Marketing getting lost in digital according to Accenture

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cmo insightAccenture issued a CMO Insight Survey,summing-up the challenges of digital marketing. The result of this is difficulty to keep up with clients’ expectations in a complex that gets every day more complex. But despite of this and the disconnect between the talents they have and the capabilities they need, CMOs believe they can significantly improve their performance in the future.

So there’s a couple of things we learn from the survey.

Digital Marketing : too many channels, lack of talents, blurry ROI

•The pressure is still high on growth and operational efficiency but CMOs are also expected to capture opportunities quickly as they show up.

•Growing expectations in terms of customer experience and service

•The need for mastering digital data to make decisions in real time

•Difficulties to measure their own ROI

• Despite the fact digital is a major call in many businesses, few marketing departments think they’re up to it. Even more : digital is poorly integrated into operations and business.

• The two major problems CMO face are lack of funding and digital talents.

•CMOs are lost in the proliferation of digital channels. This proliferation leads to having much more new kinds of partnerships that make it hard to have a comprehensive management of digital marketing.

Service and customer experience first

There’s nothing really new here but the confirmation of some trends on matters that become critical by having been neglected for too long.

But I can’t prevent myself from wondering if the key to digital marketing performance was not outside of digital. Let me explain : while we’re seeing businesses trying to build “the” campaign that will fit the most with these new channels, attract the right talents to master these channels, we see that the problem is elsewhere.

The importance of customer experience and service in the survey is not anecdotical. If the mastery of digital channels becomes a necessity, it’s clear that the matter if organizational and cultural above all. If building digital talents and competences is key it won’t be of any use in an organization that is not designed for digital.

A feeling confirmed by the concept of capturing opportunities. There again it’s a matter of operational agility at the CMO level and of empowerment at the employee level. This reminds me of the famous talk John Chambers gave to the MIT’s students. What I learned from it was Chamber’s obsession for anticipation and catching “market transitions”. That’s the point. But it’s more a matter of agility, structures and evolution towards a Service Oriented Organization. Of course, digital will help but it won’t be helpful for an organization that prefers hard planning to agility and responsiveness. Moreover, if digital serves agility it’s more about internal digital (collaboration) than external digital (communication and marketing).

An organizational matter rather than a digital one

If the survey shows that marketing departments get the need for horizontal work to spread digital awareness within the organization, it’s clear that it implies that this  horizontality and everything made necessary by this new digital focus should be made possible in first place.

Then comes the usual and thorny point on ROI. A matter on which I’ll elaborate more later but that reminds a lot of all the discussions on influencers. If there’s clearly an issue related to indicators that are not always relevant, there’s also a tracking problem. When does noise and conversations turns into a buying action . Maybe, on day, big data will help to answer the question by tracking and correlating data but today the focus is more on increasing the digital footprint without doing further and measuring its impact. It’s both a matter of indicators, of data availability and processing and of tracking things along a new value chain.

One more thing before I end. The survey is about the challenges of digital marketing as CMOs see them. But do they really understand their own challenges and what customer expect ? I remind you of this 2011 study from the IBM Institute for Business Value that, among other things, showed the impressive gap that existed between actual customers’ expectations and what businesses thought they were. Really worth reading.

IBV customer ranking

What if the first challenge for digital marketing was to understand customers ?