What lies ahead for marketers in the next 12 months? The future is bright, according to the 2014 State of Marketing survey, which reveals a massive 98% of marketers plan to increase their budgets this year and use the money to focus on conversion rates, raising brand awareness and behaviour-based data.
Drawing on the insights of more than 2,500 marketers in a range of industries and company sizes worldwide, the survey by US-based marketing analyst and analytics software developer ExactTarget shines a spotlight on priorities in terms of channel use and metrics analysis, existing and potential new marketing objectives and proposed campaign strategies.
The marketing shift
Generally speaking, marketing priorities have shifted. Where last year the onus was on acquiring new subscribers, this year that charge gives way to getting more and better engagement from them. Marketers want to improve brand awareness among consumers, backed by behaviour-based big data that can boost conversion rates. This is reflected in what marketing budgets will be spent on this year – data and analytics, marketing automation, email and social media marketing, and content management. Indeed, 98% of marketers will increase or at least maintain their marketing spend this year.
Where’s the ROI?
Furthermore, four out of five of those surveyed believe that investing in mobile technologies will provide ROI. A similar proportion predict high ROI from social media, despite this being a notoriously difficult area to demonstrate a return – probably reflected in the fact that marketers see social activity (likes, shares, retweets, etc.) as a significantly less important metric to keep tabs on than conversion and engagement rates.
Moreover, a heightened consumer experience with the brand is crucial to driving conversions. This means intelligent, data-driven measures to rid consumers of the fluff they’re not interested in – marketing automation, essentially an expanded version of the “If you liked that, you’ll probably like this…” method of internet shopping, will drive this – and using social media, targeted email marketing, and responsive mobile content to deliver a better, more personalised web experience.
Areas of focus
The 2014 State of Marketing report breaks down specific areas of focus for marketers, comparing the proportion of companies and the marketing tools they currently use, tools that they intend to use in 2014, and those that will not be used this year. Now, aside from displaying this as incomprehensible concentric pie charts, unfortunately these figures do not reflect new uptake or attrition. In other words, what proportion of companies not using a particular method this year were using it previously and have chosen to stop, and how many were using a channel and intend to continue? Despite this, a few take-home points emerge:
- It’s widely agreed that email marketing is still your best friend, with 88% of respondents currently using it and more than half of marketers saying they will increase their spend on email marketing this year. That a mere 9% have said they intend to use it, and 3% will not, is telling that it is already ubiquitous and effective, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
- Much the same is true of companies using data and analytics to drive marketing. Currently 81% of respondents rely on intelligent data, with 13% intending to use it, and just 6% stating they will not.
- Similarly, nearly three-quarters of marketers already use SEO in their marketing activities, while 17% intend to use SEO, and just 10% state they will not.
- This was roughly the same proportionally for the use of specified landing pages to drive potential customers down the marketing funnel.
Who’s not doing what?
An interesting point was made with reference to lifestyle marketing –cherry-picking specific customers at specific times – whereby, despite putting weight on improving the individual customer experience, relatively little budget is being leveraged for personalised approaches like birthday and anniversary-led email marketing campaigns. Compared with other lifecycle campaigns, birthday especially has the highest reported success rates for engagement and is an excellent means of building brand loyalty without too much work on the part of the marketer.
With this in mind, perhaps too much weight is put behind the top three lifecycle campaigns – newsletter (which 66% of marketers already use), promotional (61%) and web opt-in (54%) – which while important perhaps appear very overused compared with birthday or loyalty-based campaigns.
Not mobile enough
Every year seems touted as the year that mobile takes over from desktop. According to ExactTarget’s research, however, 2014 really is the year as the number of mobile-connected devices now exceeds the number of people on earth. This could also account for the fact that at least three phones lie dormant in every bedside table in the world, but nevertheless the point is still pretty staggering.
As such responsive web design is utterly de rigueur. And yet, 42% of respondents say they rarely use responsive design in their email marketing, which is stranger still when you consider that a similar number of respondents admitted that between a third and half of their email subscribers opened emails using a mobile device. Indeed, consider the fact that you can go for days on your phone and not actually call someone; such is the scale of phone use these days.
Compare also that a web opt-in approach to digital marketing is used by 54% of marketers, versus only 22% that use mobile opt-in – less than half.
Mobile SMS marketing will not be used by nearly half of respondents in 2014. This could also be unwise: perhaps it could be argued that the responsiveness of mobile email servers these days is such that SMS is less of a necessity, though design expertise is a factor when making an effective email campaign. Popular SMS campaigns include holiday or event-based campaigns and loyalty campaigns with exclusive deals.
Meanwhile, barely a fifth of respondents currently implement, and over half will not be implementing mobile push notifications. Considering that four out of every five minutes on a mobile phone is spent using an app, push notifications are the most direct way of driving engagement and pushing the user to different areas of the app’s functionality.
Littler is better in social marketing
There’s a lot of faith but very mixed opinions when it comes to social media among marketer communities. The State of Marketing report points out that marketing departments on the whole are dedicating the same levels of resources to social media campaigns as they do to email marketing, despite email’s clear maturity as an effective and targeted marketing tool. The jury is still out on what kind of ROI marketers can expect from social media; 34% claim they already see ROI, and 52% have faith they will see it eventually. Meanwhile, 66% of respondents believe that social media does impact your business performance, albeit indirectly by producing a rounded brand voice, a kind face, an expert opinion or a new dimension (perhaps a visual dimension in the case of, say, Pinterest).
Conversely, however, just 31% of respondents feel their social listening is paying dividends and only 23% feel their social media advertising is proving effective at engaging their audience.
To maximise ROI for social media, the results suggest that smaller, more focused campaigns are the way forward, rather than trying to be on every social media channel. Perhaps adopting only the two social media channels that are most relevant to your business and your customers will optimise your use of resources. Meanwhile, because of the small scale of the operation, this approach should naturally reveal your social media strategy as you get bigger and better.
With content marketing certainly a staple aspect of the modern marketing landscape, the report suggests that Google+ is the new star to shoot for, offering rankings boosts for verified content authors sharing work via the social network which is now firmly in the big leagues, exceeding Twitter’s users numbers.
The marketing landscape has shifted in 2014, and with it focus of marketing campaigns looks to boosting the bottom line – your conversions – by improving the customer’s experience, through targeted, data-driven methods and creative content marketing.