Sunday, October 20, 2019

Three Key Takeaways from Gartner's New CMO Survey


Gartner has just published the results of its 2019-2020 CMO Spend Survey. The research report is based on survey responses from 342 marketing executives in North America and the U.K. at companies with $500 million to $5 billion or more in annual revenue.

The Gartner study produced several valuable data points, but I want to focus on three takeaways that I found particularly interesting.

Marketing Budget Growth

Gartner's survey indicates that marketing budgets will come in at 10.5% of company revenue in 2019, down from 11.2% in 2018. This agrees closely with the August 2019 edition of The CMO Survey, which found that current marketing budgets represent 9.8% of firm revenues.

However, most of the Gartner survey respondents were optimistic that their marketing budgets will increase in 2020, as the following table shows:










Gartner observed that this CMO optimism exists despite widespread concerns about a global economic slowdown among many economists and financial industry pundits. In fact, when survey participants were asked how the overall economic environment would likely affect their company's performance over the next 18-24 months, 86% of respondents indicated they believe the future impacts will be positive.

The above table also shows that marketing executives with B2B manufacturing companies are significantly less optimistic about future budget growth than other marketing leaders. In my view, this is likely due to the economic slowdown in manufacturing that is already occurring, and to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit in the U.K.

Martech Spending Falls

Gartner's study found that spending on marketing technology represents 26% of the total marketing budget in 2019, down from 29% in 2018. However, Gartner does not believe that this year-over-year decline indicates that marketing leaders are reducing their long-term commitment to technology.

In the research report, Gartner observed that spending on marketing technology has varied considerably over the years and that part of this variability is due to normal investment cycles. The report also referred to other Gartner research, which had found that some marketers are struggling to implement and fully utilize new technology tools.

I generally agree with Gartner's thinking on this issue. The explosive proliferation of marketing technologies is well documented. And with most technology tools, it takes time to assimilate a new technology and begin to fully utilize it. So, it's not surprising that technology spending is volatile, and we shouldn't read too much into a one-year decline.

The Rise of Marketing Operations

The third interesting takeaway from the Gartner CMO survey relates to the growing importance of marketing operations. The Gartner survey asked participants what capabilities they consider most vital for the execution of their marketing strategy over the next 18 months. The following table shows the percentage of respondents who included each capability in their top three choices:

























As the table shows, 30% of survey respondents included marketing operations as a top three capability. Survey respondents also estimated they they are currently spending 12.6% of their marketing budget on marketing operations. Other research by Gartner (the 2019 Marketing Organization Survey) found that two-thirds of marketing organizations now have a discrete marketing operations function.

Gartner argues that the growing complexity of marketing and a shift toward a more decentralized marketing organizational structure are driving the need for a marketing operations function that is focused on creating excellence in planning and execution across the entire marketing organization. Gartner also observed that the scope of the marketing operations function is growing, and now includes diverse responsibilities such as technology management, talent management, budgeting, and supplier management.

Top image source:  Gartner, Inc.

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Where Marketers are Missing the Mark with Customers



The New York chapter of the American Marketing Association has just published a research report that should be required reading for marketers. The Techlash is Here report addresses several aspects of marketing in the world's two largest economies - the United States and China. While the findings about China are interesting, this post will focus on the U.S. results.

The U.S. part of the research consisted of two quantitative surveys and several interviews with marketing leaders. One survey included 502 marketing executives - about 200 from agencies and approximately 300 from brand owners. The second survey polled 508 U.S. consumers. The consumer sample was matched to population data through weighting.

This research revealed two significant disconnects between U.S. consumers and U.S. marketers, one pertaining to social media, and one relating to the appetite for, and concerns about, new marketing technologies and practices.

The Social Media Marketing Bubble

According to Investopedia, a bubble is "created by a surge in asset prices unwarranted by the fundamentals of the asset and driven by exuberant market behavior." The AMA New York surveys suggest that a different kind of bubble may exist in the social media marketing space.

In the consumer survey, respondents said they expect their use of social media to decline over the next three years. The net change (the proportion of respondents expecting to spend more time on social media minus the proportion who expect to spend less time) was -6%. The survey also found that Facebook use is likely to show no net growth over the next three years, while the use of Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn will decline over that period.

