By Kimberly A. Whitler
What are the biggest challenges facing marketers across the globe? According to a hot-off-the-presses study conducted globally by IBM (500 marketing managers) across 15 different industries, creating growth (through the acquisition of new customers) and sustaining growth (through superior loyalty) is at the very top. Forty-two percent of respondents suggested that acquiring new customers and 36 percent suggested driving loyalty and satisfaction were the biggest challenges facing their organizations.
While these results aren’t earth-shattering as it is likely that a survey a decade ago would have yielded a similar pattern, what is surprising is the items at the bottom.
Only 21 percent of the respondents suggested that measuring ROI was the most challenging problem they faced, behind branding, leveraging data, understanding and effectively using social channels, and creating positive experiences for consumers. A few years ago, measuring ROI was at the top of everybody’s list. This perhaps suggests a sign of the times – that a tough marketplace, increased competition, a more global marketplace, and more savvy consumers has made growth especially challenging.
Other key findings from the survey suggest that the marketers who are driving better firm results are doing something different than their less successful counterparts. They tend to be significantly more adept at tracking, technology, and analytics and use these tools to develop more sophisticated and adaptable solutions. They are more engaged in all customer service interactions and tend to personalize marketing offers. In short, stronger firm-wide leaders are more engaged in all customer interaction, and seem to have greater competency in what is necessary to be successful today.
What Does This Mean For Marketers?
- Marketers Matter: While the importance, value, and role of marketers – and marketing – in the firm may be debated, this suggests that marketers are focusing on what they can uniquely deliver, which is growth. Many functions are focused on internal operations and are not directly responsible for creating and sustaining growth in the same way that marketing is. This data suggests that when it comes to building growth, marketers are focused on being the growth engine for the firm.
- Learn From the Successful: With unprecedented change and the plethora of articles talking about what marketers need to do to manage growth (e.g., manage big data, collaborate with finance and IT, integrate an omni-channel world, etc.) what needs to be done is clear. What isn’t clear is how to do it. A next step from this research that would be valuable is to create case studies of what the top marketers are actually doing that enables them to be successful. While there are a myriad of conferences for C-level marketers, what is missing is a business-school like approach to understanding how to solve these complex problems. A 1 hour discussion can’t really completely dissect the challenges associated with making this happen.
- Acquire the Right Skills: This research suggests that the individuals who are driving better firm results just seem to be more competent at navigating the more analytical, technical, and complex environment that exists today. People who went to business school 20 or 30 years ago either need a refresher course or need to generate the intellectual capital required of today’s environment.
Follow Kim on twitter @kimwhitler and read her columns at Forbes.com.