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Web is key, but measurement still lacking

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Marketing executives view the Web as central to their businesses and are increasing Web spending, but most say they still have room for improvement in measuring the performance of Web marketing, according to a report from WebTrends.

The report," 2006 WebTrends CMO Web-Smart Report," was based on an online survey of more than 250 marketing executives. Those surveyed were from companies in high-tech, telecommunications, financial services, professional services, media, health care and other industries. More than half of the companies represented were b-to-b marketers.

Most companies will increase spending on Web marketing this year, with 35.5% increasing spending 10% to 25%; 26.0% of companies increasing Web spending by 25% to 50%; and 21.6% of companies increasing Web spending by more than 50%.

No companies in the survey plan to decrease Web spending this year as part of their marketing efforts, and 16.9% plan to keep Web budgets the same as last year.

More than half (56.6%) of those surveyed said the Web is currently the hub of their marketing strategy or will become the hub within the next 12 months.

However, most marketers did not give their companies high marks when it comes to measuring the performance of Web marketing.

"They have some [measurement] efforts going on, but it is still a big area for improvement for most of them," said Brent Hieggelke, VP-marketing at WebTrends, a technology company for marketing performance measurement.

When marketers were asked, "How would you currently rate your organization's ability to measure Web marketing performance?" 56.4% said they had some metrics but there was still room for improvement; 23.6% said Web marketing measurement is currently a weakness and an area that needs a lot of improvement; and 4.9% said marketing is not held accountable for results. Only 15.1% said marketing measurement was a strength at their organization.

Marketing executives were also asked to rank their own knowledge of the latest Web marketing trends, strategies and technologies.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being low knowledge and 10 being expert knowledge, marketing executives gave themselves an average score of 6.3%.

They were also asked to rank their staffs' collective knowledge of Web marketing trends, strategies and technologies. Using the same scale, they gave their staffs an average score of 5.5%.

The survey also looked at staffing resources dedicated to analyzing Web marketing performance.

Only 9.7% of companies have multiple full-time employees dedicated to Web marketing analysis; 15.7% have a single full-time employee dedicated to analysis; 25.5% said Web analysis is the part-time responsibility of a single employee; and 26.4% said it is the part-time responsibility of multiple employees.

Also, 15.7% of companies do not perform any Web marketing analysis, and 6.9% outsource analysis to an agency or consultant.

"If indeed Web marketing is this important, having it spread among part-time folks or a single person would seem to indicate they are undersourcing this," Hieggelke said. "The good news is, companies are planning to invest in training and metrics."

When asked, "What are you doing to breed an ROI mind-set within your organization and to increase the accountability of the marketing function in 2006?" 49.0% of marketers said they are investing in the training of existing employees.

Also, 46.9% of marketers said they are building metrics into employee performance reviews and compensation; 25.5% said they are hiring dedicated business analysts; and 19.4% said they are hiring an outside agency or consultant to provide analysis or services.

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