In a recent survey of brand marketing executives conducted by Street Fight, nearly half of those who responded said they spend 1/3 or more of their digital marketing dollars to support their branch offices, franchises, and distributors — and 40% of them expect that budget mix to increase. But outside of email marketing, these enterprise brands are struggling to make digital as effective as traditional tactics and media. Technology integration and conflicting analytics tools are among the more prominent headaches.
To help suppliers of marketing and advertising technologies and services better meet the needs of these big customers, Street Fight ran the online survey in January and February. We polled managers and decision makers at over 200 medium-to-large companies that market locally. Over one-quarter of the respondents had corporate revenue of over $2 billion, and a third were supporting more than 500 stores or partners, with a mix of retail, financial services, and other industries.
Unsurprisingly, these companies use a broad variety of digital and traditional marketing channels to support their local operations, including national and local TV, radio, print and circulars, as well as email, social media, display, and search. Most told us they believed their digital marketing efforts were effective for each of the classic marketing funnel objectives from awareness through conversion to loyalty. They did seem to have a few concerns about upselling and new customer acquisition, and a notable minority (14%) deemed their brand building ineffective.
What jumped out from the survey, however, was that although they seemed satisfied with their digital efforts overall, they rated many traditional techniques as more effective. When asked to list up to 5 of their most effective tactics, 30% mentioned email – the top response – and 22% social media advertising. But they ranked direct mail, local print (including inserts and coupons), local TV, and radio above social, and well above SEO, digital display, and paid search. That attitude contrasts with local merchant and small business surveys Street Fight has done, which generally rate digital marketing as more effective.
So what are they missing and how can suppliers help?
Many marketers I’ve worked with focus their digital efforts primarily on supporting the corporate website, with less attention going to local sites or stores. Measuring digital to digital is much easier than evaluating marketing ROI or properly assigning attribution across channels and visits or purchases at physical stores. We’ve seen steady progress towards bridging gaps between operational and data silos within corporations, but many barriers still exist.
We asked the marketers to rate some potentially frustrating digital marketing challenges for their degree of difficulty. As shown above, the top two pain points boiled down to tools integration. Nearly half (43%) of the respondents said making different marketing technologies work together was difficult, and another 39% complained about data analytics tools. These appeared to be bigger management issues than things like managing multiple ad networks, data sources, or agencies.
Let me emphasize that this seems to be about tools, rather than vendors. The national-to-local marketers exhibited little desire for single-vendor solutions. A plurality of respondents preferred to add a few offerings to an integrated solution, were willing to customize, and regularly went with best-of-breed products. Fewer than 10% said that, all else being equal, they’d buy from a single supplier.
At the same time, these big marketers said they were comfortable with buying digital tools and services from smaller companies or startups. The majority (61%) said they were somewhat or very comfortable, with 21% being in the latter category. It’s also worth pointing out that the ones who said they were very comfortable were also more likely to report that their digital marketing efforts were “very effective” than companies that were less comfortable.
We’ll be doing further and deeper analysis of this survey in the coming weeks, consider the following as early takeaways and recommendations:
- Big marketers find integrating marketing tech and data analytics tools among their most difficult local marketing problems. Successful suppliers can ease that by offering services that clean up and standardize marketing data. Harmonizing metrics across physical and digital channels sounds simple, but would help out attribution immensely.
- Many of these marketers were satisfied with their email and direct mail efforts, but less enthusiastic about search and display. Vendors won’t likely unseat incumbent email suppliers, but could help with tools and services to manage campaigns across paper and digital, and better coordinate social, display, and search. I wouldn’t be surprised if most re-targeting efforts are focused on display and on the corporate website, leaving opportunities to better feed email, direct mail, and physical-store couponing.
David Card is Street Fight’s director of research.