CMO’s admit being behind the curve on digital marketing– finally

So says a recent report titled – “The Digital Marketing Standard: Executive Perspectives on Digital Marketing.” I was fascinated by the obvious disconnect between reality and the data.  I will interject my commentary below.  I have requested the full report but only have the various released material to comment on. [Still have not received it 4 months later – so much for outreach]

This report was developed by top executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles and Atlanta-based digital agency Digital Scientists to determine current marketing objectives and the role of digital marketing in achieving these objectives.   To get these findings they interviewed more than 100 senior executives with decision-making or budgetary authority over their companies’ marketing spending.

This is my favorite excerpt of the report from the Digital Scientist blog:

“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.”

Hello!  I am cutting edge but the very team and activities I am “responsible for” are behind the curve! What is the problem?  The research points to a number of things but still does not really directly identify what causes the disconnect between the CMO and the company being “behind the curve”.
I honestly have found very few CMO’s to be “cutting edge” or even “digitally savvy” especially in more traditional businesses.   I guess in a self-selecting survey you are either not going to say you are clueless or maybe they just don’t know you are clueless about digital marketing.  I am not saying all are “less than cutting edge” but if you look at the digital divide of most of these companies it is very apparent there is a disconnect.   There are many “cutting edge” CMO’s in smaller companies since they have already found it an effective way to beat the big dogs.

This disconnect is actually the root of the problem and why there is not more in digital  – the marketing mix.  For a CMO to say they are “cutting edge” and yet their company is not is a disconnect in reality since CMO’s set the marketing and advertising direction of the company and if they can’t or are not who is to blame?

Other key findings include: [taken directly from the release]

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.

Comment:  Ok, here is the little nugget that supports my comments above. ONLY half of the CMO’s think it is important for a CMO to be proficient in digital marketing.  Until I get the full report I won’t know the definition of “proficient” but I believe it should be something like – oh, I don’t know –  “Understand the strategic implications of digital marketing and fundamentally how the various tactics can be leveraged to achieve marketing goals.”  If we take something this generic as a definition, I am amazed, but not surprised, by the statement.

I think this will be a great market opportunity for Heidrick & Struggles since once these old school companies start getting their asses kicked by more “insurgent” companies they will wake up and start replacing some of these CMO who don’t respect the power of digital.  Those replacements will start changing their equally outdated agencies that continue to advise them down the back roads of marketing.

Over-reliance on outside agencies
To fill the capability gaps in digital talent within their organizations, 45% of respondents felt that they would need to turn to external partners and agencies.

Comment: This is a problem. Since few CMO’s really understand the tactics many will choose agencies that also don’t understand it or that don’t want to shift money out of traditional marketing channels.  I have seen way to many agencies who want to “experiment” and “learn” these tactics on the clients dollar rather than having experience.  I do think there will an even greater use of small aggressive specialist agencies in the coming days.  Many of the F100 companies I was working with at GSI have already started to shift much of the cutting edge digital work to smaller, more aggressive and less expensive digital agencies.

I strongly suggest that when CMS’s go and get this support from agencies they really need to make sure the agency has the right skills.  Too many large agencies try to cobble together a “hot capability” based on clients asking for it with no real expertise in that area. I think this opens up a huge opportunity for smaller specialist agencies to gain access to large company projects.

Analytics and SEO are key growth tactics
The survey revealed the top four marketing tactics for growth included:  ROMI analysis, website activity analysis, CRM tools, and SEO, while the bottom of the list included video and mobile ads and contests/promotions.

Comments:  This is a no brainier.  CMO’s desperately need to prove to the CEO and Board that they are spending precious resources effectively.  Every company I have worked with have many projects going to better show the ROI and performance of marketing and advertising.

The biggest trend I have seen at marketing conferences is attendees trying to find ways to get more out of the current marketing budgets and traffic they are already getting.  I had a Senior Marketing executive tell me last week that the current analytics tools just are not good enough for their business and that is why they are not spending more on digital.  I was stunned – I asked him what he was looking at  – he wanted to know immediately how many people were buying and where they came from.  I asked him the following questions:

1.  What is the bounce rate of people coming to your site? Don’t know what is a bounce rate?
2.  What are your most visited pages? I think the home page
3.  What is the highest exit page?  Don’t know
4.  What percent of your traffic is coming from search? Don’t know? I think a lot.
5.  What product converts the best online? We don’t sell online.  I then asked him why he cared about what people were buying since they don’t sell online.  Asked how many leads are going to sales team? He said there were a lot but many were not qualified.

I see way too many sites that squander precious traffic and don’t have the most basic understanding of their site and how consumers interact with it.

Overall dissatisfaction with company’s marketing effectiveness

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

Comments:  Nothing to add – data says it all 😉

Need more IT help
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.

Comment:  I have previously written that this is one of the largest opportunities for agencies is to help with analytics.  In my experience 8/10 installations of analytics tools are done incorrectly which is the main reason they are so hard to manage.  In every project we have worked on in the past few years we have had to rework the analytics tools just to track the fundamentals.  Again, I don’t have the report so I can’t comment on what they want the IT team to do –  maybe help install it and get it working so that proper data can come with it.

Note to analytics companies  – in talking to clients and many at a recent conference the #1 issue and frustration of clients is the lack of adequate training.  To clients, most of you have paid a considerable amount of money on these tools and yet they seemed simple to use that you did not invest in the training.  Rather than shift the blame to IT or Marketing you should start working on getting it installed and get the right data collected and people trained to mine it properly.

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.

Comment : While I understand this and part of me agrees.  There is a big world out there and much of it is reachable via digital.  One of the best ways to reach of these markets is via search and many of the other digital tactics which will be a lot cheaper and more effective than TV, billboards, and print.  Don’t capture the globe but pick key markets

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  • These findings are congruent with my experience.

    If it takes a tremendous amount of effort to convince a CMO that it might be worthwhile to create a landing page specific to a promotion, or create more content as part of an organic SEO strategy… You have to suspect that the person might do well to take some classes, attend some conferences, or read a little bit more.

    I’ve seen projects get scuttled by execs that are trying to save money the wrong way – the most memorable was a huge project where the guy who held the purse strings decided during implementation to remove the component that made the conversions measurable. (saved them a few hundred dollars on a multi thousand dollar project but making the return on investment impossible to calculate)

    Another troubling challenge can be the CMO who has become convinced that they are able to accurately interpret web analytics reports after 20 minutes of practice.