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The Problem with Marketing These Days? A Lack of Focus

When the CMO thinks every marketing opportunity is vital, no single strategy gets the priority, funding, or talent it needs. Here's why covering all your bases can leave a company wide open to threats.
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From new platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) and devices (smartphones, tablets) to new ways to measure success (advanced analytics), marketers now have more ways to do more things than ever before.

So, what’s the problem? CMOs are not prioritizing. A recent survey by Booz & Company, Korn/Ferry International, and the Association of National Advertisers asked 350 senior marketing professionals to rank eight distinct marketing channels on a scale of one (least important) to seven (most important). A six equated to “very important.”

The result? Marketers think everything is vital. “Rather than focus on becoming best in class in two or three areas, [the CMOs] consider almost all of them to be crucial,” a summary of the survey notes. “In fact, exactly half of our respondents rate five or more of the [eight] capabilities as ‘very important’ to their organization’s future success.”

These results are consistent with the findings of Chief Outsiders, a provider of outsourced CMO services. “[Companies are] taking too broad a brush to the market,” writes partner Ricky Holloman. “Throwing broad, scattershot strategies at the market in the hopes that some of it will stick, instead of pinpointing the most lucrative opportunities.”

The problem is especially vexing given the funding constraints many marketers are up against — not to mention the tacit pressure they may feel to be part of every new social media and analytics trend. Then there’s the issue of staffing a multipronged effort: 42 percent of those surveyed said finding “talent with the right skills” was the top challenge to building capabilities, second only to “funding” (44 percent).

What to do? The survey authors recommend that marketers “identify the two or three differentiated capabilities your organization should pursue.” In other words, pick the marketing paths that — if you excel in them — will give you the biggest competitive advantage. Don’t spread yourself too thin just to maintain an unremarkable presence on every social network under the sun.

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THE PLUS

How do you actually execute a differentiated marketing strategy? For tips, we recommend STEPHANIE KELLER’s Huffington Post article “Dynamic Personality and Differentiating the Brand: A Social Media and Event Marketing Case Study.”

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