What Were the Biggest Challenges for Marketers in 2016?

January 13, 2017

By Kerry Breen

The ANA’s Marketer’s Edge program conducted research in 2016 to identify the top challenges facing marketers, and a few key themes stood out. Some even traversed all three studies, which focused on organizational culture, business-to-business marketing, and shopper marketing. Marketers from all disciplines and verticals reported challenges from advances in technology and non-linear customer journeys. Here are the top Marketer’s Edge research findings from 2016and some predictions about where we’re headed. 

No. 1: Marketers need to be more strategic and contribute to business plans to be viewed as valuable drivers of growth. 

  • Business-to-business CMOs can elevate the marketing role from tactical to strategic by ensuring the customer’s voice informs business strategy and developing strong brand positioning.
  • The organizational culture research found that 88 percent of marketers working in growth cultures said they work closely with CEOs to establish their companies’ strategic agendas.
  • The shopper category began to change dramatically when shopper marketers became more strategic and began leveraging shopper insights. 

No. 2: Collaboration with other internal teams, like sales and IT, leads to success. 

  • Business-to-business marketers in companies with higher revenue relative to their competition are more likely to agree that researchers, sales teams, and IT are receptive to their marketing efforts.
  • The organizational culture research found that without inter-departmental trust, growth initiatives suffer, the flow of information is stymied, and teams do not collaborate.
  • When shopper marketers report into marketing, there is greater opportunity for integration. 

No. 3: Putting the customer first is critical for growth. 

  • Business-to-business companies that achieve higher revenue relative to their competition focus marketing efforts on driving a consistent brand identity across buyer touchpoints and boosting awareness.
  • The organizational culture research found that companies with growth cultures focus marketing efforts and messaging on customer insights more than on products and pricing.
  • Shopper marketers are increasingly expected to deliver both short- and long- term benefits, including driving conversion among shoppers and executing solutions to customer challenges. 

No. 4: Marketers see the importance of data but feel they don’t have the right tools and skill sets to track and analyze it effectively. 

  • According to the business-to-business study, only 7 percent reported having effective processes in place for capturing data on buyer behavior, attitudes, and engagement.
  • The organizational culture research found that businesses with growth cultures tend to work toward the advancement of skill sets by hiring new talent and also developing current talent.
  • While most shopper marketers recognize that digital technologies are shifting the power to consumers, almost half have not established a digital/mobile team focused on shoppers. 

No. 5: What’s next? Skill Building and Talent Investment

  • When asked where business-to-business marketing will be in the next three to five years, 71 percent of respondents said that digital marketing and technological skill sets will be required of them.
  • Organizations can invest in change initiatives, but talented employees will leave if leadership does not provide an environment where they can follow their passions.

The ANA Marketer’s Edge program uses research to deliver practical tools, benchmarks, and best practices to ANA members. Learn more about the research, connect with the Ask the Expert service, and discover curated resources and solutions on each research topic. Check back for key findings on the most disruptive marketing forces in early 2017!

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