The Struggle: Too Much Information, Too Many Solutions

Marketers are tasked with locating customers, setting goals for acquiring and retaining them, figuring out the media mix, hiring someone to monitor what goes out and the ROI that comes back, and bringing in services to help expedite on strategic plans. But they struggle with "TMI", not to mention "TMC" (too many choices and channels,) and “TMS” (too many solutions.) 

Those challenges are that much more pronounced in mid-size companies, which may have a sizable customer base, but not a sizable marketing budget. Do marketing services, of which there has been a proliferation in recent years, make the job easier? 

Maybe not. 

In February, Web services firm DNN Software, along with Lawless Research, commissioned a survey of 300 marketing executives at medium-sized U.S. companies -- those with between 50 and 5,000 employees. About three-quarters said that marketing has become more challenging, and nearly three-quarters admitted that managing the growing number of vendors is also challenging; and as many said they need a technology expert to help manage marketing technology. 

Navin Nagiah, president and CEO of the San Mateo, Calif.-based firm, tells Marketing Daily that medium-sized companies can’t afford the luxury of hiring a phalanx of specialists. Rather, they have to hire the equivalent of the country doctor who can do a little of everything and is willing to learn how to do procedures he or she can’t. "Specialists work well for larger companies, but smaller companies need to hire people who can wear multiple hats."

The survey found that fully 53% of mid-sized companies use five or more marketing technology solutions. Fifteen percent use ten or more. And marketers have no shortage of priorities. Judging from responses to DNN's survey, the top three marketing priorities for mid-sized companies in 2014 are to acquire new customers (87%), increase customer retention (86%), and increase brand awareness (80%). They also want to run social media ads and promotions, do content management, analytics and marketing ROI, email marketing, social community cultivation, marketing automation, and lead generation. 

By the end of the year, 77% of respondents say their companies plan to have online communities in place. But about the same percentage of respondents said it’s a challenge to get and hold the attention of target customers, and 72% said it’s difficult to find their target audiences online. 

"It seems like marketers want to be everywhere, want to talk to everyone, want to be talked about everywhere. But if you say everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. People are trying to do a lot, but the tendency is to 'spray'."

The solution, he says, is to ruthlessly prioritize in terms of what tools have the most impact, and which have most value, and then use those and get ROI. "Be ruthless in terms of which social channels you use and which move the needle. So if you are B-to-B, LinkedIn might be your top channel.

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