Marketers Exaggerate Their Digital Prowess, Says Report

 

No matter what they say, few marketers are successfully integrating their operations digitally with the sales and customer service departments. The case appears to be very much the same in organizations both large and small. Customer experience is typically poor, and all-powerful CMOs who ride high-velocity digital engines over CIOs’ backs are merely make-believe. The information technology research company that claims this to be the marketing reality, 451 Research, is comfortable with its conclusions. Why? It didn’t ask CMOs, like so many studies that cross our desk. It asked software buyers and practitioners—nearly a thousand of them at companies representing a cross section of American business. Their answers were shocking.

A robust (in data terminology) 59% of them said that their companies don’t use digital marketing technology and have no plans to start within the coming six months. Only 18% said they were using such tech and planned to continue doing so, while 6% said they’d begin using digital marketing in the coming year. Seventeen percent were unsure.

“The hype and holler around digital marketing is not reflected in the marketplace,” says 451 Research Senior Analyst Matt Mullen, who authored “The Contemporary CMOs Toolkit 2.0,” a report born of the research. “We wanted to keep this at a very high level and not get into the weeds. We just asked them if they were using technology for simplifying the marketing process or allowing their companies to market across channels. Our intent was to use this as a baseline for further research, but what we learned so surprised us, we decided to report on it.”

Mullen contends that this tally doesn’t mean there is no discussion of digital marketing technology at the business level, just that there’s more talk than action. 451 Research purposely kept the definition of marketing tech non-specific to allow survey subjects to self-identify it. Supplier names mentioned ran the gamut from Microsoft to Salesforce to MailChimp.

“Social media was an interesting one in terms of vendors used. We’re not seeing an awful lot of the entry-level tools we’d expect to see, like Hootsuite or Sprout,” Mullen said. “Email was a stronger and more obvious area for tech solutions. They are starting to pull customers into things beyond pure messaging. We saw some Marketo and Hubspot being used in this area. There is more mature use of email around both inbound and outbound marketing.”

Three quarters of those surveyed said their companies use or plan to use digital marketing technology to inform their email and Internet campaigns. About half said the same about social media integration and campaign management. Lead management and reporting and analytics were named by about 40%.

“When we asked the questions, we didn’t want to color the conversation by surrounding them with terms like Big Data,” Mullen says. “So if 76% are using email technology, but only 39% are using some kind of analytics to drive that email, it’s not necessarily surprising, but, at the same time, you would hope to see analytics equal to other points in the process.”

One of the reasons digital marketing hype outpaces the reality, Mullen poses, is the big talk surrounding marketing tech acquisitions like Oracle and Eloqua, Salesforce and ExactTarget, and IBM and Silverpop. “What’s the rationale behind it? You wouldn’t expect Salesforce to quickly amortize $2 billion from ExactTarget. It’s as much about offering clients holistic views of their customers.”

Indications are that the reality will begin to merge with the hype sometime soon. While survey subjects admitted to 451 Research that they haven’t signed many purchase orders for digital tech, they indicated that time to do so could be at hand. More than 70% of them said that they considered digital technology very to extremely important to their company’s success.

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