In its early days, digital marketing was a mysterious land. But once marketers ventured down the rabbit hole, they realized that they were absolutely mad for the channel.
According to a new study by Direct Marketing News and Forrester Research, 91% of marketers believe that digital marketing is critical to success, and 92% say that digital marketing will play a significantly more important role in the year ahead.
“Overall, consumers are shifting and becoming more digital, and so marketers are following their consumers and customers there. That’s the first big impetus,” says Tracy Stokes, Forrester’s principal analyst serving CMOs, who authored the report “Digital Brand Building: Advance From Chasing Efficiencies to Creating Experiences” based on the joint survey findings. “The second one is more of a monetary piece and that’s efficiency. [Digital is] seen as a more efficient way to scale your marketing efforts and reach more people and, for some channels, in a more measurable way.”
Indeed, digital marketing has captured marketers’ hearts. Consider: 75% of marketers believe that digital marketing is a highly effective brand-building tool, and 62% agree that digital is just as effective as traditional advertising in terms of creating emotional connections with consumers.
Even with their enthusiasm for digital, marketers didn’t lose their heads when setting priorities for 2015. According to the study, 48% of B2B and B2C marketers list content marketing as a top priority for digital marketing in 2015, followed closely by social media marketing (46%) and mobile marketing (42%). And it’s not always the CMO driving those decisions. One third of marketers say CMOs are responsible for their company’s digital marketing efforts, but 30% say that the SVP, EVP, or VP are in charge. Only about one quarter (24%) list the director or below as the head of their firm’s digital efforts.
One reason for this senior-level focus on digital marketing? “Digital is not just about marketing,” says Sheryl Pattek, Forrester’s VP, principal analyst serving CMOs. “It’s really about the way the organization becomes a digital business. It impacts products; it impacts customer experience; it impacts marketing, of course; and it impacts service.”
It also impacts results. In fact, for most marketers this year’s digital marketing budget will help them achieve their goals and keep them smiling like a Cheshire cat. Sixty percent of marketers surveyed expect their digital marketing budgets to somewhat increase in 2015, and 13% expect their budgets to increase significantly. So, what exactly are marketers spending their digital dollars on? B2B and B2C marketers intend to allocate 20% of their digital budgets to email marketing, 18% to search, 16% to display, and 12% to social. Other areas of focus include video (10%), mobile search and display (7%), mobile apps (5%), and other (6%).
Of course, there are still a number of challenges that can leave marketers feeling like Tweedledum. For instance, only 44% of marketers have a clearly defined and deployed digital strategy, according to the study. Although marketers are ready to embrace digital, according to Pattek, many are taking more of a tactical or reactive approach to the channel than a strategic one. In fact, 56% of marketers say that they’re doing just that. In addition, less than half of respondents (43%) are able to find and hire people with the digital marketing skills they need.
It seems that marketers still need to gaze into the looking glass to see what changes need to be made to succeed with digital this year and beyond.
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