March 29, 2009

Chief marketing officers across nearly all sectors believe their companies are under-delivering in the area of digital marketing, reveals a new survey of CMOs and other C-suite executives conducted by Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc.

Citing a disconnect between their own personal capabilities and how the companies they work for are performing in the digital marketing arena, nearly 75% of respondents describe themselves personally as "at the cutting edge" or "right where they should be," while 60% believe that their companies are "behind the curve."

"Companies realize that they're in the midst of digital man-to-man combat to acquire consumer dollars, but they're frustrated that they're not very good at it," says Lynne Seid, Partner at Heidrick & Struggles' Global Marketing Officers Practice.

"In this economy, talent can see this need as a great opportunity, and indeed one of the few places where demand is still truly strong," she says.

One of the first surveys of C-suite marketing executives conducted since the financial crisis began last fall, "The Digital Marketing Standard: Executive Perspectives on Digital Marketing" was developed by Heidrick & Struggles and Digital Scientists to determine current marketing objectives and the role of digital marketing in achieving these objectives. The firms interviewed more than 100 senior executives with decision-making or budgetary authority over their companies' marketing spending.

"CMOs confront intense pressure to deliver financial results," says Tom Klein, managing partner and chief scientist of Digital Scientists. "With digital marketing, they finally have the tools to answer the oldest question in marketing - what's working and what's not. However, they don't have the internal digital marketing skill sets they need to get the job done."

The survey reveals the high value that marketers place on digital marketing proficiency as a way to acquire new customers. New customer acquisition topped respondents' lists as a key strategic priority for their companies, while brand-building and geographic expansion of their markets were seen as much less important.

Other key findings include:

Proficiency in digital marketing is highly valued, but under-delivered

Almost half the respondents (49%) agreed that it is important for the CMO to be proficient in digital marketing, but only 13% said that their companies had developed the internal talent required to develop and implement growth-generating digital marketing programs.

Over-reliance on outside agencies to meet talent gap

To fill the capability gaps in digital talent within their organizations, 45% felt that they would need to turn to external partners and agencies.

Key growth tactics: high points for analytics and SEO, low points for new media advertising

The top 4 marketing tactics for growth were ROMI analysis, website activity analysis, CRM tools, and SEO, while the bottom of the list included video and mobile ads and contests/promotions.

Few satisfied with their company's marketing effectiveness

Only 12% said their company was improving the consistency of its marketing and sales communications, and less than a quarter are very satisfied with the how their company is conducting ROMI, website activity analysis, CRM, and SEO.

Need more help from IT

Sixty percent of respondents reported that the marketing department has primary responsibility for the all-important analytics, but they want IT to share this load: 44% of respondents want IT to take responsibility for analytics.

Few want to focus on global growth right now

With problems at home consuming the attention of the C-suite, expansion into new geographies ranked dead last among all specific strategies cited in the survey, and was seen as very important by only 13% of respondents.

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