CMOs’ Top Priority is figuring out How Best to Engage with Customers.

22993Data and analysis alone cannot drive marketing activities. Even in today’s Big Data mania, marketers still understand that customer engagement is the most important element of a successful program, according to the inaugural Korn/Ferry Marketing Pulse Survey, released by the Korn/Ferry Marketing Center of Expertise, which polled 124 CMOs and marketing leaders from the Korn/Ferry database of top U.S. companies.

Marketers are forced to learn and adapt to new standards and technologies. Knowing what plagues them in the wee hours of the night helps to better determine what matters most in the field today. The survey revealed that customer engagement keeps the majority of marketing executives (52 percent) awake at night. Within the broad category of customer engagement, 30 percent are concerned with creating sustainable and engaging customer relationships and 22 percent are focused on the customer experience. Other concerns include dealing with budgetary issues (nine percent), staying ahead and taking advantage of digital (29 percent) and acquiring digitally savvy talent (11 percent).

Thirty-five percent of respondents believe that, within their organization, the marketing department is solely responsible for customer experience and engagement, while 31 percent believe it is a joint marketing and sales effort, 28 percent say it is a multi-functional task force, three percent say the job falls to no one and two percent believe sales alone are responsible.

“It is not surprising that customer engagement remains a top priority for marketers. The marketing team may not be directly selling a service or product, as the sales team does, but they are wholly tasked with engaging with the customer across multiple touch points to build brand value, and as a result business value,” said Caren Fleit, Senior Client Partner and head of Korn/Ferry International’s Global Marketing Center of Expertise. “The best marketers will know how to leverage all the moving parts to create a unique, long-lasting relationship with customers that can ultimately be monetized on behalf of the business.”

Now more than ever, the relationship between a marketing executive and the CIO is shifting into focus, as information intelligence can be a competitive advantage for marketing teams. When asked how they work together to create an integrated customer experience, 46 percent of marketing executives say the focus is on improving customer engagement management, while only 40 percent say leveraging big data and 13 percent say other methods.

Despite that, the overwhelming majority (87 percent) of respondents say they expect their company to increase the use of predictive analytics and big data tools this year. In the context of how analytics can best be used to underpin creative initiatives, the majority of respondents (50 percent) say analytics can be most effective when leveraging consumer data to support intuitive hypotheses.

As the industry faces an ever expanding list of content publishing channels, marketers must determine which ones will be most beneficial to achieving their goals.

Most popular marketing channels to engage with customers, ranked

1. Online advertising
2. Facebook
3. Events
4. E-mail alerts
5. Twitter

Least popular marketing channels to engage with customers east popular marketing channels, ranked

12. LinkedIn
13. Loyalty programs
14. Print mailers
15. Television advertising
16. Other employees

Online Reputation Matters. Most brands operate multiple social channels at once pushing out content frequently and actively engage in direct conversations with customers which all have the potential to impact reputation. In this quasi-deregulated marketing environment, it is not surprising that 89 percent of marketing executives say that the rise in social media use has increased the importance of reputational management in their marketing strategies.

Growing Talent in a Technical Marketing Environment is a Struggle. As marketing teams determine how to maximize customer engagement through more technically driven channels, the “specialists versus generalists” quagmire is presenting real talent management challenges for executives. When asked how to develop this type of marketing talent within their teams, the vast majority of respondents (74 percent) say to give them stretch goals beyond their specialization, while only 26 percent say to keep growing them vertically in that same function.

Advertising in the Digital Age. Marketers understand that online advertising is fundamental to a comprehensive marketing plan, as 85 percent of respondents say they currently allocate budget to digital advertising. Of those who spend on online ads, the overwhelming majority (67 percent) choose to employ Google ads, followed by Facebook ads (24 percent), YouTube ads (5 percent) and SMS ads (4 percent)—and 72 percent of the 15 percent who do not currently earmark budget plan to in the next year. Mobile-only programs are also gaining popularity, with 69 percent of respondents allocating a substantial portion of spend on those initiatives.

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