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Most US marketing executives (80%) report an increased spend on content marketing, signalling that businesses are once again putting more money into their marketing efforts, according to the '2014 Marketing Pulse Survey' from talent consulting firm Korn Ferry, which also revealed the latest techniques for engaging customers. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

The study was conducted by the firm's Global Marketing Center of Expertise and polled 215 CMOs and senior marketing executives from top US companies, and found that only 27% of marketing executives cited "onnecting marketing to bottom-line results" as the top concern keeping them up at night.

What plagues CMOs the most is the ability to create sustainable and engaging customer relationships while improving the customer experience (34%). Also, 27% say staying ahead and taking advantage of the latest digital technology trends is a main concern.

As budgets increase, the survey indicates there's growing pressure among marketing executives to demonstrate that their work directly contributes to bottom-line results. Some 57% of CMOs cite the inability to directly connect marketing efforts to tangible business outcomes as the top factor behind low CMO tenure.

Also contributing to high turnover among CMOs is the inability to align marketing deliverables with CEO objectives (17%), the inability to drive organisational change (17%) and the inability to deliver timely results (9%).

"It's not surprising that more organisations are taking a hard look at how marketing spend impacts over-all business outcomes. What is surprising is that, despite this knowledge, many CMOs are not as focused on this part of the equation and keeping a majority of their focus on customer engagement," said Caren Fleit, senior client partner and head of Korn Ferry's Global Marketing centre of Expertise. "Customer engagement is critical and must be a key focus, but CMOs need to remember that the overarching purpose of driving this engagement is to drive business results. In order to be successful in today's business environment, CMOs and marketing executives need to be learning agile and strike a balance, achieving both internal and external objectives."

Helping to achieve that balance, the overwhelming majority (79%) of respondents say their company plans to increase the use of predictive analytics and Big Data tools, which 39% find particularly useful for measuring the business success of creative programmes. According to the survey, digital marketing and analytical thinking are the most sought after specialised skills within the marketing function.

As the industry faces a growing list of channels in which to reach customers, marketers must determine which ones will be most beneficial to achieving their goals. Aligning with the renewed emphasis on customer engagement, customer service broke into the top five marketing channels for 2014.

The most popular marketing channels to engage with customers were:

  1. Facebook
  2. Online advertising
  3. Twitter
  4. Events
  5. Customer service

The least popular marketing channels to engage with customers were:

  1. Loyalty programmes
  2. Television advertising
  3. LinkedIn
  4. Print mailers
  5. Other employees

Given the added pressures and strategic responsibilities being placed on the marketing function, it's more important than ever for marketers to work cohesively with other organisational functions to develop an integrated customer experience.

According to the survey, respondents feel the biggest hurdle in achieving this goal is aligning the various department strategies and priorities (43%), followed by integrating the customer experience across all sales channels (26%) and developing seamless messaging across different communication platforms (14%).