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DMA Insight: education and leadership required to tackle challenges

by Alexandra Apostol

June 10, 2021

At this year’s DMA awards over 200 senior data and marketing professionals came together to judge the best work our industry had to offer. They also shared their experiences of 2020 and expectations for the future – in partnership with Feefo.

When asked about the key challenges facing the data and marketing industry in the coming years, diversity and inclusion were mentioned by most (62%) as the biggest issue. Just behind this, unsurprisingly, we find recovering from the coronavirus pandemic (59%) followed by a need to build more ethical approaches to data (50%).

Looking beyond this leading trio of challenges there is a variety of different concerns cited by around three in ten, including attracting talent (41%), better understanding customers (40%), reinforcing consumers’ trust (39%), Brexit (37%), measuring return on investment (37%), and adapting to new data laws (33%). It’s also interesting to note that while overall just 28% of industry professionals are concerned about managing the trend towards in-housing of key data and marketing functions, this rises to 42% for those respondents working within agencies.

When asked what the barriers are to improving customer engagement and marketing campaigns for their own organisations (or clients they work with), limits on budget was the leading challenge mentioned by over half (55%) of the respondents. Beyond this, we found a collection of four challenges related to a lack of data (45%), defective internal communication (41%), limited resources (38%), and poor strategy (36%). All the barriers clearly highlight the need for leadership and cross-organisational buy-in to ensure engagement and marketing programmes have everything they need to succeed.

Furthermore, one in five senior professionals (22%) cite a lack of technical skills as a barrier to improvement, emphasising the need for further training. The value of which is widely agreed upon, with 90% believing it to be important.

However, just half of organisations surveyed (55%) currently provide ongoing training in key areas of data and marketing for their staff. Moreover, less again appear to have taken the opportunity coronavirus has offered to upskill their teams – although it is also encouraging that 41% did provide additional marketing-related training over the pandemic period.

The DMA offers advice and guidance to help organisations improve their engagement and marketing practices, including a wide range of learning and development opportunity available via the Institute of data and marketing (IDM). Find out more about the courses and qualifications available to help you grow your career here.

To find out more about the DMA’s latest insights and research, visit the research page.


This research was undertaken by the DMA and was conducted in October 2020 via an online survey of 229 respondents that work in data and marketing in the UK – and had been invited to judge the DMA Awards 2020.

The data was collected, collated and analysed by the DMA insight department. The survey consisted of a maximum of 25 questions. Unless referenced, all data included in this report is taken from this survey.

If you have any questions about the methodology used in the report, you can contact the DMA’s research team via email:


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