The Top 3 Problems Marketers Faced in 2019

I just finished looking through Gartner’s 2019-20 annual Insights for the C-Suite document (the marketing perspective, naturally), and wanted to share a few thoughts. In essence, some of the collected numbers really validate what I imagine many CMOs have suspected about the state of marketing, and I wanted to offer a couple perspectives on how to adjust to better meet these trends.

So, the report in a nutshell: Customer focus, customer focus, customer focus! Not a very descriptive nutshell. Here are a few numbers to explain a bit better: In 2019, 16% of marketers dedicated their budgets on average to innovation. Innovation, in this instance, means creative ideation to help innovate for the customer. That number is up from 10% in 2017. Also, worth noting: Companies that make above-average financial commitments to innovation led by marketing reported higher revenue and profits than other companies. Pretty compelling!

Next, 91% of marketing organizations are involved (either as a leader or collaborator) in their company innovation efforts. Again, the creativity of marketing departments should be a guiding factor in any customer-facing innovations—that includes things like product adjustments or sales communications.

But—uh-oh!—there are some hurdles marketers face when sitting at the innovation table. 46% of marketers noted that organizational risk aversion was a top-3 barrier. That was followed by struggling to measure impact (41%), and lacking talent with the right skills (41%). Not good! I wanted to share a few thoughts from past episodes that might help with these struggles.

First, organizational risk aversion. This topic has come up so often in my interviews, I could probably cover my eyes, point to an episode, and it would address the subject. One quote always pops into my head, though: “I always tell people, especially our creative agencies, “Scare me. And let me pull you back.” This quote is from Kathy Button-Bell, as she addresses how she fosters a culture of risk-taking at Emerson. She wants her ideation teams to really go for it, get as crazy as they can, and let her be the one to balance the boldness. It’s good to have some of your team remain unfettered by any fears of being too ‘out there.’ Check out her interview here for more on it—it ultimately helps appease C-suite anxieties about risk, while ushering in a bit more boldness from your efforts. It also helps to collaborate heavy with other leaders in the business—we discuss this sort of team-inclusion a bit more in section 4 of our recent guide to effective B2B strategy.

Next, the struggle to measure. And it is often a struggle. But there’s a world of effective measurement out there. Jean English, who was with NetApp at the time of our interview, and is currently with Palo Alto Networks, shares a couple steps to how they nailed their measurement. First, broader brand tracking efforts (crucial!). Second, tracking engagement and traffic (also crucial!). She discusses those in a bit more detail here, and how internal culture and operations helped make that happen. There’s also some discussion on measuring internal engagement, and getting everyone up to speed on how the data was collected, and ultimate turned into action. The episode itself is called ‘How to Be A Data Visionary,’ so you really can’t go wrong! Following that up, the team at Brex, a $1B+ valued unicorn, has some great thoughts on multi-touch attribution, included their own pretty sophisticated models for tracking things like billboard efficacy. Check out it out here.

Finally, staffing! Always tricky. If making great marketing was easy, everyone would do it. That’s why not everyone does it. I’ve got three tips (couldn’t pick just one!) based on a few great interviews. First, internal culture. Easy to talk about how important it is, hard to make it great. Mailchimp nailed it through some pretty rigorous self-assessment, and a big devotion to purpose. Leela Srinivasan talks about the importance of internal surveys here. Next, emphasizing your purpose. You want employees who can thrive in your company? Then make it clear what your company is all about and stand by it. Bank of the West did that (at huge risk) by divesting from certain industries, like coal and tobacco, that were profitable, but went against their purpose of ethical, environmentally sound banking. The change surprisingly, boosted their talent acquisition considerably—hear Ben Stuart discuss more here. Lastly, more brass tacks-y, you’ve got to know how to interview well. “What are your biggest strengths?” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Kipp Bodnar explores effective interview tactics and better questions here.

Hope that one of these tidbits can help your marketing efforts. Hopefully, you’ve already overcome these common marketing hurdles, but the results are showing that they’ve been pretty pervasive recently. Please reach out if you’ve got any other thoughts or questions on the subject!

Cheers,
Drew

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