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Data And CX Among Top Challenges Marketing Leaders Face Today

CMOs and senior marketing leaders today continue to be challenged across the board, from driving big picture vision and technology transformation to guiding teams toward improvement in areas such as content creation and campaign execution. I recently had a glimpse at the data behind Forbes Media’s CMO as Culture Warrior: The 8 Essential Characteristics of High Performing Marketing Leaders report. The report focuses on the essential characteristics of successful marketing leadership, but what I found particularly interesting were some of the more quantitative numbers the publisher gathered.

Forty percent of CMOs believe a “significant” level of transformation is needed in the next three to five years in the marketing organization, according to the study, while 18% said an even more “aggressive” level of transformation is needed. A little more than a third (36%) said a “moderate” level is necessary.

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The survey, which polled 427 global CMO and VP-level marketing executives, also delved into the most important areas of focus within marketing: the marketing technology challenges CMOs face; how ready the marketing organization is to drive transformation; and where marketers are increasing budget.

Not surprisingly, data (Big Data and insights), customer experience, talent (digital marketing, marketing technology and analytics), marketing systems (such as CRM) and behavioral and trend research were the top five areas of focus for marketers, in that order.

Marketing technology challenges abound, according to these executives. A total of 44% pointed to integration issues, which is not surprising given the rate of new marketing technology we’ve seen added to organizations’ marketing stacks the past couple of years, while 40% said the struggle is real to adapt quickly enough as new technology emerges. Also on their radar is the lack of tech-savvy talent.

Given these challenges and the need to solve issues, it seems natural that the budget towards marketing technology is expected to increase among a majority of respondents to the survey — 72% said it would increase either significantly (38%) or somewhat (34%), the CMOs said.  Social media budget is similarly expected to gain: 34% indicated it would increase significantly, and 36% said social spending would increase “somewhat.” Data/research rounded out the top three expecting the most increase, with 36% indicating the data and research budget would go up significantly, and 34% telling Forbes it would increase somewhat.

Armed with those budgets, marketers say they are ready or working towards real change, with some leading out front. When asked how ready the marketing organization is to drive required transformation, 22% of respondents said they accept the need to change; 29% have a clear plan for change, 24% are beginning to change, and a proactive 24% said they are driving the change.