RESEARCH: Marketers’ Confidence at All-time High, But Still Room for Improvement

Posted on March 7, 2017 · Posted in Leadership, Marketing

March 7, 2017

by Carla Johnson

Marketers’ confidence rose from last year. While almost a third (30%) of marketers say they’re worried that their organization isn’t investing in the right customers. That number is down 13% from 2016.

These are the findings from the Marketers’ Confidence Index, a survey released by the American Marketing Association (AMA) in partnership with Kantar Vermeer. The report measures how optimistic U.S. marketers are about the economy based on the growth and spending of their organizations.

We’re getting better at understanding the ROI of marketing plans. Thirty-two percent of marketers feel more confident in their team’s ability to measure compared with 43% last year.

In contrast, only 25% felt their team had the right tools and processes in place, which is down by 8%. With the constant change that’s happening in marketing, it’s clear that both leaders and practitioners are uncertain as to whether they’re investing in the right operating model.

“While the Marketers’ Confidence Index revealed optimism in several key areas, there are some critical concerns leadership teams need to address and cannot afford to ignore,” says Marc de Swaan Arons, chief marketing officer and executive board member of Kantar Vermeer. “With technology changing the way customers engage, we all must harness the power of data and analytics as part of an integrated marketing strategy for growth, profitability and differentiation.”

There’s a strong message for CMOs who expect to lead the digital transformation of their business: Marketers need more and better training. Teams need to know more about new digital technologies, insights and analytics. Big organizations also need to learn how to communicate as well as smaller ones.

This opportunity has led to optimism for marketers. While there’s more work to do, there’s also an array of new tools from which to choose to be better at social media, personalization, marketing automation and augmented reality. Tied to the improvement in marketing’s ability to better measure, professionals are hoping to more effectively demonstrate the added value of their marketing initiatives, especially around analytics, Big Data and innovation.

“This study shows a major shift in how organizations are investing and spending their time,” says Russ Klein, CEO of the AMA. “While marketers hold a positive outlook on their industry and organization, and anticipate higher budget, they need senior leadership to know more about metrics and analytics for ROI and creating a customer-centric organization.”

Other findings include:

  • 86% of marketers 35 and younger are optimistic about the power and influence of marketing in an organization over the next few years. This is much higher than professional later in their career. Of those 56 and older, only 56% feel confident. This could be because the rate of change of technology continues to pick up and they’re uncertain about keeping pace. It could also be that they’re not able to see how the work that they do spills over into every area of the business. A word of caution to marketers in this later age group – broaden your perspective about the role that marketing should have within an organization or you may find yourself becoming obsolete before you’re ready to retire.
  • Of this younger group, 78% are confident that organizations should be making investments right now; only 59% of marketers age 36-45 felt now was a good time. Note, however, that optimism hasn’t equated to actual growing budgets, yet. This is an opportunity for younger and more seasoned marketers to work together. Experienced marketers know that getting more budget takes justification and often, unfortunately, unduly patience. This provides an opportunity for co-mentoring. Younger marketers teach by bringing new ideas to the table. Older marketers nurture by helping them understand the entire thought process of moving from an idea through approval and execution. This is a tremendous skill that’s lacking in every person new to their profession.
  • Marketing budgets are ripe for growth. More marketers are expecting increased budgets in the next six months: 36% of marketers expect an increase, up 8% from Q2 2016. This is a stark contrast from January 2016, when 22% of respondents felt their marketing budgets would decrease. This, clearly, goes back to optimism about what’s possible and what’s measurable. While economies and politics are still uncertain around the world, marketers realize we can’t stand still forever. It’s time to move forward and invest in growing the business.
  • Marketing budget allocation has remained stable, but when it comes to budget cuts, 24% of respondents said they would reduce their media placement budget, but only 4% would cut their analytics budget. This is a positive sign in that marketers realize that traditional paid advertising isn’t working. Instead, let’s shift that money into another area that grows the business by growing our audience – content marketing. When done right, content marketing is an opportunity to get to know our customers in ways that are quicker and less expensive that traditional research. By focusing on purpose-driven content that delivers value to our audience, we won’t need paid media to capture their attention. And it’s using analytics to understand what content matters to them, when and why that will help us grow our brand’s influence and authority in any industry.

 Key Takeaways

While confidence is increasing, marketers still want senior leaders to become more data literate. This is how companies will better understand customers and how to deliver value. For this to happen, marketers need to speak in the language of the C-suite. To show how data will move business objectives forward, faster.

AMA members can download a copy of the 2017 Marketers’ Confidence Index. Nonmembers can join the AMA to receive access to this and other research and tools.

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Photo credit: Flickr user Chris & Karen Highland

About Carla Johnson

Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.

Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands hasn’t gone unnoticed and the latest of her seven books, Experiences, sets the benchmark for a new era in marketing. Named one of the top 50 women in marketing and the incoming chair of the ANA’s Business Marketing Association, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking.

Today, Carla travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.