Marketers lack confidence in digital strategy and prowess

New report by Adobe of marketers finds more than half lack confidence in their digital proficiency and don't believe their company's marketing programs are effective

The majority of marketers lack confidence in their digital proficiency and don’t believe their company’s marketing programs are effective, a new report claims.

The new Digital Distress: What Keeps Marketers up at Night study, which was put together by research firm, Edelman Berland, on behalf of Adobe, polled 1000 US marketers and found only 48 per cent of digital marketers surveyed feel highly proficient undertaking such activities. This dropped to 37 per cent across those who considered themselves to be marketing generalists.

Only 9 per cent of total respondents agreed with the statement that they ‘know their digital marketing is working’.

In addition, 82 per cent said they learnt their skills on the job, and had not received formal training in digital marketing. This is despite the fact that 66 per cent think their companies won’t succeed unless they have a digital marketing approach, and 60 per cent expect their organisations will invest more in digital marketing technology this year.

The report also found only 40 per cent think their company’s marketing is effective, and 68 per cent feel more pressured to demonstrate a return on investment on their marketing spend. Although 76 per cent of marketers believe measurement is important, just 29 per cent think they are doing this well.

In a sign of just how transformative digital and data-driven marketing has been on the industry, three-quarters of survey respondents believed marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the past 50. However, only 44 per cent said their marketing departments are currently influencing wider business strategy.

When it comes to professional concerns, 82 per cent of marketers said reaching their customers was the biggest challenge, followed by the uncertainty of knowing whether their campaigns are working (79 per cent), proving campaign effectiveness (77 per cent) and demonstrating marketing’s ROI (75 per cent).

Responses to what marketers will focus on in future were mixed, with social media marketing and personalising just above creativity and innovation in marketing programs, digital advertising and cross-channel marketing.

The report also found those respondents who rated their business performance as ‘high’ are twice as likely to rate their company as highly proficient in digital marketing.

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“Marketers are facing a dilemma: They aren’t sure what’s working, they’re feeling underequipped to meet the challenges of digital, and they’re having a tough time keeping up with the pace of change in the industry. What’s worse, no one hands you a playbook on how to make it all work,” commented Adobe chief marketing officer, Ann Lewnes.

“Marketers who are bold in their digital marketing efforts and investments, who are taking smart risks, and who are training their teams to be more ‘digital ready’ will be in a great position to capitalise on digital’s full promise.”

In response to the findings, global co-leader of McKinsey Digital at McKinsey & Company, David Edelman, pointed out so much of marketing today is a moving target.

“Marketers feel the pressures, and in some cases understand what they should do, but lack the confidence that they will succeed. They’re anxious about understanding ahead of time what makes for good creative and smart digital strategies, managing complexity, and measuring real impact,” said.

“But you have to get in there and play and learn. The challenge is getting comfortable with risks. Set aside a portion of budget - 10-20 per cent - and really try new things.”

The Adobe study was based on an online survey conducted in August and September, and was split out into marketing staff versus decision makers, as well as digital marketers versus marketing generalists.

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