U.S. marketers, on the other hand, plan to substantially increase spending on social media advertising over the next three years. In the marketer survey, social media generated the strongest indication of increased spending (net 68%), followed by web display ads (net 51%) and email (net 47%).

Other research has found a similar exuberance for social media among marketers. In the August 2019 edition of The CMO Survey, respondents said they expect spending on social media to increase from 11.9% of their current marketing budget to 22.5% of the budget in five years.

The Techlash is Here report describes the emerging social media marketing bubble (my term, not theirs) as follows:

"American marketers are overindexing on many social media now and plan to increase spending even as consumer use flatlines or falls off. Currently, the share of ad spend devoted to social media in America . . . is 150% of the proportion of consumer media time they receive."

The Technology Disconnect

The AMA New York surveys also investigated the attitudes of U.S. marketers and consumers about nine specific marketing/advertising technologies and techniques. In this research, between two-fifths and three-fifths of U.S. marketers said they plan to increase their use of every one of those nine innovations, as the following table shows:


A striking disconnect between marketers and consumers becomes apparent when we look at the results of the consumer survey. As the table below shows, none of the nine technologies or techniques is viewed favorably by a majority of U.S. consumers. Four of the nine did receive a favorable plurality by survey respondents, but five of the nine technologies and techniques are viewed unfavorably by a plurality of U.S. consumers.



















Once again, the survey report describes the current situation in compelling terms:

"American marketers overrate the perceived positives of marketing innovations:  most expect that U.S. consumers will consistently welcome them . . . On average, nearly four out of five (78%) expect American consumers will agree with each benefit claim we tested. The proportion of marketers who say consumers will agree substantially exceeds that of consumers who do on every one of them - by an average of 27 points."

The Takeaway

The AMA New York research should serve as a wake-up call for marketers. It highlights the risks inherent in getting caught up in the hype that inevitably surrounds new marketing channels, techniques, and technologies. While this research dealt with important disconnects between marketers and consumers, many of the study findings will apply to B2B marketers and business buyers.

Marketers' exuberance for new technologies and techniques is often attributed to the fear-of-missing-out or the shiny object syndrome. This view is overly harsh, but it does contain some truth. FOMO can actually be a positive thing when it motivates us to experiment and test new tactics and tools. But if it isn't tightly controlled, FOMO can also result in bad - or at least ineffective - marketing investments.

The findings of the AMA New York research regarding personalization are particularly noteworthy. As I have previously written, marketers are facing a true conundrum regarding when and how much personalization should be used. In fact, I would argue that the personalization-privacy paradox will be an "elephant-in-the-room" issue for marketers in 2020. I'll have more to say about that in a future post.

Top image courtesy of Artura Pardavila III via Flickr CC.

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Sunday, October 6, 2019

When "Prove You Know Me" Personalization is Essential


A few months ago, I published a post arguing that marketers who want to improve the effectiveness of personalized marketing should focus primarily on making personalization pragmatically useful to recipients. This argument was based on the results of several research studies, including a 2018 survey by Gartner/CEB that polled more than 2,500 consumers in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.

One objective of this study was to identify what types of personalized messages are most effective. Survey participants were asked several questions about the content of personalized messages they had recently received. From the participants' responses, Gartner/CEB identified two types of personalization based on what consumers perceived was the primary intent of the message:

  • "Prove You Know Me" Personalization - Consumers perceived that these types of messages were primarily intended to demonstrate that the company "knows" the recipient. So, for example, they may have explicitly mentioned a previous purchase made by the recipient, or they might have mentioned that the recipient had recently viewed a particular product.
  • "Help Me" Personalization - Consumers perceived that these types of messages were primarily intended to help the recipient in some way. For example, they may have made it easier for the recipient to complete a purchase, or helped the recipient understand how to better use a product.
To measure the comparative effectiveness of these types of persosnalization, Gartner/CEB created a "Commercial Benefit Index" that considered four consumer intent and behavior factors - brand intent, purchase, repurchase, and increase in shopping cart size. When Gartner/CEB analyzed the impact produced by each type of personalization, they found that "Help Me" personalization produced a 16% increase in the CBI, while "Prove You Know Me" personalization resulted in a 4% decline in the CBI.

