Survey: Marketers See Digital Marketing as Key

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About two-thirds of top-level marketing executives surveyed said online marketing has a high strategic importance to their companies, according to a survey released yesterday.

The CMO Council, B2B Magazine, USA Today and e-mail marketing firm Responsys polled 400 marketing decision makers at the end of 2003. The survey confirms that online marketing has grown in stature, moving from an experiment to a vital part of the marketing mix, said Kathy Gogan, vice president of marketing at Responsys, Palo Alto, CA.

"I see that as a shift from having the attitude of it being an experiment," she said. "Digital marketing is much higher in terms of importance, and they're also spending more in that area."

The online advertising industry is poised for solid growth in 2004. Investment bank U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray expects it to grow 21 percent this year to $8.1 billion. Other forecasts call for similar gains.

The CMO Council survey found three-quarters of respondents plan to boost spending on online marketing initiatives. For now, the chief lure to digital marketing is that it's cheap: 65 percent tagged the low cost of implementation as the top lure.

The medium also seems to be catching on for both branding and direct response. More than 84 percent of marketers said their companies used online marketing to generate leads, while 71 percent said they used it to build brand recognition and awareness. Another 68 percent reported customer retention as a key goal.

Despite their bullishness, marketers did not think they fully tapped online marketing's potential. Nearly 40 percent gave their companies a C or below when asked to grade their use of online marketing. More than half said they wanted to track customers better and integrate online and offline marketing channels. A similar proportion said they wanted to integrate e-mail campaigns with Web interactions.

Unsurprisingly, spam and filters topped concerns about e-mail marketing, with 63 percent naming it as one of the top three challenges they face in that channel. A similar proportion, 61 percent, identified in-box clutter.

"I think the spam legislation was in response to a lot of trends that marketers are already dealing with pain from," Gogan said.

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