Recently, we dug into stats showing marketers’ approach for 2014, including budget management and challenges surrounding data integration. Given the degree to which point of view can change a story, let’s dissect an alternative examination of 2014 marketers called the “State of Marketing 2014.” 

2014’s Top Marketing Priorities

According to the report, the top priorities for marketers in 2014 are driving increased conversion rates (47% of respondents), improving brand awareness (46%) and harnessing customer data (29%).

What jumps out at me here is the somewhat misleading nature of “priorities.”  Marketers can only have priorities if they have the requisite capabilities to make forward progress. Given the difficult nature of integrating data, I bet that harnessing data misleadingly occupies a comparatively low place on the priority list. All marketers would place a high priority on data usage if they felt like they could take actionable next steps toward using data better. After all, I’d argue that data usage directly affects both brand awareness and conversion rates.

Budget Growth

Similar to the previous report, marketing budgets are the targets of significant investment. 98% of marketers plan to increase spending, with the highest allocation growth toward Data (61%), Marketing Automation (60%) and Email Marketing (58%).

Perhaps your eyes perked reading “email marketing” in 2014. Shouldn’t email’s low open rates and zero two-way capability open the door for other channels? The answer, surprise, again comes down to data. As we saw last year, enterprise companies made massive investment in email marketing platforms. Email provides an opportune way for companies to develop customer database marketing capabilities, due to email marketing’s – speaking about the product specifically here – relatively long life span.

Productizing a marketing channel starts with a focus on communication. As more and more competitors enter the market, data, segmentation and targeting become product differentiators, as highly efficient and accurate communication become product commodities (i.e. standards offered by everyone). Email marketing’s product maturity has resulted in a channel well suited to capturing customer database insights and offering data tools. That’s why it’s important in 2014. Going forward, the same product evolution will happen (and, well, is happening) with SMS, push messaging and whatever messaging channel comes after that. With the email land grab over, big companies will start scooping up mobile messaging providers (anybody got $19B to spend?).

Lifecycle Marketing Challenges

For those that need a refresher, “lifecycle marketing” describes triggering automated messaging in response to various consumer actions. Examples include Welcome Programs, Cart Abandonment and Price-Drop Alerts.

According to the report, 65% of marketers identify subscriber engagement as their primary lifecycle challenge. Particularities for the various channels include: 49% send more than 500K annual messages (email), 42% use responsive design (email), 57% have a dedicated team (social), 80% believe in the channel’s potential for ROI (mobile and social) and 30% use location-based functionality (mobile).

I of course have mentioned this before, but I believe that personalization is the key to subscriber engagement. Marketers need to implement some basic personalization tactics to launch their lifecycle marketing strategies toward success.

Current Channel Investment

As far as specific channels, the largest majority of marketers currently implement Email Marketing (88% of respondents), SEM/SEO (73%), Data (81%) and Landing Pages (75%). On the other end of the spectrum, only a minority of marketers implement SMS (26%), Guided Selling (27%), Push Notifications (18%) and Personalized Web (29%).

Perhaps more interesting, the top targeted channels for 2014, i.e. those that will begin to receive investment according to the survey, include SMS (25%), Lead Scoring (30%), Marketing Automation (33%), Push notifications (29%) and Personalized Web (29%).

To me, it’s clear that the emerging digital channels are still, well, “emerging.” Even though channels like apps constantly make headlines, Push Notifications still require significant attention. I think that living in tech hubs you get the sense that the world is done with traditional marketing channels. However, clearly marketers still have a ways to go adopting those digital engagement avenues that appear to be requisite footholds for a future competitive advantage.

Top Success Metrics

According to the study, the top success metrics are Conversion Rate (67%), Engagement Rate (64%) and Return on Investment (61%). Rounding out the rest of the list, with half the penetration, are Lifetime Customer Value (35%), Audience List Growth (30%) and Social Activity (28%).

It’s exciting for me to see the list ordered in this way. Marketers have come a long way understanding what makes a successful campaign. Vendors too deserve some credit here, as they now provide more and more tools to accurately calculate these metrics.

Budget Increases

As we’ve stated, budget increases are now the norm for marketers. The majority of marketers (> 50%) are increasing spend for Email, SMS, SEM, Social Media, Marketing Automation, Display and Social. Less than 5% of marketers are decreasing spend on any particular channel.

In a way, these vast increases in spending show the importance of systems integration for enterprise marketers. No single channel works in a vaccum, rather it’s the synthesis of multiple channels working in tandem that marketers feel holds the key to success. Vendors building solutions that easily connect to others will have a leg up on their competition.

Overall Marketing Challenges

In order, marketers have the most trouble with Increasing Subscriber Engagement and Revenue (65%), Acquiring New Subscribers (58%), Developing Relationships (45%) and Getting Non-Active Subscribers’ Attention (42%).

Interesting to see the absence of one of the biggest challenges from the previous study: data. To me the answer to all of the above is data integration, so those marketers who focus on data will be best positioned to address their top challenges.

Overall Recommendations

The report outlined the importance of focusing on customer engagement, developing a clear data strategy and considering the various channel options.

I think these recommendations are solid. Personalized engagement is how marketers can remain effective now and in the future. “Personalized” meaning the use of data to target messaging and “Engagement” meaning compelling content that incites action from the customer. Taken together, sending a compelling message, at the opportune time, in the correct format, to a precise location.

Have you seen any other stats that seem interesting? Post them to the comments and let’s continue the conversation.

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