CMOs Are Pessimistic About Meeting Their Objectives

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Digital options swirl, CMOs twirl.
Digital options swirl, CMOs twirl.

Marketing honchos are on edge, and they're getting scared. That's the message received from and international survey of 405 chief marketers, brand directors, and digital marketing released this week by management consultancy and tech services provider Accenture. Some 40% of them said they were unprepared to meet their objectives, a 5-point rise in uncertainty compared to a similar poll the company conducted in 2011.

Those surveyed said that inefficient business practices were most to blame for impeding their progress in all functional areas they were asked to rate. Twenty percent or more said organizational problems kept them from achieving digital marketing and analytics objectives. The second biggest culprit, they said, was lack of funding or other resources.

“It's like the flying car or the paperless office. Marketers have been talking about merging online and offline forever, but they just can't seem to get there,” says Glen Hartman, Accenture Interactive's global managing director, digital consulting. “The things we need to make it work are finally here, but the organization model is not. Silos in companies really get in the way of making digital transformation happen.”

Marketers admit they are frustrated by the rapid proliferation of digital channels. They complain that they are awash in a stew of channels and have little clue about how to tweak the recipe to achieve maxium ROI. Two-thirds of the survey sample, for instance, agreed that social media was an important channel, but less than half thought they were using it effectively. One problem, Hartman says, is that marketers are simply not hardwired for the type of multichannel marketing made possible by digital technology.

“A lot CMOs think in a campaign-centric way,” he says. “In a digital age you want to take a successful TV campaign and add an app, social media, and optimize search engines to synch with it. Plus, you want to do it by different segments and countries. All of a sudden, that one successful campaign is a very expensive and time-consuming thing to replicate. How do you industrialize that? That's a new thing for the CMO.”

To their credit, marketers are responding with a willingness to invest in a digital future. Two-thirds of marketers told Accenture that they will put a quarter of their budgets toward digital marketing next year, and 23% said they'd commit half of their funds to achieving multichannel mastery. Managing customer data will be the chief imperative, named by half of the respondents, followed by ramped-up analytics.

The bulk of the money will go to new hires with technical skills—both in-house staff and outside agencies and consultants, even though survey respondents expressed disappointment with partners. While they gave them high marks for understanding their businesses and being able to work both the creative and technological sides of the street, nearly two-thirds of marketers said their partners were poor at execution and didn't deliver on what they promised.

“You have to get digital experts in-house. That's critical,” Hartman says. “But to make things work with digital, you are going to have to rely on a lot of outside partners and connect them in a fluid way. It's very difficult to do. Everyone is going to have different KPIs and best practices, so the CMO has to establish a balance of inside and outside and he or she is going to need some help—maybe partner a multichannel support person with a brand manager or business owner to manage specific campaigns.”

What would Hartman's game plan be if he were one of these CMOs?

“Three things,” he says. “One, build a new operations model. Look at performance and start to define it more broadly. Two, put analytics at the core of everything I do to drive the right kinds of activities and KPIs. Three, connect the content to the analytics. But here's the thing: Can I do it at scale? Anyone can do it for one campaign.”

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