The State of B2B Marketing: Insights and Strategies from Salesforce President & Chairwoman, Sarah Franklin

Learn about the importance of alignment, the power of events, the role of generative AI, and how to stay optimistic in challenging times from Sarah Franklin.

The State of B2B Marketing: Insights and Strategies from Salesforce President & Chairwoman, Sarah Franklin
Shelly Weaver
Shelly Weaver
May 9, 2023
min read
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It feels like the B2B marketing game has gone from “hard” to “expert” mode with very little warning in recent months. Things are always evolving and shifting in our industry, but the economic challenges piled on top have made increasing your pipeline more difficult, and more urgent, than ever.

Despite these tricky times, companies like Salesforce continue to find ways to innovate and stay ahead of the curve. 

Our Founder & CEO, Kraig Swensrud, sat down with Salesforce President & CMO Sarah Franklin to discuss the state of B2B marketing and the strategies Salesforce is implementing to drive growth in the face of adversity. 

Here are 4 key takeaways we learned from Sarah: 

1. The key to thriving in tough times? Alignment.

One of the biggest insights that Sarah gave us was that success in times like these comes down to one factor: alignment. 

The trifecta of your whole business is your product organization, your marketing organization, and your distribution organization. You're supported with your customer success and legal and all of the other organizations, but those three really are the strategic arms, and I see marketing as the glue between the product and the sales organization.” 
– Sarah Franklin, President & Chairwoman, Salesforce

And how do we as marketers be the best possible glue between Sales and Product when both teams want more 

Sarah gave us 3 best practices:

  • Don’t create a structure that doesn’t work with your GTM teams, it will always fail.
  • Ask what your teams need and listen to the answer–great ideas come from all angles. 
  • Set shared pipeline goals so that everyone knows exactly what to expect and how you’re going to work together to get there.

2. Events are back, baby. 

Salesforce has always blazed the trail for events, but the last few years have forced all of us to get creative and embrace virtual events. 

For Salesforce, events are a very important part for us. They've been very effective. They also double as an enablement tactic. So when you get your employees there and your salespeople there, they hear what's going on, they see what's going on, and they also can feel the culture and experience the brand.”
– Sarah Franklin, President & Chairwoman, Salesforce

When done right, events can be incredibly effective in driving pipeline. Sarah told us that about a third of Salesforce’s marketing budget goes into their event programs–she noted that people want to get back in person to connect in this post-pandemic era, making them a stronger channel than ever. 

3. Generative AI isn’t just a flash in the pan

The rise of ChatGPT and other generative AI tech came on so quickly that it can feel like just another trend, but this tech has already ingrained itself into the workflows of many B2B marketers. The adoption rate has signaled to everyone that generative AI needs to be factored into your product in a way that delivers real value because it isn’t going anywhere. 

Generative AI is incredible. EinsteinGPT is our marketing-led innovation there, showing that everything that you can do across sales, service, marketing, and commerce with generative in a way that brings your values to bear. It’s not just technology for technology’s sake, it’s doing it with our value of trust.” 
– Sarah Franklin, President & Chairwoman, Salesforce

The key here is innovating with the value for your user in mind, not just to keep up with everyone else. Another thing Sarah noted is that as data and privacy concerns mount in this new AI boom, it’s incredibly important to continue focusing on trust with your customers. 

4. There’s a lot to be optimistic about right now

Even though most of us are scrolling through feeds filled with tough news in the SaaS sector, Sarah left us with a few things to get excited about and use as our North Star. She acknowledged that all of us are feeling the same pressure and struggles right now. 

The future’s not yet written. It’s our opportunity to write it. If we decide it’s going to be doom and gloom, we’ll get doom and gloom. We might not get the results of two years ago when things were just bananas and through the roof, but we have to have optimism. If you don’t believe, then you’re just going to go nowhere.” 
– Sarah Franklin, President & Chairwoman, Salesforce

Salesforce has always led with optimism about the future, and we loved hearing from Sarah herself about how now is the time to get aligned with our teams and dig deep to face the challenges of this market and stay ahead of the game with innovative products that provide real value to our users. 

Watch Sarah and Kraig’s session, The State of Marketing Spring ‘23, here ⏯️

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