Mastery of digital marketing is an ongoing project, not one product, survey suggests

In assessing the marketing "maturity" of B2B marketers across the industry, a survey reveals there is a widening gap between those who have mastered digital marketing and the majority who are still engaging in a disjointed digital marketing experience.

The survey looked to B2B marketing senior executives from over 300 mid-size to large brands around the globe and concluded that only seven per cent of those surveyed have mastered it.

Conducted by Stein IAS and Oracle Marketing Cloud, the respondents were rated by their level of mastery, with a whopping 89 per cent having an ineffective web strategy to harness the benefits of the marketing cloud.

The findings reflect the segmentation employed in so many marketing strategies. While the industry-wide efforts continue to produce engaging content and timely distribution, it is all too often that the brand centric, IT departments are not in synch with automated marketing campaigns.

In fact, only six per cent of those surveyed would be considered highly mature modern marketers, with the vast majority in the developmental stage of their digital mastery. While the tools are highly sophisticated, the techniques and mastery of the many advances remains elusive.

The study coined three terms that remain a useful benchmark. The first is the digital master, who is described as a customer-centric, early adopter of technologies and marketing practices. The second is the digital pragmatist, who has adopted mature technology channels and tactics, and thirdly there is the digital explorer, described as a slow adopter of digital tools and techniques. The marketing technology that requires mastery or at least basic knowledge include integrating the use of your brands website, CRM software, marketing automation, content apps, data platforms and analytics. This, according to the study, is the toolkit to power the ultimate "connected experience.”

While the top findings indicate that only six per cent of those surveyed can claim digital master status, the majority can be called digital pragmatists according to the report, particularly in the US with 80 per cent of those surveyed having mastered the "reach and attract" stage of digital marketing. Because of content challenges and a disconnected customer journey, the "engage and inspire" and "nurture and convert" categories are the worst performing overall. While all of those surveyed are faring well with their assessment of their tools, technologies, and people, web optimization and lead nurturing are key areas needing improvement.

The situation is not entirely without some positive trends. With 54 per cent of B2B marketers surveyed using a mix of web, mobile and social channels alongside traditional media, nearly half of the participants showed they had mastered database management and acquisition strategies. While the majority use analytics from both inbound and outbound channels to improve database profiling, 16 per cent update records by tracking prospects online and offline. In the US, 80 per cent of those surveyed use a range of channels and advanced data profiling, and more and more organizations utilize content personalization.

However, there remains a huge disconnect when it comes to 'engaging and inspiring.' In fact, 37 per cent of those surveyed admit to simply pushing out generic, market-wide content at semi-regular intervals. In B2B marketing, it is essential to have the web platforms and content set up to keep your brand relevant throughout the purchasing journey.

When it comes to nurturing and converting leads, 69 per cent of organizations are making no attempt to lead score. The gap is widening between that 69 per cent who are lagging behind and the digital masters who are both analyzing the web behavior of prospects (24 per cent) and tapping into predictive analytics (7 per cent). The study shows that while automation tools have reached a high level of capability, many B2B marketers are still way behind the curve. With just 36 per cent operating with a system of 'open, no/click through' emails, and more than a quarter (28 per cent) only communicating when they have a campaign running, there is relatively limited lead nurturing taking place.

Further, when it comes to qualifying leads, 37 per cent rely on their sales departments to conduct phone or face-to-face communication, and 32 per cent use lead capture forms and basic metrics to qualify marketing leads. What this means is that 69 per cent of organizations make no attempt to score leads and two thirds rely on outdated processes of measuring leads.

While old school tactics are still hindering lead nurturing, 24 per cent of those surveyed use some lead scoring models, and there is that 7 per cent already engaged in predictive analytics. Additionally, one in five of the organizations in this survey use personalized display advertising to re-target prospects and 16 per cent use email triggers. The survey suggest that the 7 per cent using predictive analytics are mastering a powerful tool and this knowledge will put their organization ahead of the curve in understanding a prospects 'intent to purchase.'

One of the key areas where brands are falling behind is in their ability to embrace the full suite of marketing cloud technologies, with only 14 per cent able to analyze and optimize it. With just over a quarter relying on manual processes to distribute outbound campaigns, 37 per cent favor their internal resources over outsourced support. Only 14 per cent have their own marketing cloud or use cloud apps to connect data and systems together, while 43 per cent are just now at the point where they have adopted basic campaign automation platforms.

The survey suggests that to improve in this area, B2B marketers must try and build in channels, content, data, technology and apps with the marketing cloud. The study emphasizes that marketers avoid over-engineered, under-used solutions and instead entrust an expert with the time, resource and skill to maximize the potential of your technology stack. Look at marketing technology as a "project, not a product.”

Finally, B2B marketers must once again make sure that they fine tune areas like web strategy- bringing their IT departments on board, and eliminating disjointed digital experiences. Bridging the gap between marketing, sales and ultimately the customer is the end goal, the report states.