No doubt about it: Marketing is the last business unit to automate processes. Technology moved in to streamline and integrate campaigns, but some marketers still stand stiff as statues, caught like deer in the bright headlights of an oncoming car.
The fear of automation keeps CMOs struggling to prove return on investment for campaigns and projects, from search engine marketing to display and beyond. Nearly 40% of marketers think the ability to correlate campaigns to ROI remains broken, according to a study released earlier this week.
The joint survey results from Aprimo and Argyle Executive Forum's CMO Leadership Community, reveal 37% think that creating a compelling customer experience drives the most change to their marketing strategies. Thirty seven percent also believe the biggest challenge facing CMOs today remains integrating and tracking multiple channels, and 28% of marketers feel the biggest challenge is doing more with less.
When I asked Lisa Arthur, CMO at Aprimo, a marketing software and services company that builds productivity and performance marketing tools, what's missing in the industry to prevent companies from more closely connecting the ROI and campaigns, she told me a variety of reasons why the problem still exists. I first became aware of the battle while working at an in-house marketing agency during the 1980s.
For starters, some companies may need to improve the way they manage digital assets, Arthur says. Many still haven't connected the dots. It's not only about tools that automate processes, but the need to educate complete marcom divisions, from CMOs to marketers. "Marketers want to run to the next shinny pretty bauble because we want to be innovative and hip," she says. "With that, we don't think of the long-term view. So, marketers install plug-ins to Salesforce applications or slap on Excel spreadsheets with pivot tables that lock in information into silos."
Marketing is the largest discretionary spend of most companies, and that's not including fixed costs for salaries and facilities. Arthur served as a CMO of a public company and not had an automation platform similar to what you might find in finance, human resources or sales. It's been more than 10 years since I worked in an in-house marketing communications business unit, but if it appears from Aprimo's survey that marketers continue to face the same challenge. Something's got to give.
The survey polled more than 100 CMOs at a recent Argyle CMO Spotlight Forum in New York that focused on B2C retail and consumer goods companies. The companies set out to discover what issues and challenges marketers face today and how everything from the multitude of growing social media channels to achieving accountability influences the way they adapt to challenges.
Since Aprimo builds and sells productivity and performance marketing tools that Arthur says can connect campaigns with ROI, I wanted to know how many of their existing or perspective clients took the survey. While the company couldn't offer me the exact number, it turns out about 5% of the registered conference attendees were Aprimo clients. No too bad. Since I've been hearing about these problems for decades, my biggest concern with the survey results was not having them skewed.
The original function of marketing was to drive business growth, but many marketers moved away from that model as technology meant to improve processes and accountability emerged, according to Arthur. "Marketers need to use software not to automate themselves out of a job, but apply strategy, content and campaign flows that create a compelling experience," she says.