More of an art, less of a science has been a popular way to describe the marketing world's behaviors. That world is undergoing a sea change now, and marketers have had to put down their crayons and pick up calculators. The reasons? Finance departments breathe down their necks; accountability restrictions bind them to measurement software; demand for real numbers piles on from all sides. With industry sands shifting under their feet, how are marketers staying competitive?
The advent of high-speed Internet has probably been the greatest impetus for the changes marketers have experienced. Broadband penetration in U.S. households was at 5.5 percent in 2000, but this percentage has surged to almost 50 percent. The increase in broadband adoption has led to exponential growth in online consumer value: More people are making more buying decisions and purchases online, leaving marketers scrambling for new, innovative ways to catch customers' eyes and measure campaign success. The Web has contributed heavily to the demand for hard numbers as customer behavior is much more easy to quantify online than offline. Items like blogs, wikis, search engine optimization, social networking sites, and pay per click advertising did not exist 10 years ago, but now must become integrated into a marketer's lexicon and awareness. Liz Roche, managing partner at Customers Incorporated, says the most important thing for today's marketer to understand is that "the 'Web experiment' has succeeded and the Internet as a commercial tool is here to stay."
Suaad Sait, CEO of ReachForce, a provider of on-demand marketing automation products, began his career in marketing. "I used to be frustrated early on," he says. "I'd talk about wanting to quantify marketing spend and people looked at me like I had two heads." Just a few years later Sait moved to a different company and considerations had already begun to shift toward the ROI bent he had long been looking for. "The first day of the quarter the vice president of sales sat right next to me, and the last day of the quarter the CFO sat next to me."
Sait's experience is indicative of many marketers' journey in the past decade. It is understandable that marketers are still enduring growing pains associated with the changes in relationships between marketing and other departments. New technologies have allowed some departments to work more closely together, while restrictions have caused others to start exchanging dirty looks at the water cooler. With analytics stressed and technology growing, it is, understandably, IT, sales, and finance that have been doing the most severe relationship reevaluation. The explosion of online opportunities and new compliance responsibilities like Sarbanes-Oxley--the poster child for accountability pressures--are also factors that have helped to kick up some serious dirt on marketing's turf.
Another wrinkle for marketers these days is the plethora of recently coined terms that they must not only recognize, but also understand on a deep level to properly leverage. Sait says that language in marketing has changed so much that 10 years ago," it would be the equivalent of me speaking Mandarin Chinese in Maintown, U.S.A." Today, marketers must get their heads around new terms, such as predictive analytics, search engine optimization, and social computing, in order to stay fluent (see the sidebar, "The Top 6 Terms for Marketers to Know Now").
New pressures and advanced technologies have led to many shake-ups. A Forrester study released in October 2006 found that three of four firms have reorganized their marketing departments in the past two years. Creative marketing through broadcast TV, billboards, newspapers, and direct mail isn't on its deathbed, but with the explosion of Web technology and analytical tools, a marketer now needs a different bag of tricks than she did five years ago. To cope with the advent of new, …