Bart van Ark, chief economist of The Conference Board, did little to cushion the blow when he spoke at a conference last November: “The United States is not falling over the cliff,” he said, “[but] 2009 is not going to be a pretty year.”
Marketers have always struggled to quantify their efforts. “I haven’t met a marketer that ever felt their budget was sufficient,” says Mike Dickerson, general manager and senior vice president of eMarketing at business communications firm Premiere Global Services. As budgets tighten, though, marketers will have to dig deeper into analytics. “More marketers are brushing up on their algebra skills than ever before,” Dickerson says.
The proliferation of touch points, especially online, is a concern. Marketing-communications research firm Strategic Oxygen says that it now tracks 45 channels—up from 15 just a few years ago. And yet marketers are still expected to be targeted, personal, and relevant across each touch point.
The availability of new online media does provide the opportunity to shift dollars from more-costly channels to cost-effective ones offering critical measurability: “Any marketing department that’s not able to define how the dollars spent are impacting the top and bottom line are sitting ducks,” says Phil Fernandez, chief executive officer of marketing automation firm Marketo. “They might as well paint a target on their back.”
Now is the time to make the most of existing systems, Dickerson says, noting an uptick in demand among people trying to optimize software they already have. He recalls one analytics vendor estimating that only 15 percent of customers were actually maximizing the benefit of its tool. “It was like a dirty secret,” he says.
Michael Gale, principal and founder of Strategic Oxygen, anticipates that marketers will see further budget cuts, but lower-cost options in social media will leave them “pleasantly surprised.” In fact, he says, we’ll see a dramatic departure from all traditional media. “Recessions force change,” he says. “[It] will cause the final shift away from share-of-voice marketing—shouting and hoping someone hears you—to share-of-content, share-of-interaction, or share-of-dialogue.”
User-generated content is maturing beyond mere ratings and reviews as more companies see strategic value in listening to customers, explains Sam Decker, chief marketing officer at Bazaarvoice, a provider of social-commerce solutions. “Seventy-five percent of the product feedback I receive is related to our workbench, inward-facing reports, analytics, alerts,” he says. “People want to start to use the content and the data to change buying decisions, merchandising decisions, email marketing, paid-search testing…. We see it more and more across multiple channels.” (See “The Feedback Funnel,” page 27, for more on collecting feedback.)
With the help of online interactions, marketing is meeting its customers on a personal level and gaining organizational respect as it delivers valuable leads to sales. Whether 2009 will be the year the two finally come together, it’s hard to tell, but hopefuls say it may just be one of the few things to come out of this recession.
“The aspirations going forward…will force sales and marketing to glue together better,” Gale says. “Groups don’t naturally work together unless put under enormous duress.”
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