If you leave your marketing alone, digital won’t fix it

In short : while digital was supposed to trigger a new era for for marketing, it seems to be slowly killing it. Low performance and lost of trust from boards are established facts. But blaming CMOs is a too easy shortcut : they won’t be successful until joint and multidisciplinary programs are implemented.

Social media and “digital” are often shown as a powerful lever for marketing. Two studies issued by the end of 2012 show that if the potential is real, nothing actually changed. Even worse : the impact of social channels on sales is questionable and CEOs are loosing confidence in their CMOs.

Alarming report from the Fournaise Marketing Group :

• 69% of CEOs stopped assigning quantitative goals to their CMO. The reason ? A systematic inability to generate business growth. The marketing department is kept alive by pure tradition only.

Unaccountable CMOs are loosing their CEO’s trust.

• 67% od CEOs admit they may be guilty for not holding their CMOs accountable enough. But they say doing so because marketing directors have lost sight of what their job was and are disconnected from actual business, ROI and are unable to track the impact of the money they spent. Time spent on social media being an evidence of the disconnection.

• They would like to work with ROI-oriented CMOs who, contrary to traditional CMOs, are still credible.

At the same time an IBM report showed that social channels (Facebook, Twitter) only generated 0,34% of sales during the last Black Friday.

Is there a correlation between both ? Lessons to learn ?

• Social media won’t transform marketing if marketing does not want to change. Old practices on new channels equals to failure. If Facebook and Twitter drive sales, they’re not direct marketing channels.

• A social and digital illusion based on purely relational and qualitative concepts, lead by frenzied idealism make many people forget that engagement and relationships are only mean and that, beyond that, concrete quantitative results are expected. I already tackled this point here but the impressive value proposition of “digital social” is made incomprensible par the too few efforts made to track new value creation channels. And CMOs are certainly not the only ones to be responsible for this : those who advise and tool them share a big part of the responsibility.

But putting water on a drowning marketing is too easy. If marketing departments have to reinvent themselves, they don’t have to do it alone.

CMOs are victims of their undergoing isolation

• Because despite of the many downside of such concepts when not wisely used, relational strategies without a direct ROI can be seen as an investment. Getting customers is good, having fans who are not customers but will defend the brand in case of crises is worth too. But companies often realize they have neglected the latter at the very moment they need them. That’s something not everyone gets today.

• Because CMOs are alone and victims of internal silos. A fruitful customer relation implies a global management of all the sides and of the full lenghts of the relationship life cycle. But customer experience is scattered among many owner that don’t work jointly. Working together requires more than everyone’s will : it also need an organization model that is far from being the norm in all businesses. In front of empowered consumers who are more in more in control of the situation, businesses that are not capable of reacting through a joint action from IT, marketing and HR won’t succeed. The good news is that companies are more and more aware of that and that some are trying to make IT and marketing to build shared roadmaps. Such initiatives should become the norm and, in my opinion, HR should join them too because empowering employees for customer relationship requires actions from all of them.

• If 43% of businesses don’t have a formalized social media plans and that who’s accountable for that is still unclear, this may be due to the previous point. With the consequences anyone can imagine.

Beyond simple-minded and easy criticism, the stake is in understanding that, in the digital era, customer relationship (often called Social CRM) means considering jointly marketing, communication, relationships and services through a global approach making it necessary for HR, IT and marketing (at least) to work on a shared roadmap.

Anyone can say that CMOs are terrible and social media useless. That’s not because of any of them but because of the system in which those who use them work.