R2i partnered with research firm Clutch to survey mid-market and enterprise organizations across U.S.-based B2B and B2C brands to explore the channels, technologies, challenges, and priorities of today’s marketers.
The survey was conducted with 500 marketing professionals at companies with at least 500 employees; about half surveyed have over 1,000 employees and more than $100M in annual revenue. We segmented the findings into two sections: Search Marketing and Multi-Channel Investments and Priorities. The following is a summary of the priorities of marketers across marketing channels as well as current trends in how marketers work with agencies. The complete data and interviews with industry experts can be found on Clutch.co.
ADVERTISING CHANNELS AND MARKETING TECHNOLOGIES
THE MAJORITY OF MARKETERS RELY ON A MULTI-CHANNEL APPROACH
Multi-channel marketing is not an optional strategy for reaching customers into today’s buying environment. While a brand’s website remains the number one channel used by brands to connect with their audience—a Gartner survey shows that 79% of leaders agree the website is most effective—the majority of marketers need a healthy mix of digital, offline, and mobile channels to stay in front of their buyers.
What marketers need to remember is that it’s hard to do a lot of things really well. A multi-channel strategy does not necessarily mean that each channel carries equal weight. Getting right-time marketing right takes a laser focus on using technology and analytics to understand which channel is the star and which are supporting roles in the customer’s journey. By managing a few channels really well, marketers will have a deep understanding in how to leverage everything from the content to the data, the media to the channel and the technology required to deliver relevant, personalized, and effective experiences.
BRAND AWARENESS STILL RANKS AS A TOP STRATEGIC PRIORITY
Brand awareness and customer loyalty rank as close top priorities for marketers yet more and more CMOs are responsible for showing ROI in investments. In fact, Gartner’s “CMO Spend Survey 2015-2016” states that “…[marketing] is expected to drive profitable growth through the acquisition, retention, and expansion of the most valuable customer relationships.”
This is a tall order and brand awareness is certainly a challenge given the thousands of ads and messages that buyers are faced with daily as well as having to compete for attention in an ever-expanding marketplace of free enterprise. Regardless if the brand is a cloud-based voice over IP software or a customized box of fresh ingredients for making meals, capturing the lasting loyalty—and dollars—of a desired audience remains at the top of marketers “to do” list.
TELEVISION IS A SHORT-TERM PRIORITY FOR MARKETERS
When asked what channels will be prioritized in the next 6-12 months, survey respondents ranked TV advertising as the top priority despite 2015 Nielsen data indicating that more than 40% of TV content is now viewed on screens other than a traditional TV. Whether “TV” media is a traditional 30-second ad spot on the main screen, a mobile masthead, an in-stream ad, or any other variation of digital media, marketers who invest in TV advertising need to invest in the entire experience. Social media and the website were next on the list of priorities for our survey respondents indicating that buyers need a connected experience. A TV ad that doesn’t give the viewer a call-to-action, or a hashtag, or a site to visit misses an opportunity to deliver a complete customer experience that could result in a transaction.
MOST RELIED ON TECHNOLOGY FOR MARKETING EXECUTION
While the website for marketers may have previously been simply a brand asset, a digital platform on which to tell the brand story, it is now the most important technology along with an analytics solution, for marketing execution. Marketers who implement an integrated marketing cloud know all too well the value of the website. It is not just a touchpoint in the customer experience.
The technology behind the website is often the hub for content management, customer data profiling, tag management that enables personalization, and a critical component of a consistent multi-channel experience. In addition to the web and analytics tools, marketers ranked the CRM and social community management platform as the top technologies for marketing execution which speaks to the need to leverage customer data across channels to deliver content, offers, and experiences that connect back to marketing attribution.
AGENCY TRENDS AND CHALLENGES
Given the complexity of multi-channel marketing, the skill sets required to build and run marketing cloud technology, and the CMO’s need to show a return on campaign and tech investments, it makes sense that CMOs will seek out subject matter experts for critical marketing functions. Recent Gartner research in its 2016 “Marketing Organizational Design and Strategy Survey” found that “51% of marketing leaders say their current marketing organization relies heavily on agencies and third parties.” And while many would like to leverage more in-house talent, it is simply quite challenging to find full-time employees who have the range of skills necessary to bridge digital and traditional, technology and campaigns, analytics and strategy.
The trends in working with agencies tend to lean toward the more specialized areas of marketing, such as TV advertising. Most brands aren’t set up with full-time media buyers and the video production shops, equipment, and teams required to launch TV spots that also integrate with all the other touch points of the customer experience. With marketers investing more in multi-channel customer experience marketing, it makes sense that 70% of digital marketing functions are outsourced to agency partners. There’s no doubt that marketing leaders prefer in-house teams manage things like web properties, social channels, and content development but the demand of keeping up with customer expectations and always-on marketing leaves a gap for many organizations. This combined with the need for specialized skill sets validates why more than half of brands will use more agencies; a finding consistent with Gartner’s research noting an increased use of agencies to gain “superior performance, breadth and depth of skills.”