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Although companies are placing more emphasis on digital marketing, senior executives lack a solid understanding of how marketing works and how it can help them achieve their business goals. If marketers hope to win executive buy-in, they must learn how to better organize their teams and use technologies such as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to demonstrate results through a increased campaign performance throughout the marketing cycle.
Advertisers should “create competitive advantage by prioritizing digital marketing maturity,” says Lucie Volmer, director of performance solutions at Google. “By setting clear business goals, fostering cross-functional working, fostering a test and learn mentality, and investing in ML and AI, marketers create lasting value for the company and shareholders. .”
These are among the key findings of the Forrester Digital Marketing Maturity 2021 Survey, conducted on behalf of Google, which gathered responses from more than 500 marketing influencers and decision makers across the United States.
Nearly three-quarters of survey participants said the role of marketing had grown in importance over the past year, and 1 in 4 said their company had increased digital spending by at least 10%.
For many, this turned out to be a wise decision. Organizations allocating more than half of their market budgets to digital initiatives improved performance on three key business outcomes (revenue, sales volume, and market share) by 10% or more.
With results like this, it might seem like companies should dive headfirst into digital projects. But a combination of internal factors holds many back. Marketers who want to succeed with digital marketing must clearly advance their digital understanding and communication.
Overcoming Organizational Challenges
The survey indicates that respondents face three major digital marketing challenges: improving their communications about their efforts, closing planning gaps, and choosing the right metrics.
Improve communication: According to the survey, less than 50% (only 41%) of senior executives have a strong understanding of the relationship between digital marketing performance numbers and business results. In other words: marketers are simply not doing an adequate job of communicating their digital marketing results to the C-suite.
In fact, they don’t even communicate well with each other. Only 40% said they were “very good” at coordinating with internal stakeholders in planning, creating and executing their marketing programs.
Part of the problem: there are simply more cooks in the kitchen these days. An average of 18 decision-makers now have a say in digital marketing investments, according to the survey, and they often disagree on strategy.
These results are a clear call for marketers who are serious about digital-first strategies to better organize and align their teams, improve efforts to achieve specific business goals, and communicate results more effectively to their customers. colleagues, organizational leaders and other stakeholders. Those who do are much more likely to create campaigns that outperform their competitors.
Addressing planning gaps: When researchers looked at the five key phases of a marketing campaign — planning, creating, executing, optimizing, and measuring — they found plenty of opportunities for improvement. Businesses can increase their performance at every phase, but planning has emerged as the biggest obstacle to success.
Only 32% of marketers — and 29% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers — said the campaign planning process went very well. Just over half were confident that they had selected the right business objective for a given marketing project, and only 42% were confident that they had identified the right target audience – which is, of course, a determining factor for success. In fact, planning is at the heart of marketing. By omitting the planning element (including fundamental considerations around emotion, motivation, and customer context in life), marketers will optimize in a fishbowl, where all technology and data become trivialized. The real differentiation comes for those who start with solid strategic planning to inform deeper creation, execution, optimization and measurement.
Additionally, less than half of respondents (46%) were confident that their concepts would resonate with the target audience or that they had selected the right channels to deliver their messages. Only 40% were able to predict the financial outcome of campaigns, a metric that needs to improve if marketers are to gain credibility in the C-suite.
To plan effectively, marketers need to pay close attention to leaders’ specific business goals and create campaigns using clearly defined metrics to achieve them. They must also work together to reach consensus on strategy and tactics before executing a campaign. Better planning will lead to better results throughout the campaign lifecycle.
Choice of metrics: Marketers also need to improve campaign execution and optimization. Only 42% felt very confident in their use of key performance indicators (KPIs) for critical variables, including conversions. Less than half (43%) are adept at using a propensity model, a key measurement tactic that captures customer lifetime value, allowing marketers to scale up where they will get the most results.
Many marketers struggled to determine whether the leads they were getting were from B2B customers or B2C customers. They also stumbled over which variables to change during a campaign. Less than half of B2C companies – and only 39% of B2B companies – said they were very well equipped to experiment with different advertising strategies.
Machine learning and automation could help marketers deploy more advanced measurement models, clearly delineate leads, make informed optimization decisions, and accelerate campaign execution. But only 44% said they use ML to optimize campaigns.
Surprisingly, given the wide range of channels businesses use to reach customers, only 38% of marketers surveyed use omnichannel attribution. Without it, they are unable to demonstrate which of their touchpoints lead to success.
With separate teams working across different marketing channels, attribution and other important metrics can be difficult to determine. The situation is exacerbated by the lack of coordination between stakeholders revealed by the survey.
Again, using the right technology could help. A platform that provides a unified view of customers across all channels would make it easier to both collaborate and calculate results. It would also serve as a vehicle to create an easy-to-understand graphical representation of those results for busy C-suite executives. But only 48% of B2C marketers and 35% of B2B marketers said they had a complete view of the customer activity across all channels.
“It’s all about marketing being able to prove they can drive better business results,” says Matt Drzewicki, chief industry officer at Google. “One of the ways we’ve seen CMOs succeed is through a common advertising dashboard developed in conjunction with the CFO. Such a powerful partnership enables a source of truth and focuses on business outcomes such as profit. With a strong CMO-CFO alignment, planning and measurement become very clear to the organization at all levels. »
Achieve marketing maturity
The survey results are clear: to gain commitment to a digital-first strategy, marketers need to demonstrate to business leaders in a strong, unified voice how their programs are measurably contributing to achieving goals. commercial. They can only achieve this if they learn to improve internal coordination, take the time to focus on the key elements of a marketing campaign and master the proper use of technological tools. Those who succeed will enjoy higher levels of support by demonstrating better business results and achieve superior marketing results over their competitors throughout the go-to-market cycle.