Survey: CMOs Not Happy With Digital

CMOs see digital as the medium of choice in this economy, but aren’t getting what they want out of it, according to a new survey from Heidrick & Struggles.

In December, the Atlanta recruiting firm polled 111 senior marketing executives at firms with $1 billion or more in annual revenues  about their digital strategies. The impetus, said Lynne Seid, partner in the firm’s global consumer practice, were comments from H&S clients expressing frustration over the fact that so much information exists online about consumers—like their search and social media behavior—and yet marketers felt they were accessing it poorly.

Information on existing customers is especially valuable since in the current down economy, many are focusing on retaining such customers, and cross-selling and up-selling to them, in addition to trying to win over new customers.

Respondents to the survey found their current ability to access ROI and metrics on their digital marketing lacking and rated their companies behind the curve. Many said they would have to look outside the company for help, whether that means hiring new employees or relying on ad agencies—though the marketers said they weren’t happy with their current agencies either.

Time after time in the survey, marketers expressed an awareness of digital’s potential along with a recognition that they weren’t close to tapping it.

For instance, one of the selling points of digital media is its ability to let marketers respond quickly to new opportunities, but only 16 percent of respondents rated themselves “very satisfied” with their ability to do so. Fifty-one percent said they were “somewhat satisfied.”


On a more granular level, the respondents rated marketing ROI, Web behavioral analyses and CRM as the most important parts of their digital marketing mix. Not many marketers thought that they were good at those functions at this point. Only 18 percent said they were “very satisfied” with their ROI analysis, only 13 percent said the same of their CRM program and 19 percent were happy with their search engine optimization.

There was also some debate over who has responsibility for analytics like Web traffic and usage reports. Most marketing departments are currently handling those functions, but they would like to fob it off on IT. Though search marketing also scored high, pulling up the rear on that list were blogs, social networking tools and mobile advertising.

On the bright side, most respondents thought they had Webinars down pat and they were fairly confident in their ability to execute online surveys and contests. On the other hand, most rated their ability to pull off mobile ads and video ads fairly low.

For what ever reason, marketers think their companies are behind the curve on digital marketing, but they don’t see themselves that way. “That’s called ‘irony,’” Seid said. Their agency partners are another story. Fifty-five percent disagree with the statement: “We trust our ad agency partner to provide us with the digital marketing expertise that we need.”

Seid said the big takeaway from the survey is that there’s still enormous room for improvement for most companies’ digital marketing strategies.

“What I’m hearing anecdotally is there are now sometimes half a dozen digital agencies and suppliers specializing in social media and search,” Seid said. “We don’t have anyone managing, integrating and demanding best practices in those areas.” Seid envisions a “digital CMO” taking responsibility for managing those disciplines. Said Seid: “That will be the CMO of the future.”