Marketers Call for Innovation, ROI, Research in 09

A recent study was published by MediaPost today that discussed what Senior Marketers are thinking about in 2009.  As I was reading it, I wanted to highlight some of the data and talk about it a bit.  Some of it rang true, other pieces did not.  Let’s see what you think as I break some of this down.

The first excerpt highlights some facts about budgets and top of mind considerations in marketing:

Half (51%) of responding senior marketers said they believe their budgets will be decreased this year, 38% expect no impact and 11% expect an increase. One-quarter are not filling open staff positions, 22% are hiring only incremental staff, and 19% are reducing staff — although 34% report no anticipated effect on staffing plans.

Something struck me on these stats: Only half indicated budget cuts, and 38% expect no impact and 11% expect an increase in marketing budget. What are these last 2 groups smoking?  I haven’t connected with any marketing folks that said their budget was increasing this year.  If you’re lucky it is staying the same, but in most cases they are seeing cuts.  It only makes sense, when top level earnings are down, the only way to squeeze more profit is to reduce cost.   Of course, this survey was taken in November, and things may have changed since then.  Budget cuts do not always come with a lead time window to prepare.

The discussion on innovation was interesting, it was coupled market research stats:

At the same time, more than three-quarters said that use of market research will either remain the same (39%) or increase (39%), versus 22% indicating probable cutbacks in this area. In addition, 72% indicated stability (51%) or increased focus (21%) in innovation and R&D efforts.

Usually when someone told me to be “innovative” in marketing, it meant to sharpen my pencil and whittle something down, but still get the expected results.  Marketing magic, as they say.  But in the true sense of innovation, marketing may recommend a direction for R&D, drive features through market requirement definition (MRD) documents, but most are not driving innovation of the R&D kind.  We’ve always been “a” voice, but one of many.  And the larger the company the more voices.  And with less than half indicating an increase in market research, how in the heck will true market innovation be achieved without in-depth research to see the opportunity?  It just struck me as odd, it’s like the data conflicts inherently.  What can we do to address this as marketers?

  • Keep your ears to the ground.  Make sure you know what’s happening in your target markets and provide ways to share that information to product management and development teams.  One thing I used to do when I was an interface between customers, sales and engineering was provide regular updates on industry trends, customer and competitor news, and add a “what this means to you” paragraph.  It provided value, not just information.
  • Marketers needs to keep one foot in today and one foot in tomorrow.  Ensure your budget includes a couple of research surveys/projects that explore customer and market trends and make sure you are keeping up with what’s important.

There was also a big nod for Customer Satisfaction, Retention and Marketing ROI:

Customer Retention, ROI Get Greater Emphasis Among 62 marketing concepts included in the survey, customer satisfaction ranked first, cited as being of major importance by the greatest number of senior marketers (79% this year). Customer satisfaction also ranked #1 in last year’s survey (cited by 75%).

Customer retention again came in second, and gained 11 percentage points (cited by 76% this year). Marketing ROI gained 12 percentage points (cited by 65%), to rise from seventh to third in the concept rankings.

These are pretty big percentages, 76%, 65% all focused on customer satisfaction, retention and ROI.  With the economy in the current state, it feels like the horse has already left the barn.  But if you weren’t paying attention to your customers before the demand backslide, then it will certainly pay dividends to start paying now.  Better late than never.  What can we be doing to engage our customers?

  • Listen to what they want – provide interactive opportunities online and offline
  • Communicate – in many mediums and forms.  Don’t forget the e-newsletter, it’s a marketing staple.
  • Create community – One of the things that’s challenging nowadays is how layoffs will affect people we may be working with in one way or another.  Creating a community does a few things – it allows for these folks a place to keep in contact with a community they have been involved with, and may even assist in finding new employment. But more importantly, a community that is organized around a cause, passion, industry, technology will create good will that will keep people sticking around.

Finally, other things that jumped out at me was that lead generation was pretty far down the list.  It was noted that it had one of the highest jumps in comparison to last year but it still ranks on a list of many.

Other high-ranking concepts this year, in order, are brand loyalty and segmentation (each cited by 61%), quality (56%), search engine optimization (48%), competitive intelligence, data mining and lead generation (each cited by 43%), word-of-mouth (42%), alternative energy (41%), mobile communications, electronic media and green marketing (each cited by 40%).

In these market conditions, the priorities may change.  Brand loyalty/segmentation will need to be driven by a variety of efforts, including PR, lead gen.  I agree with SEO.  I just figured lead gen would be a higher priority.  This is the year for building a pipeline, to build awareness, and prepare for the moment when demand swings.  It’s only a matter of time.  Your sales team will thank you.

Interestingly Web 2.0 showed up lower on the list.  It seems counter-intuitive because it could be a big supporting driver in meeting these priorities.  It seems marketing feels it cannot be the only group to hold the champion flag, it is a company wide effort.  While that may be true, isn’t customer satisfaction along the same lines?  Seems like a little bit of a back door to me.  The problem is not them, it’s more likely that we are not doing a great job communicating the business benefits with our managers and executives.  If they really understood that it was just another communications channel that can be used to support many goals of the company, it would not be so scary.

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