Where "Prove You Know Me" Personalization Really Helps
As any good lawyer will tell you, "There's an exception to every rule." The evidence is clear that "helpfulness" is the most powerful driver of effective personalization. But there are some points in your relationship with a customer or prospect where demonstrating that you "know" him or her can be critical to advancing the relationship.
One of these points is when you are seeking to have the first person-to-person conversation with a prospect. Many prospects prefer to conduct early-stage research and information gathering on their own, and to avoid conversations with vendor reps until later in their decision-making process. Overcoming this reluctance is difficult, and that's where an injection of "Prove You Know Me" personalization can be highly effective.
To illustrate this point, below is the text of an email message that I recently received from a client development representative at a sales technology company. I received this message after attending one of the company's webinars. I've altered the text to conceal the real names of the company and the rep.

"David,
Thanks for attending our webinar with Jones & Company, "The Secret Sauce for a High-Performing Sales Organization."
Hopefully, you enjoyed the webinar - John and Joe had some great insights on . . .
  • The current state and challenges of sales enablement in the age of the modern business buyer
  • Why a buyer-centric sales enablement approach is vital to an organization's revenue growth
  • How the right software can accelerate sales enablement efforts and help win more deals
Would love to get your feedback from the webinar.
Are you available this Friday for a quick 15 minute chat?
Best,
Roger Smith"

On the surface, this appears to be a well-constructed email. It's concise and not overly promotional. But it didn't convince me to reply and schedule a telephone conversation. What "Roger" failed to do in this message is show me that he knew some basic things about me and my business, and explain why a telephone conversation could be worthwhile.
If "Roger" had spent two or three minutes scanning through my LinkedIn profile, he would have gained a basic understanding of what I do. My profile also contains links to the 127 articles that I've published at LinkedIn. If "Roger" had spent another two of three minutes scanning through the titles of these articles, he could have obtained a pretty good understanding of my professional interests and focus.
With this information, "Roger" could have easily added a short paragraph to the email that would have made me more inclined to schedule a telephone conversation. That paragraph could have looked something like this:
"I see from your LinkedIn profile that you work with B2B companies to develop marketing strategies and marketing content. I also noticed that you've written several articles about improving marketing and sales productivity. I'd like to get your thoughts about the role that sales enablement technology plays in improving sales productivity.
Are you available this Friday for a brief telephone conversation?"
This approach would have demonstrated that "Roger" had made an effort to "get to know" me and my business, and the proposed topic of the telephone conversation is one that could be useful for both "Roger" and me.
Some readers may be thinking:  "There's no way we can have our business development reps spend this much time on every prospect." That's not what I'm recommending. This approach is reserved for prospects whose engagement with your company suggests that they may be ready to take the relationship to a higher level by beginning to have person-to-person conversations with your reps.

Image courtesy of Marco Verch (trendingtopics) via Flickr CC.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Why It's So Hard for Companies to Change


In 2013, Scott Brinker, Hubspot's VP Platform Ecosystem, and the author of the widely-read Chief Marketing Technologist blog, published a post that introduced Martec's Law. In essence, Martec's Law states that technology changes at an exponential (very fast) rate, but organizations change at a logarithmic (much slower) rate. (See Scott's graph below.)
















The rapid development of marketing technology is well documented. The 2014 edition of Scott's marketing technology landscape supergraphic contained 947 technology providers. The 2019 edition of the supergraphic contained more than 7,000 technology solutions.

Scott argued that the core problem encapsulated by Martec's Law is that "technology is changing faster than organizations can absorb change." And it's clear that this problem extends far beyond marketing.

Over the past few years, digital transformation - which can be defined as the use of digital technologies to create new, or reengineer existing, processes, culture, and customer experience - has become an important strategic objective objective for many companies. However, the evidence indicates that most digital transformation initiatives have not succeeded.

