Digital Marketing – What Are The Top Goals And Challenges?

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Last week I attended the ExactTarget Connections conference with nearly 10,000 other digital marketers.

And all of us were looking to find out the best way to reach and convert new customers.

Just ahead of the conference, previewed this research from ExactTarget, conducted by Forrester and uncovered that “meeting the expectations of the always-connected customer” was the biggest challenge. This was reported as the number one challenge by 15% of the digital marketers surveyed.

The second biggest challenge was “executing consistent digital campaigns that drive business outcomes.” This was reported by 14% of the digital marketers as the top challenge they face in reaching new customers.

The third biggest challenge was the “proliferation of new touch points and channels to engage customers across paid, owned and earned media.” This was reported and the biggest challenge by 13% of the digital marketers surveyed.

When adding the issues cited as a top-3 challenge across all the digital marketers surveyed, personalization rises to the top as a challenge, specifically “personalizing every customer interaction with relevant experiences.”

This is followed by “meeting expectations” and “analyzing streams of digital data.” See the results in the chart below:


Interestingly, marketing attribution and which tactics and programs are getting their fair share of credit for marketing ROI, continues to be marketing’s dirty little secret.

The report showed what may be a trend in marketing of pushing responsibility for post-sale customer service t the operations area and leaving marketing to focus more on personalization throughout the customer journey.

The report stated that nearly half (44%) believe that personalization activity has had significant impact on loyalty and retention while less than a third (31%) report that those efforts have had the same amount of impact on acquisition metrics. So personalization is relevant across the buyer journey, not just after the sale.

While personalization is seen as important, few collect the data required to be effective. Less than a third (28%) use customer information daily to plan and execute their digital marketing programs. The majority of digital marketers are more likely to use demographics (67%), behavioral data (64%) and campaign response data (63%).

The top tools used by digital marketers included

  • Web analytics
  • Email marketing platforms
  • Site search technology
  • Web content management systems (CMS)

At the conference I also attended a session from Deloitte where they also presented research on the top objectives of today’s CMO.

The main challenge cited by their study of marketing leaders showed that tying marketing results to the larger business was a top priority. Managing customer data was second and staying on top of marketing technology was third.

This is similar to my prediction that the marketing department of the future will be organized around content, data and technology. And while the Deloitte study did not mention content, a few questions from the audience led them to explain that content runs across all of the challenges and may, in fact, be the biggest challenge facing CMOs aside from the need to tie results back to the business.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and please follow along on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

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Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

12 thoughts on “Digital Marketing – What Are The Top Goals And Challenges?

  1. Thanks Kristin, I really appreciate it. This was a tough one. Most people think the primary objective of marketing is to get leads for sales. As a former sales guy and a believer in lead generation as an objective, I do believe that sales (and product engineers) are customers of marketing.

    But to me, everyone wins when you focus on adding value to the customer and advocating for customers back through the organization (to create more valuable content, to improve customer service, to make better products, etc). I think this is why marketing is counter-intuitive to many people.

    Best, Michael

  2. Great post!
    I work in a B2B company. It’s all very recognizable.
    “Everyone is in marketing” and the role of marketing in all touch-points (customer experience) are a long way from being accepted.

  3. Hi Michael,

    Great post. To me, the role of marketing is defined by answering the question: “How can marketing help…

    1. Create more leads? As the shift from outbound to inbound marketing continues, marketing plays a huge role.

    2. Convert more sales opportunities? For instance, how can marketers help sales people differentiate themselves with social media tools?

    3. Increase loyalty and lifetime customer value? For example, by creating loyalty programs, referral programs, influencing product development, producing case studies, etc.

    Every organization is different, of course, and perhaps this is an oversimplification. But when marketers stay focused on the key elements of the sales funnel, it’s hard to go wrong.

    Meanwhile, keep up the great work.

  4. Great reading!

    I also really like what Mike Schultz and John E. Doerr have written in their book ” Professional services marketing”, that marketing can deliver four core measurable outcomes:
    1. New conversations with potential buyers.
    2. Better odds of winning client engagements.
    3. Higher revenue per client and per engagement, and higher fees for your services.
    4. Increased affinity with the actual and potential workforce

  5. Today in B2B, Sales or Product drive revenue, marketing supports that. In CPG, the buying decision is largely driven by marketing, it a point of purchase decision, historical experience with known products and perception of unknown ones, and branding and promotions are driving forces.

    I agree (whole heartedly) that marketing is more than branding and that content strategy will be key. Content strategy, at least today, is the best tool most B2B marketers have to turn the tables and serve their customer, instead of simply shouting at them.

    That though, is where I think the progression will stop.

    Marketing can represent the customer, but this is an intermediary role (and may not establish or reinforce the leadership position you are advocating for marketing). Other groups have the direct interactions with customers. Marketing needs to join those, learn from those, and ensure content and communication reflect what is learned through those direct interactions. But this is an intermediary representing the customer voice for communications, not for, for instance, the company’s specific sales or service practices.

    Sales, service and account is where the most impactful experience or connection happens with the company or brand. As that experience is shared by customers and prospective, it has a massive ripple effect, and marketing is very concerned about that ripple.

    However, unless marketing is massively redefined, (and probably no longer called marketing!) I don’t see marketing owning that customer experience. It impacts them and they will advocate to improve it, but not own it.

    I’m a marketer, and I like the vision you put forward here. Maybe I’m a pessimist today, but I only see B2B marketers being able to hit on half of the vision you put forward. For the balance, marketing is merely one of the stakeholders.

    — @wittlake

  6. Michael,

    I agree with you that marketing has lost credibility in some companies. In fact, in my travels, I’ve heard many sales reps complain that marketing is not providing the right content, generating poor leads and out of touch.

    On the other hand there are organizations that “get it” and thought leaders like yourself who are educating us all on the role marketing can and should play in B2B focused companies.

    In my post “what is marketing” I echo your thoughts:

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