Marketers call for strategy changes in effort to play wider company role

Marketing has often been seen by those outside the profession as an unnecessary cost, something marketing leaders have tried to address in an effort to be seen as a key component of business strategy. However, a major new study from Marketo and the Economist Intelligence Unit suggests that while there are still issues, a shift is occurring in the way marketing is approached and a path has been laid out to ensure marketing becomes a revenue generator.

A new report from Marketo and the Economist Intelligence Unit shows that the majority of marketers admit that the marketing structures in their organisations need to undergo dramatic changes in relation to keeping up with technology, managing customer engagement and playing a role in setting company strategy.

The study, which highlights the top challenges, investments and forecasts for marketers both today and over the next five years through data collected by surveying 478 CMOs and senior marketing executives worldwide, showed that 80% of marketers believe their marketing departments need an overhaul, with changes set to occur in six areas, including a shift towards marketing being a source of revenue, increased customer engagement and an increase in the use of data and technology by marketers.

Marketing to become a source of revenue through customer engagement

The study shows that more than 68% of marketers today feel that they are viewed by the rest of their company as little more than a cost centre. However, marketers say that in three to five years roughly four out of five companies will classify marketing as a revenue driver.

One of the keys to driving revenue is involvement in the customer experience and an increase in customer engagement, a trend that has been reflected with a growing number of brands increasingly looking to hire individuals with new skills in areas such as customer focus rather than a history in branding and campaigns.

Asda recently replaced its marketing boss with Barry Williams, who previously held the role of chief merchandising officer for food for the company and doesn’t have a traditional background in marketing. Meanwhile, Robin Terrell, who is responsible for marketing at Tesco, has a background in e-commerce.

While few marketers are responsible for managing the customer experience today, over the next three to five years, 75% of marketers say they will be responsible for the customer’s lifetime end-to-end experience, according to the study.

More than six out of ten marketers also say that engagement is manifested in customer renewals, retention and repeat purchases, making engagement important in terms of sales.

Sanjay Dholakia, chief marketing officer at Marketo, says: “Three out of every four marketers say that in three to five years, they will own the end-to-end customer engagement. That ownership puts marketing right at the center of revenue generation and setting the company strategy.”

Digital skill sets and technology critical to success

The crucial part of this shift will be the use of technology by marketers, as only half use data to gain insights and engage customers today, a number the report predicts will reach 81% in three to five years.

The idea of who becomes a marketer is also changing in this realm, with the concept that marketing is a home for creative types shifting as the role continually requires more analytical and data-driven skill sets in order to grasp the big picture.

The study shows that “marketing outsiders”, the growing band of marketers without marketing qualifications and skill sets more akin to technology roles than marketing, will continue to move into the business.

Moving forward, nearly 39% of marketers surveyed believe businesses will need new personnel in the areas of digital engagement, marketing operations and technology.

Along with the necessity of new data-driven skill sets, marketers also need to use technology to drive engagement through a variety of platforms. With digital and data holding a massive share of forecasted marketing spend, 75% of investments are aimed at reaching customers through different channels, such as via social networks, on mobile devices or through email.

However, despite their importance these channels are often fragmented, and the need for analytics was also cited in order to tie together data from multiple channels to tell an accurate story about the consumer.

Jeff Pundyk, global vice president of content solutions at the Economist Intelligence Unit, told Marketing Week: “Technology is driving this dramatic change, not just technology within companies but the technology consumers have. There’s a pressure on companies to be more engaged with their customers all the time.

“What we’re seeing is the customer becoming the center of the universe, and the marketer becoming the best and most frequent way for customers to have ongoing communication with the companies.”

He adds that while the idea of marketing going through a transformation is not “earth shattering”, the new shift is about marketing’s ascension.

“It used to be another back office role and was cost centered and not strategic, but now it has become the focus of any customer-centric world which means massive investment,” he says. “When you have massive investment, you have to be really strategic.”

The results of the survey come after a study earlier this year by Fournaise Marketing Group showed that 75% of marketing strategies had underperformed in 2014, while research carried out by Marketing Week and sister brand Econsultancy last year showed that the vast majority of finance directors feel they are unable to quantify the return on investment (ROI) that their organisation receives from its marketing spend.



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