In Marketing, Overwhelmed is the New Normal

093013-neifieldThis shouldn’t come as a shock, but two recent studies have documented what many (in fact most) of the marketing world has been feeling lately. The constant, rapid changes experienced by marketing staff, digital marketing professionals and consumers alike are outpacing our ability to stay up to date, staff, budget for and respond to even critical organizational needs.

We just can’t keep up.

Adobe queried 1000 marketers online in August and September of this year to get a read on marketers’ confidence levels. Appropriately titled, “Digital Distress: What Keeps Marketers Up at Night?” the study reveals a picture of marketers with little confidence in their own or their organization’s ability to address the unique challenges of digital marketing.

The confidence gap extends to specific skills, as well as the ability to meet company and brand goals at the same time that budget, attention and expectations are all raised around digital activities.

Marketers Doubt Effectiveness, Lack Confidence

Marketers in the Adobe study appear to agree on the precarious marketing position they are in as well as on how critical digital success is to overall success. Only 40 percent of marketers believe their marketing is effective with only 48 percent expressing a high degree of confidence in their digital proficiency, yet 66 percent of marketers identify digital as critical to company success.

There does not seem to be consensus, however, on the focus areas that require attention with marketers’ limited time and attention span divided between varied concerns about social media, personalization, innovation, cross-channel marketing and other areas. The study made further distinctions between marketers and digital marketers, generalists and decision makers in their findings.

Despite Marketing Concerns, It’s Full Steam Ahead

In this uncertain environment with critical gaps companies are pulling back, right? Investing in training and getting their foundations laid, right? Nope.

For 60 percent of the marketers surveyed, additional digital investment can be expected and 61 percent say that increased budget will most likely be used in a trial and error approach. It seems we are resorting to applying more of the same behaviors, but throwing more money at them, because we don’t have time or the appropriate personnel in place to think through a consolidated, relevant strategy to return results and on-going learnings.

High performing companies in the Adobe study were more likely to express confidence in their digital capabilities and performance and, logically, were more likely to invest in digital. Digital advertising and content management were two key areas of concern and also predictors of success. Both can be big budget commitments.

In a parallel study of brand marketers, Netplus and Finch Brands teamed up this August to survey over 200 brand marketers and find out how they were coping with the demands of digital marketing. Many of the same themes were revealed including a pervasive feeling of being overwhelmed, as illustrated in the word cloud that came out of the study (see top of page).

Brand Marketers Seek Resources & Support

Specifically, brand marketers were hungry for more resources and deeper support from digital experts to help them succeed, because only 27 percent consider themselves expert in this area. Just 29 percent cite sufficient expertise within the company. This study establishes a similar disconnect as the Adobe study in the growing importance and budget of digital, paired with a failure to invest or grow the requisite talent and resources to succeed. Senior leadership, in particular, takes a hit with only one third of brand managers in this study believing their key leadership has a clear vision for digital marketing within their broader goals. No wonder marketers feel overwhelmed.

The Netplus/Finch study documented a higher comfort level with digital channels and tactics that have been around longer. Not surprisingly, brand marketers feel more confident tackling websites, SEO, and email than the newer digital challenges like mobile or social, video or blogs.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Until marketers can put it all together with confidence, they will continue to feel overwhelmed and digital opportunities will not be optimized.

Organizations that recognize the distress signals and respond to the challenges by investing in training, staffing and agency or other support for their digital activities will be rewarded with better results and happier, more productive staff with lower turnover. It’s an investment in everyone’s future.

Is your organization investing to succeed in digital?

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