• Sam Decker

Prioritizing Marketers’ Top Priorities

This morning I got a research brief from Mediapost summarizing the findings from the Marketing Effectiveness Networking Group (MENG) and Anderson Aanlytics study. This study surveyed marketing executives to identify key trends and strategies of effective marketing. The subject line of the email said: "Marketing Execs Say Basics Are Most Important in 2008".

By "basics" I thought they meant strategies such as becoming measurement-oriented, shifting ad portfolio, investing in email infrastructure, build operational data warehouse, and improve web site.

However the ‘basics’ by definition from this study were more customer-centric and more concepts and objectives rather than strategies. And unfortunately for most companies, they’re not all that ‘basic’ in achieving success.

60% of marketing executives said the following ‘marketing basics’ were important:

  1. Customer satisfaction

  2. Customer retention

  3. Segmentation

  4. Brand loyalty

  5. ROI

I have a copy of the study. To be clear, the study asked marketing executives to choose from over 60 concepts or buzzwords (such as the 5 above) which were then categorized. Other categories, in order of votes, included:

  1. SEO (by itself)

  2. Personalization: concepts include Data mining, CRM, Lead Generation, Personalization, Ecommerce, Competitive Intelligence

  3. Green Marketing:

  4. Multicultural / Ethic issues.

  5. Breakdown of old media

  6. Innovative Branding

  7. Viral / WOM: concepts include viral, WOM, blogging

  8. New Media: concepts include Web 2.0, Mobile, CGM, Long Tail, Social Networking

  9. Macro Economics

  10. Tech Strategy

  11. Outsourcing

  12. Social Issues

  13. Other

Now, as a marketer, if I participated in this study I may have answered the same way. After all, the ‘marketing basics’ are overarching objectives. What can beat those? And in fact, many of the other concepts feed into driving satisfaction, retention, and ROI. It’s not a fair comparison to put customer satisfaction next to "SEO" or "Data Mining". Yet for many marketers, SEO and data mining may take up the majority of their resources.


In a recent Internet Retailer article, Walmart.com CMO Cathy Halligan reported that the top three initiatives last year for them were:

  1. Pick up in store capability

  2. Product ratings and reviews

  3. "Find a Store" functionality

Granted, all of these are within an ecommerce business (one of the concepts above), but Walmart.com is a $1B business, ad their top marketing initiatives last year were Web 2.0 and multi-channel capability (not on the study above).Yet, I bet Cathy would answer this survey the same way. Customer satisfaction and retention are paramount for them, as she stated in the Internet Retailer article, "Our secret sauce is customer focus."

In our company (Bazaarvoice, a B2B software as a service provider), customer satisfaction and retention are also top objectives. If I took this study I’d vote them to the top, because if we achieve these we garner "word of mouth" which BECOMES "lead generation" (two concepts voted lower) which results in "ROI". Therefore, word of mouth is our #1 strategy. But, it gets more complicated. The four pillars to achieving customer satisfaction and retention, and driving word of mouth, are not even on this list: Customer service, support, innovation, and reliability. Data mining, personalization, and breakdown of old media have nothing to do with my B2B strategy; yet these were my top priorities when I was at Dell.

What would be very helpful is a study that separates objectives from strategies, and surveys the effectiveness of the strategies towards the objectives, preferably by B2B vs. B2C, and perhaps by industry.

In the end though, I think that this study got it right in highlighting that the end goal for marketers are the marketing basics of satisfaction, retention, loyalty and ROI. But the absolute numbers and comparisons of concepts to each other may not be as relevant, other than to gauge top of mind awareness of marketing concepts and buzzwords. Each industry, company and marketing strategy is different.

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