What’s Eating Chief Marketing Officers?

What’s Eating Chief Marketing Officers?Photograph by Getty Images

By Ira Sager

Tight budgets and the lack of a clear online strategy have marketing executives concerned about losing business in the digital age. Even though companies are investing in their online marketing operations, chief marketing officers (CMOs) say there is still too big a gap between the expectations of consumers and the digital manpower they have available to deliver a satisfying online experience.

Baiju Shah, managing director of strategy and innovation for Accenture Interactive, discusses (in an edited e-mail exchange) the results of the consulting firm’s third CMO Insights survey and the changes ahead for corporate marketing.

What are marketing executives doing to counter smaller budgets and the lack of a clear digital strategy?

Sixty-six percent indicated to us that they will allocate at least one-quarter of their budget to digital marketing next year, and nearly one-quarter indicated that more than half of their [spending] will be on digital marketing. Furthermore, half of the executives said they would begin an internal reorganization to become more digitally focused, and more than half said they would be hiring more people with the necessary digital skills or providing their existing staff with digital training.

Why are digital marketing strategies so weak?

While I would not say digital marketing strategies are weak, I would say that the stakes are higher in an environment that is more complex. Among marketing strategy issues, customers are at the top for the third year in a row, specifically acquiring and retaining customers and selling to existing customers. New strategy areas—such as the end-to-end customer experience, enabling relevant marketing, using data for real-time marketing—have high levels of importance.

What expectations do customers have when they’re online?

Today’s consumer expects relevant and seamless experiences end-to-end across marketing, commerce, and service. In the era of social media, with consumers keen to broadcast their delight or despair, a brand’s ability to deliver a connected and relevant experience to each individual becomes critical for success. According to survey respondents, consumers’ expectations for relevant, targeted experiences are having the greatest long-term impact on marketing strategy.

How will corporate marketing will change in the next five years?

The four areas marketing departments will pursue change in over the next five years include: adjusting the marketing model; building new skills internally; getting aligned with the right set of partners; and driving digital orientation throughout the enterprise. The need for change is being driven by increasingly demanding customers who expect more relevant interactions with brands.

Why do 40 percent of CMOs surveyed believe they’ll see flat to declining market share?

Because of social media, consumers are more aware of how they are being treated and who is treating them well. With digital technology, consumers have lower costs to switch, and they find it very easy to discover new services and brands. Due to new commerce platforms, anyone can be a merchant, so the diversity of competition continues to increase. These factors add up to an incredibly tough environment to keep your market share, especially as our research shows that large brands are having difficulty driving consistently relevant experiences.

What advice do you have for chief marketing officers?

Improve collaboration with IT, but also between business units in an effort to deliver seamless experiences to consumers and to decrease the increasingly complex marketing environment. We found that nearly one in five marketing executives said inefficient business practices currently hinder their ability to improve marketing performance and return on investment.

Sager is director of special projects for Businessweek.com.


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