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Low Digital Marketing Acumen Is Hurting Brands

low digital marketing accumenThere’s a discrepancy, it seems, between the amount of time marketers spend talking and blogging about digital marketing and their likelihood to actually execute digital marketing efforts.

From the volume of articles written, conferences attended, and twitter chats participated in, one would assume that all marketers and the brands they represent are completely digitally savvy and thus taking advantage of all that the medium offers. A variety of reports I’ve encountered recently seem to suggest the opposite; marketers’ low digital marketing acumen is hurting brands or maybe it’s just their lack of confidence? In either case, it’s worth exploring.

In December of 2014, CMO.com published an article that suggested 2015 would be the “year of digital transformation.” It highlighted the change in attitudes among marketers from the previous year in which marketers seemed less aware or keen about digital channels.

“These days digital transformation is top-of-mind for CMOs, and it reaches all corners of marketing,” the site reported. Many are still not putting their money where their mouths are.

Low Digital Marketing Acumen Is Hurting Brands

In a study created to better understand the reasons why digital marketing ranked below traditional media advertising in co-op programs offered by brands, Netsertive and Borrell Associates discovered that a lack of digital marketing understanding was behind the slow adoption.

82% of marketers responding to the survey indicated they preferred accessing co-op marketing dollars for newspaper advertising, 71% offered direct mail and radio. According to the study, marketers’ lack of comfort or understanding of digital marketing resulted in “$14 Billion in brand co-op marketing funds simply left on the table each year.”

In a January 2015 article on 2015 digital marketing trends for Econsultancy, Ashley Friedlein postulates that’s there’s really nothing new that will occur this year. While “there’s been a lot of investment in digital over the last decade…we are a long way from the seamless, omni-channel, personalized customer experiences we talk about.” He cites the fact that we’re all talking about customer-centricity but are failing to utilize technology to “connect-the-dots” between strategy and execution.

Measuring The Wrong Metrics?

One argument put forth in our office here at Sensei that may explain the number of marketers still unwilling to embrace digital marketing, is the lack of measurement offered by campaigns or the fact that they’re measuring the wrong thing.

Despite the amount of technology, experience, and education available, marketers still seem to gravitate towards soft metrics including impressions and clicks instead of attempting to tie activity in online engagement to long term effects on customer lifetime value. There’s a lack of vision in many marketers today that prevents them from seeing the bigger picture and the benefits such measurement could realize for their departments and budgets.

To be fair, many marketers are tied down by limited budgets and the demand for short-term results imposed on them by  company executives and shareholders. This pressure also forces marketers (and the ad procurement firms they hire) to drive CPM or Cost Per Thousand (Impressions) down, which means they’re purchasing the low-quality or risky online inventory.  While this strategy may drive short-term metrics like clicks up, it decreases meaningful metrics, such as conversions and effect of LTV, down.

The Missing Link: Customer Lifecycle and ROI

Salesforces’s 2014 The State of Marketing Leadership suggests that “86% of senior-level marketers agree that it’s absolutely critical or very important to create a cohesive customer journey.”  Yet only 17% report having fully integrated the customer journey into their marketing strategy and reporting metrics.

As reported by CMO.com, Kurt Anderson, the CMO at SAVO, suggested that marketing analytics reporting tools will become just as common as Web site analytics tools in 2015.  “The end has come for making marketing decisions based on gut instincts; everything marketers do in the digital world can now be tracked, from the first click all the way to the deal close. CMOs who do not embrace and accept this concept will likely not be CMOs for very long.”

True words, yet there seems to be a fundamental disconnect between the need for tracking and what needs to be tracked.  Until executives embrace the need for a long-term view of digital marketing, and fund customer lifetime value measurement, this disconnect will continue and the money that is invested in digital marketing will not produce the ROI it can or should.

Sensei Debates

Are brand marketers still reluctant to invest in digital marketing strategies?
If so, what’s the reason?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Sam Fiorella
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego.


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