In recent research by McKinsey & Company, only 16% of survey respondents said their organizations' digital transformations have successfully improved performance and also equipped them to sustain changes over the long term.

So why is change so hard? Hundreds of books and articles have attempted to explain why change is difficult for most organizations, and what business leaders can do to create a greater willingness and capacity to change. While many of these books and articles have contained valuable advice, it seems clear that no one has really identified the "silver bullet" that will consistently boost the capacity for change.

Clayton Christensen has developed a framework that can help us understand why organizational change is difficult. Christensen described this framework in an article in the Harvard Business Review (co-authored with Michael Overdorf), and elaborated on it in The Innovator's Solution (co-authored with Michael Raynor). Christensen developed this framework to help business leaders succeed at disruptive innovation, but it is equally useful for identifying the factors that determine how effectively a company can make any significant, far-reaching change.

According to Christensen, the ability of an organization to succeed with any significant transformation depends on three types of capabilities - resources, processes, and values.

Resources - Resources include people and tangible business assets such as cash, facilities, equipment, and technology solutions. Resources can also include intangible assets like intellectual property and relationships with suppliers and customers.

Processes - Processes are the activities that organizations perform to transform resource inputs into finished products or services.

Values - Values include the ethical principles that an organization "lives by," but the term has a broader meaning in this framework. It also includes the criteria or standards that people in the organization use to set priorities and make decisions. Therefore, values include the myriad of (mostly unwritten) cultural rules and norms that influence how people in the organization think and act.

Resources, processes, and values largely dictate what an organization can and cannot accomplish. And they both enable and constrain an organization's capacity for change.

To understand why organizational change is difficult, it's critical to keep two points in mind about resources, processes, and values. First, any significant change or transformation will require changes in all three organizational capabilities. In other words, any successful transformation will likely require the organization to find or develop new resources (or redeploy existing resources), develop new processes (or reengineer existing processes), and modify its values.

The second important point is that the three organizational capabilities are not equally easy to change. Resources are usually the most flexible capability and are relatively easy to change. Processes are usually less flexible than resources and are therefore somewhat more difficult to change.

Clearly though, the most difficult capability to change is values. Values are difficult to change because they tend to develop slowly and over time, they become deeply ingrained in an organization's cultural DNA. When change initiatives don't succeed, it's most likely because company leaders have underestimated (a) the need to change core company values, or (b) how difficult those changes are to make.

Christensen's RPV framework doesn't make organizational change easier to accomplish, but it can help business leaders, including those in marketing, to identify where the greatest barriers to change are likely to exist.

Top image courtesy of R/DV/RS via Flickr CC.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Power and Peril of Performance Metrics


Measuring performance has been a major feature of the business landscape ever since double entry accounting made its appearance in the 14th or 15th century. "You can't manage what you can't measure" is one of the most widely-repeated cliches in the business world, and it's been an article of faith for several generations of executives and managers.

It's easy to understand why business leaders view performance measurement as critical for effective management. Metrics give us a way to make sense of our environment and to describe our objectives and results in concrete terms that are easy to understand and communicate.

The fixation on performance measurement has affected virtually all business functions, including marketing. For the past several years, marketers have faced growing pressure to prove the financial impact of their activities and programs. As a result, they're placing greater emphasis on measuring the performance of marketing tactics and channels, and some marketing leaders are allocating budgets and basing marketing mix decisions on performance metrics.

Overall, this has been a positive development. It's hard to argue that business leaders, including marketers, shouldn't measure the performance of their activities and use metrics to guide important decisions. But, it's also important to remember that performance metrics must be used carefully because they can produce unintended consequences. These unintended consequences can result from several factors, but two are particularly important.

The Power of Performance Metrics

The first important thing to remember about performance metrics is that they have the power to shape human behavior. Almost a decade ago, Dan Ariely, the noted behavioral economist and author of Predictably Irrational, described the power of performance measures in a column for the Harvard Business Review. He wrote:

"Human beings adjust behavior based on the metrics they're held against. Anything you measure will impel a person to optimize his score on that metric. What you measure is what you'll get. Period. This phenomenon plays out time and again in research studies."

