I don’t know quite what to make of the 2009 Survey on Marketing, Media and Measurement released earlier this month by custom content company King Fish Media.
- On one hand, it’s a rare opportunity to see data from business, rather than consumer, marketers. (Of the 230 respondents, 52% were pure B2B and another 36% were mixed B2B and business-to-consumer.) So I'd really like to believe it.
- But on the other hand, the sample seems dangerously unrepresentative: 44% said their organization’s primary industry was “publishing/media/advertising/marketing”, which is vastly higher than the real-world proportion. Presumably this was the result of the survey method – an online survey based on email invitations to the lists of King Fish and co-sponsors HubSpot, Junta42 and Upshot Institute. In addition to the industry skew, this probably reached a group that’s much more online-oriented than marketers as a whole.
The best I can do is to treat the results very carefully: assuming that this group shares some characteristics of the broader universe, but keeping in mind that some answers might reflect its atypical composition. Here goes.
1. Marketing Measurement Practices
The group reported using three broad types of marketing success measurements:
- 91% measured new customers acquired or leads generated.
- 63% measured customer retention or sales from current customers or lapsed customers.
- 54% measured brand-marketing-style metrics such as awareness, perception or intent.
Directionally, this seems about right: more marketers focus on new business than on existing customers, and brand-style measurements are less common than business results. The figures for existing-customer measurements are higher than I would expect, but perhaps that’s because publishing marketers are more directly responsible for renewals than business marketers in general.
Another oddity was that more people report measuring new customers (77%) than leads (73%). An optimist would treat this as evidence that marketers are adopting an end-to-end vision (as they should) rather than ending their responsibility when a lead is handed over to sales. But think the more likely cause is that marketers in publishing are more likely to sell directly (i.e., without a sales force) than in other industries.
Incidentally, the survey also found that 73% of respondents had guidelines in place to measure marketing success, but just 50% said their company requires a measurement plan as part of its program approval process. Treat this as you wish: is it impressive that 73% have measurement guidelines or frightening that 27% do not? Also bear in mind that 91% were at least using measurement on acquisition programs (some, apparently, without standard guidelines). So I think we can conclude that basic measurement is widespread, although its quality and consistency are questionable.
2. Spending on Acquisition vs. Existing Customers
Media spending by purpose was distributed:
- 56% for new leads
- 33% for retention
- 10% for other
This is interesting because I don’t recall seeing other data showing this split. The actual numbers show much more spending on retention than I would have expected. As with the measurement figures, this probably reflects the business of the survey responders.
3. Media Preferences
The main thrust of the survey was how marketers view different media. Marketers were asked to rate "the most effective way to communicate with customers and prospects", with separate answers for each. Here are the results:
|for prospects/leads||for current customers|
|corporate Web site||75%||70%|
|custom content and media||70%||77%|
|white papers / e-books||67%||52%|
|Webcasts and virtual trade shows||64%||51%|
|direct mail promotions||33%||34%|
If there’s a pattern here, it’s that awareness-generating media (e-mail, direct mail and online/print/broadcast advertising) rank shockingly low, especially for prospecting. Apart from using email for customer communications, the respondents gave their highest rankings to the corporate Web site, social media, and custom content.
But how, exactly, can they attract traffic for the Web site, social media message and custom content if they don’t reach out to new audiences? I can think of (at least) two answers:
- they can’t, and the answers just reflect an infatuation with online media. I’m not saying the respondents are poor marketers: chances are they really do use the low-ranked media, but don’t consider them terribly effective. (Other answers in the survey suggest the same thing, showing that budgets are moving away from the low-ranking media to the high-ranked categories.)
- they can, by using social media and custom media in the awareness- and traffic-building roles previously handled by paid advertising. Put another way, the traditional first steps of generating awareness and interest are handled by the community rather than by marketers themselves. In this world, marketing’s role becomes to nurture communities of enthusiasts and evangelists, and then to meet the needs of prospects attracted by the community. This is what I meant in my September 23 post about community-centric marketing replacing customer centricity. (Can I coin CBM as a new acronym for Community Based Marketing?)
Obviously the second possibility is more intriguing. It’s surely correct to some degree, although the Big Question is how quickly and how far marketers’ role will shift. Given my concerns about this survey, I wouldn’t treat its results as definitive answers. But they're still tasty food for thoughts.