Digital Marketing Challenges Move Within

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More than one-third (35 percent) of digital marketing leaders say their biggest challenges this year will come from inside their organizations, Gartner found in its latest Digital Marketing Leader Survey.

By contrast, in last year’s survey, which was released as the COVID-19 pandemic was resulting in thousands of cases daily, external events were cited as the largest challenges for 2020.

“Digital marketing leaders perceive their ability to deliver results in the face of disruption as dependent on effective, cross-functional alliances,” says Noah Elkin, vice president and analyst in Gartner’s marketing practice. “Digital marketing leaders must think and act multidimensionally, bringing an equal measure of strategic, tactical, and relation-building skills to the marketing team and the organization as a whole.”

According to the survey, marketers expect these to be the most challenging activities for 2021:

  • building more synergistic relationships across the organization to better communicate digital marketing vision (cited by 35 percent);
  • elevating the role digital marketing technologies/data play (34 percent);
  • managing budget/resources to meet digital marketing/strategic priorities (32 percent);
  • selecting/managing relevant advertising campaign management tools with other stakeholders (31 percent);
  • developing a comprehensive strategy to ensure short-term goals support long-term objectives (31 percent); and
  • determining where agencies are required for content marketing/asset creation/management/organization (30 percent).

According to Elkin, the success of digital marketing activities will rely largely on the ability to build on existing relationships with IT and communications groups. Additionally, digital marketers will need to leverage CEO support and improve relationships with company financial executives to obtain the budget and resources they need for digital marketing success.

Elkin adds that the degree to which digital marketing leadership now more closely aligns with overall marketing leadership is a direct result of the expansive remit digital now holds in overall marketing strategies and objectives.

“The key to effectively managing disruption lies at that nexus of people, process, and technology,” Elkin states. “IT has emerged as a key partner to marketing, with areas of collaboration, including core martech activities such as road map management, budget acquisition, and technology selection.

“Maintaining strong partnerships with IT is critical, especially as many companies make work-from-home operations permanent or semi-permanent for a large portion of employees and as they accelerate their digital transformation projects,” Elkin adds. “A solid alliance with IT will be critical to elevating the role digital marketing technologies and data play as well as managing those technologies to maximum effect.”

As organizations shift their brand positioning to accommodate changing customer values, business priorities, and other disruptions, the CX and communications teams can be valuable allies to cultivate, Elkin adds.

The survey also found that 36 percent of digital marketing leaders now hold the title of chief marketing officer (CMO) and another 49 percent hold the title of vice president or higher. Additionally, three-quarters of digital marketing leaders report their range of responsibility extends to the entire organization, while only 25 percent of digital marketing leaders are limited to the business unit or regional division level.

These are among the responsibilities of digital marketing leaders:

  • content marketing strategy and execution (57 percent);
  • brand advertising strategy and execution (54 percent);
  • integrating mobile marketing into the digital mix (53 percent);
  • search engine optimization and marketing strategy and execution (53 percent);
  • email marketing strategy and execution (52 percent); and
  • media strategy and execution (51 percent).

With more than a third of digital marketing leaders now holding the title of CMO and their span of responsibility extending companywide, it’s more important than ever to secure buy-in and support from the rest of the organization.

Gartner recommends digital marketing leaders do the following:

  • Build on existing relationships with IT and communications groups to elevate digital marketing activities, technologies, and data across the organization.
  • Leverage support from the CEO and improve relations with finance leaders to manage the budget and resources to meet strategic priorities.
  • Sell their plans to key organizational stakeholders who can help them achieve strategic goals and elevate digital marketing data and technologies across the business.

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