So the power of performance measurements to cause us to change our behaviors is reason enough to use them with care.

The Surrogation Problem

Another factor that makes performance metrics potentially dangerous is a psychological phenomenon known as surrogation. Surrogation is the human tendency to lose sight of the real objective or strategy and instead focus only (or almost entirely) on the metrics that are meant to represent the objective or strategy. In other words, we have a strong tendency to decide (often subconsciously) that scoring well on the metric is the desired objective or strategy.

The process of surrogation is easy to illustrate. Suppose that one of your company's important objectives is to provide outstanding customer experiences, and you decide to measure progress on that objective using a customer survey. The surveys are conducted periodically, and the results are shared with customer-facing employees and frequently discussed at management and staff meetings.

Under these circumstances, some employees may begin to think that the objective is to maximize scores on the customer survey, rather than to deliver outstanding customer experiences. This can become a serious problem if those managers or employees begin to entice customers to give only high scores on the survey even if they weren't completely happy with their experience.

Surrogation is likely to occur when three conditions exist:

  1. The actual objective or strategy is complex and relatively abstract.
  2. The metric is concrete and easy to understand.
  3. The person involved does not consciously reject the substitution of the metric for the actual objective or strategy.
In an article appearing in the current issue of the Harvard Business Review, Michael Harris and Bill Tayler describe three ways to reduce the odds of surrogation occurring:
  1. Make sure the actual objective or strategy is thoroughly understood by all relevant managers and employees. Involve as many of these people as possible in the formulation of the objective or strategy.
  2. Avoid linking compensation to metrics. Research has shown that tying compensation to metrics increases the likelihood that surrogation will occur.
  3. Use multiple metrics. Surrogation is less likely to occur if multiple metrics are used to measure the success of a strategy or the attainment of an objective.
As noted earlier, measuring the performance of marketing quantitatively has now become a common practice, and overall, this is a positive development. But marketing leaders must recognize that like any business tool, performance metrics need to be used carefully and wisely.

Image courtesy of James Whatley via Flickr CC.

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Sunday, September 15, 2019

B2B Highlights From the August CMO Survey


The findings of the August edition of The CMO Survey by Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, the American Marketing Association, and Deloitte were published a few days ago. The latest results are based on responses from 341 marketing leaders at U.S. B2B and B2C companies. Sixty-four percent of the respondents were affiliated with B2B companies, and 95% were VP-level or above.

The CMO Survey is conducted semi-annually, and it's a valuable resource for capturing the views of U.S. marketing leaders about the overall economic and competitive environment, and about major trends in marketing. In addition to overall results, survey findings are reported by four economic sectors - B2B product companies, B2B services companies, B2C product companies, and B2C services companies.

In this post, I'll review a few of the major findings in the August 2019 edition of the survey. Unless otherwise indicated, the results discussed in this post are based exclusively on the responses of B2B marketers.

Marketing Spending

On average, marketing expenses amount to 9.8% of total company revenues across all survey respondents, up from 7.3% in the August 2018 survey. The percentages were slightly lower for B2B companies - 8.6% for B2B product companies, and 8.7% for B2B services companies.

Survey respondents were optimistic about the growth of marketing budgets in the near-term future. On average, respondents from B2B product companies expect their marketing budgets to increase by 7.1% in the next 12 months. For B2B services companies, the average expected increase is 10.1%.

Paid Media Spending Allocation

The survey asked participants to indicate how their spending on paid media is allocated across seven specific channels and a "Paid Other" category. The following table shows the mean allocation for respondents from B2B product companies and B2B services companies:
















What stands out to me in these findings is the size of the "Paid Other" category. B2B product companies are devoting nearly 40% of their total paid media spending to the "other" category, while B2B services companies are devoting nearly half of their spending to that category. According to the survey report, when participants were asked to clarify which "Paid Other" media they meant, the respondents most frequently identified trade shows, sponsorships, and direct mail.

