight their customers. 86 percent of high performers said their customers are very or extremely satisfied, compared to 70 percent for everyone else. Millennial marketers know that today’s consumer cares about building trusted, authentic relationships and being able to connect with their preferred brand at any time, from anywhere.

High performers are far more satisfied with marketing’s performance.

A whopping 73% of high performers are “very” or “extremely” satisfied with marketing’s results and performance, which is 2.5 times higher than everyone else. Marketers in mid-sized companies are more satisfied with their performance than those in small businesses under 250 employees (by 61 vs. 29 percent), perhaps reflecting access to more resources, larger budgets, and an established market presence.

Higher performers have a firm grasp on driving online revenue. In this study, the top sales channel is online/e-commerce (66%), followed by outside/direct selling (53%), then inside sales (47%). Succeeding in driving revenue involves retooling and refocusing marketing, from the traditional top of funnel lead generation and pipeline metrics to driving demand, growth, and satisfaction through the customer lifecycle and across acquisition channels.

In the Social Media Age, Brand is Still King

Even as the digital world continues to transform marketing and provide flashier metrics and new tools, growing brand awareness remains marketers’ top priority and was ranked first by 23% of respondents, followed by converting leads into sales (21%) and generating new leads (18%).

Top marketing priorities


High performers are even more focused on brand, with 27% ranking it as their top priority, followed distantly by lead generation (21%) and customer satisfaction (19%.)

Customer Journey Marketers Are Winning

85% of B2B buyers say that online content has a “moderate to major effect on purchasing” decisions. Banner ads, videos, social posts, review sites, comparisons, pricing sheets, and branded articles all act as signposts for the customer as they prepare to place orders or speak with sales. Yet the touch points along the path to purchase are more disconnected and more numerous than ever before. Learn how to launch a Customer Journey (CJ) initiative.

Marketing Automation Adoption Has Taken Off

Marketing automation software (MAS) is widely seen as critical to communicating with customers and prospects in a scalable, automated and personalized way.

Until recently, many companies have yet to implement it, with research completed as recently as mid-2014 suggesting that MAS adoption hovers around only 3% for non-technology companies. The complexity, high costs and arduous implementation of traditional MAS vendors have warded off most companies, particularly SMBs, from adopting the technology.

Marketing automation is going mainstream

But in 2016 adoption of MAS has taken off, largely driven by the new visual tools that hit the market. The radically simpler and more flexible experience of visual marketing automation allows marketers and growth managers to publish and evolve automated customer journeys without needing to code or undergo extensive technical training.

Since Autopilot launched its visual marketing platform for automating customer journeys in early 2015, numerous vendors have launched competing visual offerings, including Pardot by Salesforce, Campaign Monitor, LeadPages, and most recently, GetResponse.

The growth in MAS adoption is striking, as seen in this study:

  • MAS adoption is up more than 4X in two years, with 57 percent of all marketers, and 71 of high performers, now reporting that they use it, compared to 13 percent in 2014
  • 22 percent of marketers rank MAS in their top three investment areas, which places it ninth overall
  • The top three industries using marketing automation technologies are Advertising and Marketing, Retail and Consumer Durables, and Technology and Electronics

Tactics That Are Working

High performing marketers are in touch with customers at least weekly, focus mostly on onboarding and reactivation, communicate heavily on social media and SMS, and personalize their marketing to the user.

Staying in touch regularly gets results! Millennials are coming of age as first generation digital natives who are willing to accept more frequent marketing content if is engaging and relevant. In this study we find that: 64% of high performers are sending automated emails to their customers at least once a week, while 43% do so across all marketers.

Nearly Everyone is Personalizing

81% of marketers in this study are using data to personalize their marketing, and are 54% more likely to say it’s resulting in a better customer experience.

Most are using basic contact details or firmographic data, like name, company, or industry, to segment and personalize their newsletters or promotions for better results.

Most common data sources marketers use to personalize

The Challenges Ahead

The top three challenges cited by marketers today are budget constraints (48%), generating leads (41% and converting those leads into sales (38%).

Top Marketing Challenges today

Predictions for 2017

  1. The journey-centric approach is evolving—and it’s about orchestration
  2. Personalization at scale is not an oxymoron
  3. SMBs will make smarter bets using predictive analytics


Source: Autopilot

Get to know your customers, learn what they like, show them you listen. It’s a little give and take that results in trust – a priceless asset well worth the work. We’ll show you how. Contact us today!

Mary Shaw