The end of the year is somehow upon us, and so is for planning the year to come. But what are chief marketing officers hoping for in the next 12 tumultuous months? Recently, my agency sponsored some in-depth research with a group of current and past clients -- both B2B and B2C -- about the state of marketing. Here are five things they're pushing for in 2017.
1. Move measurement up front. One CMO put it well: "I would like agencies to present the results-driven ideas along with the creative. I want the translation of how we're going to measure the impact." The challenge in getting hold of this marketing performance data is rising, however, as larger in-house creative groups claim ownership.
2. Deeper marketing justification. A surprising number of marketing heads still struggle to justify what they do as an investment, and want agencies to pitch in more. The challenge:
- Marketing is not a solid thing: "Parts of our company don't really see this as an investment in the same way they would if they were to buy a machine."
- Marketing is not a C-Suite requirement: "When you have a successful company that doesn't have marketing as part of its leadership team, it is a challenging conversation to have."
- Marketing isn't sales: "We do track and show a return on the things that we do, but it's not as easy to measure the impact on something like revenue. The sales guy either makes his number or doesn't."
3. A broader look at brand. Not that it has gone away, but we heard new intensity about brand's primacy, and its growing importance as experience. "Before, brand stories were more about our history -- what we have done well, what sets us apart from the competition. Now we are more about what customers need in their life and how can we show them we can fulfill that," one CMO said. "My take is you have to provide a consistent experience and that defines what your brand is," another said. "Otherwise there's going to be a disconnect, which is where you lose loyalty and credibility."
4. More specialty shops, fewer AORs. "I don't need a whole village of senior account supervisors, senior account executives, management supervisors, assistant account executives and then my strategist," one COO and former CMO said. "I just need my strategist." "Sometimes in the larger agencies, you feel like the people that really know certain aspects of digital or media buying are kind of buried someplace," another said. "You're better off just going right to those agencies that do those specialties so you can deal with the principals."
5. When possible, take it in-house. We heard CMOs looking at every expense with a procurement-like eye. "What I hear from CMOs is a healthy skepticism about partnering with agencies on things like content, media buying, and video production," one said. "They just feel like there are going to be huge markups and I'm going to give them a lot of direction. I'm hearing a lot of people talk about bringing that in-house. Some of that may be driven by their budgets, some by objectives."
After hearing these responses, I had to scratch an itch and ask a question I've had for some time: Why do clients sometimes go quiet? As it turns out, I shouldn't have been taking it personally. We heard these reasons:
- There's no work: Once you launch a program, "you don't have much to talk about for a while."
- The budget is gone: "I would love to have a 24 x 7 engagement. We just don't have the money. It's not like we're hiding it. We just don't."
- We need to show impact: "We still have a ways to go to properly seed the agency's work in the market. We're not ready to move on to the next phase."
And with that, here's to a highly creative, highly measurable 2017.