Social Media Marketing

One of the more fascinating topics addressed by The CMO Survey is social media marketing. For the past several years, survey respondents have been consistently predicting that their spending on social media marketing will increase substantially. In the latest survey, respondents from B2B product companies predicted that their social media spending will more than double in five years. Respondents from B2B services companies predicted a spending increase of about 83% in five years.

Survey respondents have also consistently said that the use of social media is not making a significant contribution to company performance. The survey has been asking participants to rate the contribution of social media marketing on a seven-point scale, where 1=not at all, and 7=very highly.

In the latest survey, the mean overall score was only 3.3, and that score has remained almost unchanged since 2016. Among respondents from B2B product companies, the mean score was just 3.05, and for respondents from B2B services companies, the mean score was 3.48.

On the face of it, these results don't seem to be logical. Why would marketing leaders substantially increase spending on an activity that is not making a significant contribution to company performance?

One possibility is that actual spending on social media marketing has not increased as rapidly as survey respondents were forecasting. An analysis in an earlier edition of the survey indicates that this has been true in the recent past, and I think it's likely still true today. Therefore, I would argue that spending on social media marketing will not increase as rapidly or by as much as respondents in the August survey have predicted.

Top image source:  The CMO Survey (www.cmosurvey.org).

Sunday, September 8, 2019

How to Address the Marketing Measurement Paradox


One of the marketing thought leaders I pay close attention to is Mark Schaefer. Mark is the author of several highly-regarded books and the principal author of the widely-read {grow} blog.

Last month, Mark published a blog post arguing that today's marketers are working in a world dominated by malignant complexity. Mark wrote that malignant complexity means "that the insane complications and unintended consequences of rapid technological change makes it difficult to understand our world, let alone predict what's next."

In the future, Mark wrote, the most successful marketers will have to relax their expectations for "predictable outcomes and reliable measures." He summed up his view this way:

"In an age of malignant complexity and unrelenting change, some aspects of marketing measurement will become a leap of faith. In some cases, the speed of business will outstrip our ability to forecast and measure. Perhaps non-measured, speed-driven marketing management will become the norm, a best practice."

Mark's post is sure to raise the eyebrows of many marketing leaders because the conventional wisdom in the marketing community is that measuring the performance of marketing is now more achievable than ever. But then, Mark has always been willing to tell us when he believes "the emperor has no clothes." If you need proof of that, go back and read his 2014 blog post about "content shock."

Expressions of the conventional wisdom are easy to find. For example, I took the following quotation from the website of a major provider of marketing technologies:

"Building analytics into your marketing strategy empowers your marketing and sales teams by giving you the ability to measure the impact of each marketing investment. Data enables marketers to confidently identify which parts of the marketing efforts deliver the optimal return on investment (ROI), including the performance of channels, specific calls-to-action (CTAs), and individual pieces of content, such as blog posts or gated resource guides."

A more skeptical view is captured in the following quotation from a recent article published at the Harvard Business Review website:

"Marketing's environment is typically much 'noisier' that the factory floor in terms of unknown, unpredictable, and uncontrollable factors confounding precise measurement. Marketing activities can also be subject to systems effects where the portfolio of marketing tactics work together to create an outcome . . . Marketing actions may also work over multiple time frames . . . Finally, it is often difficult to attribute financial outcomes solely to marketing, because businesses frequently take actions across functions that can drive results."

Which of these views is correct? The answer is, both are accurate, at least in part. Some aspects of marketing performance are more measurable now than ever, largely because of the explosion of available data about customers and the expanding capabilities of marketing and analytics technologies. At the same time, however, measuring the impact of marketing on business financial outcomes is just as difficult and challenging today as ever.

So how should marketing leaders deal with the measurement challenge? The first step is to accept the measurement paradox part of the reality of marketing. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."

Marketing leaders must also effectively communicate the realities of marketing to other senior business leaders. This means the senior marketing leader needs to have evidence-based conversations with other senior executives about what aspects of marketing can be measured precisely, and what aspects will always require the use of assumptions, correlations, and probabilities.

These discussions will help establish reasonable expectations for marketing measurement and simultaneously enhance the credibility of the marketing leader in the C-suite.

Illustration courtesy of Zeev Barkan via Flickr CC.