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Are digital marketers headed for a wipeout?

Tom Kaneshige | April 16, 2015
According to a new report from Forrester, marketers don't completely understand the technology driving digital marketing.

wipe out

As marketers ride the digital wave to higher salaries, greater roles and bigger budgets, will it all come crashing down? Do marketers really understand the technology that has upended their profession? If they don't improve their digital IQ in a hurry, they're risking a wipeout.

Consider this new Forrester report about marketers, 2015: The Year of the Big Digital Shift, which found swaths of poorly prepared marketers:

"A particularly surprising finding is that despite the increased spending, confidence and future expectations for digital marketing, respondents admitted they don't completely understand today's marketing environment," writes Forrester analyst Jim Nail in the report.

That's no strategy
Time and again, Forrester found a disconnect between a marketer's optimism and reality. For instance, almost two-thirds of marketers claim to have created an effective digital marketing strategy. After pressed, though, more than half admitted that their digital marketing is more tactical than strategic.

This finding in particular mirrors the theme at the MarTech Conference in San Francisco earlier this month. Attendees, mostly techies, lamented a marketer's penchant for making impulsive, tactical decisions. Speakers talked at length about architecting the technology stack and crafting a marketing tech strategy, in order to avoid shadow technology and the dreaded frankenstack.

Nearly everyone in Forrester's marketer survey -- 97 percent -- agrees measuring digital marketing's impact on business goals, such as revenue growth, is important. Yet only 60 percent say they're effective at doing so. Marketers face an attribution problem when it comes to their digital investments. For instance, a consumer might conduct an initial product search on a mobile device while waiting for a bus after work, watch an advertisement for the product on television at home, and then execute the order on a tablet at midnight. Each marketing interaction may have played a role in the sale, but it's impossible to tell.

Similarly, everyone -- 96 percent -- says the idea of "creating digital experiences that will build a stronger relationships between customer and the brand" is a top priority. Yet only 62 percent rated their firm as effective. Even worse, marketers claiming to be effective are probably overly optimistic. Forrester probed deeper into this group and found that more than half admitted not investing in the technology they need to build these relationships.

The problem is the lack of technology know-how or access to technology expertise. Less than 40 percent of marketers claiming to be effective at building digital relationships say their marketing and technology teams work well together or that their technology management team has the right skills, Forrester says. The rest have a lot of work to do.


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