CMOs More Accountable In Proving ROI, Yet Lack Resources To Execute

Study Cites Internal Silos, Resistance To Change And Limited Tech Expertise as Barriers

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Despite all the industry's chatter about mobile and digital and its obsession with data, chief marketing officers are blocked by internal hurdles in reaching digital and data-focused marketing goals.

A new study by Leapfrog Marketing Institute finds that although marketers have zeroed in on digital and mobile since 2009, when its first study was conducted, many companies are still not yet able to execute mobile e-commerce. And while marketing budgets have stabilized or grown since the recession, CMOs in the survey almost universally said that they are under more pressure to deliver measurable ROI with those budgets. Some 93% of respondents citied this as true.

CMOs in the study cited three barriers hindering their data, digital and mobile marketing efforts: internal silos at their companies; resistance to change within their companies; and limited expertise with emerging technologies and solutions. The takeaway is that while CMOs are feeling pressure to tie marketing efforts to financial results in a way they haven't before, their organizations lack the ability to deliver those results.

The 2014 CMO Digital Benchmark Study was conducted by a unit of digital agency Leapfrog Online and is designed to illustrate how top marketers' approach to digital marketing has changed in the five years since its maiden study. LeapFrog worked on the study with Fred Ehle, managing partner of consultancy BrandApart and newly minted VP-customer officer at McDonald's, as well as Stephen Hersh, adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism's Integrated Marketing Communications Program.

Mr. Ehle said that the study indicates that the rise of mobile technology and consumers' adoption of it is happening at a pace that surpasses companies' adoption abilities. Structures of corporations also appears to be holding marketing back. "There's a siloed nature of corporations in general, and it gets heightened when you work beyond the typical functions you've done in the past," said Mr. Ehle. He noted that while CMOs and chief technologists are working together more and learning each other's departments, the overall siloed nature of companies is impeding progress.

The survey's respondent pool is relatively small: the study surveyed 91 executive-level marketers who make the major marketing decisions at their companies. In total, 72% of the respondents work at organizations with 3,000 or more employees, and nearly half of them control marketing budgets that exceed $25 million.

The capabilities that the executives cited as the most important are their websites, data tracking and analytics and mobile -- yet those were are also cited as some of the least-developed marketing capabilities at their companies. (Mr. Ehle said that he was surprised to learn that respondents felt their websites were the least developed.) One-third of senior marketers, for instance, said they are unable to use data tracking and analytics to track sales.

Those three capabilities (web, data and mobile) are also primarily managed internally, said Mr. Ehle, noting that many execs would like to turn them over to outside data and tech firms who have far better expertise than internal departments. However, the internal hurdes -- silos, resistance to change and limited expertise -- also prevent marketers from being able to seek outside help.

The omni-channel, or integrated marketing approach, is overall the least developed within organizations covered by the survey; only 4% of respondents said their internal omni-channel capabilities are extremely well developed. Internal silos are a major culprit here, because siloed organizations don't share data and expertise and don't always communicate well, said Mr. Ehle. Only 40% of respondents overall said they even have integration across online and offline marketing efforts when asked the question: How well integrated are your digital and offline marketing communication channels in providing a path to purchase?

So how do companies start to right these wrongs? It's a long road, but Mr. Ehle suggested that marketers should start by implementing test cases to demonstrate success in data, mobile or digital. He said executives from multiple internal departments -- such as finance, tech and marketing -- should all be brought into the process to begin a more communicative approach and to develop more reasonable metrics for tying marketing to sales.

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