Aug 8, 2012

IBM on how marketing and IT can collaborate to make businesses better

To meet the needs of today's multichannel consumers and to put a strong emphasis on mobile ads and social media campaigns, businesses should form a team that combines marketing and IT, IBM Enterprise Marketing Management Group's vice president, Yuchun Lee, writes. Almost half of employees at high-performing companies said that marketing and IT have good relationships, and about the same number of marketers said better technology would help improve their productivity, according to IBM's State of Marketing study. Advertising Age (tiered subscription model)/CMO Strategy blog:

Businesses looking to shed old practices and succeed in the era of the multi-channel, empowered consumer will need to get their chief marketing officer and chief information officer to form a team that melds the skills of marketing with IT.

That's one of the conclusions we can draw from IBM's latest State of Marketingstudy. In the survey of more than 350 marketing professionals across multiple industries and regions, close to 50% of marketers stated that improved technology infrastructure or software would enable them to accomplish more in their work.

Based on what I have seen and conversations I've had, however, many cynics are out there arguing over the importance of this "odd couple" dream team. That would explain why so few have taken steps to forge this new union. That's a big mistake. Why? According to the study, 51% of respondents who identified their companies as high-performing stated they have good relationships between marketing and IT.

These findings are right in line with the Gartner research firm's prediction that the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO by 2017.

The IBM Retail Online Index shows that sales from mobile devices reached 15% in the second quarter of 2012, and we expect that number to reach 20% this coming holiday season. With marketers now clearly looking to improve their mobile-advertising efforts, the teaming with IT becomes even more important.

The State of Marketing survey found that within the next 12 months, 34% of marketers intend to deliver mobile ads, a sign that they are prepared to go beyond mobile websites and apps and deliver mobile advertising that reaches each customer on his or her smartphone and tablet.

While this mobile growth is certainly exciting, challenges still exist. According to the survey, while 85% agree with the need for an integrated marketing suite, only 21% are running mobile-marketing tactics as part of an integrated campaign. This represents a huge missed opportunity that will ultimately inhibit the effectiveness of marketers.

Integration is also an issue when it comes to social media. According to the survey, 78% are running social-media campaigns in silos. This approach may explain why many are playing guessing games when it comes to this channel rather than making informed decisions.

We can see this occurring in the survey's finding that 26% intend to launch applications on third-party social-networking sites during 2012, 24% plan to incorporate user-generated content into their social-media efforts, and 23% are looking to launch social-media ads or share links in e-mail and web offers. This lack of consensus may be hindering social-commerce efforts. It may explain why, according to our Retail Online Index, retailers are struggling with social media, evidenced by a more than 20% drop in social shopping in the second quarter.

Mobile and social are just two examples of how an alliance with IT can have an impact on marketing. This partnership will ultimately give top performers greater responsibilities for products and services, price, place and promotion, as well as communication across the purchasing cycle and more influence in their business overall. Our study found that marketers from the higher-performing companies are nearly three times more likely to be pro-active leaders in driving their organization's customer experience across all channels.

At a time when customers are flocking to their mobile devices and social-media channels, businesses must be prepared to connect with them on all fronts, or lose them to the competition. But to make this happen, it will take a village within the company, or in this instance, a marketing and IT alliance.