When more than 2,300 marketers were asked in the fall of 2013 what their top priorities were for 2014, a clear pattern emerged, with two elements standing way above the rest in their responses. Increasing conversion rates and brand awareness are top priorities with almost half of respondents listing these two in their top 3 priorities for the year.
ExactTarget’s “2014 State of Marketing Report” compiles feedback from marketers about their budgets, priorities, channels, metrics and strategies for 2014. With driving conversion (47%) and improving brand awareness (46%) leading the way, collecting measurable, user-based data was the best of the rest a long way behind at (29%). I don’t know about you, but it’s somewhat ironic to see data collection and measurement and subscriber acquisition rate so low with increasing conversion rates so high – because, well, it’s hard to do one without the other two.
Have We Got Measurement Covered? Really?
Despite the focus being on ROI in 2013, fewer respondents this year (24%) indicated that improving the measurement and results of their digital channels was a top priority (please give me a moment while I bang my head against the wall). With subscriber acquisition (28%) and channel expansion (22%) being almost as important to many, maybe this is an indication that marketers feel confident in their measurement capabilities and happier with the ROI of their digital marketing efforts and are concentrating more on reaching their target audience. I’m not so sure about this, and that’s augmented by what I see and hear when I talk with prospective clients, speak at events and work in the trenches. For many businesses across many verticals, they so do not have this measurement business down. This is only reinforced when I see that the top three metrics used to measure success include conversion (67%) and engagement (64%), with ROI bringing up the rear (61%). Viewing engagement as an indicator of ROI on digital marketing efforts seems to me to be so 2012. But then, I’m a cynic. A data-loving cynic, but what do I know.
Where Do Marketers Expect to Find Their Customers?
With regard to how marketers report they’ll find potential the customers who’ll help them with their goal of increasing conversions, e-mail marketing and social media remain key to most businesses. An overwhelming 97% of respondents indicated that they would employ e-mail as a part of their strategy this year with social media marketing recording a very strong 93%. Although, since it’s an ExactTarget study, I suppose that’s not exactly a surprising finding, right? The use of data and analytics also scored well, with 81% saying they used data analysis in 2013 and an additional 35% reporting that they’ll be getting on the data analysis bandwagon this year.
Saying Goodbye to Annoyances?
At the other end of the spectrum, it’s interesting to see that mobile push notifications and SMS messaging are going to be less popular marketing strategies, with around half of respondents saying they won’t be using them at all. As someone who hates being marketed to via SMS or other push messaging, I’m smiling and nodding as I write this. Personally, my phone is off-limits when it comes to push messaging, text messages from family and friends are welcome but I don’t want to be advertised to – it feels like an invasion of personal space. I will, however, pay my AT&T bill via SMS, but that’s a quick and efficient way to take care of a task, not something I view as infringing upon my privacy. How do you feel about that mobile push notifications and SMS messaging? Am I an anomaly or do you prefer to keep those channels free of marketing messages, too?
Here’s a breakdown of what the data shows:
From an industry point of view it’s good to see that 98% of marketers surveyed plan to increase, or maintain spending in 2014. The top 5 areas reported as areas for increased spending are:
- Data and Analytics 61%
- Marketing Automation 60%
- E-mail marketing 58%
- Social Media Marketing 57%
- Content marketing 57%
The increased focus of marketers on conversions comes as no surprise as marketing teams are (hopefully) provided with more resources, and more accountability in driving business forward. The report authors expect to see marketers increasingly aligning with sales teams (which is much needed) and using social media, mobile and personalized web experiences to boost their brand awareness with customers. The third most popular priority of collecting and analyzing data will, if used properly be the glue that binds all of those efforts together.
My prediction? As we move forward, in 2014 and beyond, we’ll see more marketers understand that increased conversion rates (and enhanced brand awareness) are going to rely on their willingness to embrace (and fund) data-driven marketing. And that will require budgets that allow for expert help with things like lead scoring, marketing automation, integrating cross-channel marketing and analysis of cross-channel attribution data, as well as the ability to serve up personalized web experiences for consumers. Those things are low on the “interest radar screen” now, at least according to the survey responses, but we’ll get there.
This is just a taste of all that’s contained in the full report from ExactTarget, which you can find at “2014 State of Marketing” (download page). There’s a ton of great data in the report that I’ve not touched on here, so be sure and check it out.
Other resources on this topic:
MarketingCharts : PPC Professionals: 2014 Will Be About Conversion Optimization
Forbes: 2014 Marketing Trends You Probably Haven’t Heard Of
V3: Why Social Media is a Critical Component of SEO
V3 : Cross-Device Campaigns: The Focus of Smart Marketers Everywhere