Which Pain Points Are Giving Marketers Headaches?

June 25, 2015

EconsultancySmartFocus-Marketing-Pain-Points-and-Impact-Jun2015Forget proving ROI. That’s a headache, but not a “migraine-inducing” one, according to results from a new survey [download page] from Econsultancy and SmartFocus. Instead, the biggest pain point for client-side marketers today – of those identified – is the major bottleneck presented by IT and web development teams, per the study.

Respondents were presented with a list of 17 pain points and asked to rate them on a 5-point scale, from 1 (minor headache) to 5 (a serious migraine). The most aggravating headaches, with a top-2 box score on the “migraine rating” scale, are:

  • IT and web development teams being major bottlenecks (54%);
  • A lack of time to test and optimize campaigns (47%);
  • Desire for a single customer view without the time, budget or IT resources to build one (42%);
  • Inability to keep track of customers across different channels and on different devices (41%); and
  • Not enough budget or a decreasing budget (41%).

Generally, those leading pain points were also among the top in terms of significant perceived impact on the business, though the struggle to prove the ROI of marketing activities cracked the top 5 on that measure.

Encouragingly, only about 1 in 5 respondents complained that their senior bosses don’t care about marketing, although more (28%) saw this as having a significant impact on their business.

Beyond ranking those 17 issues on their severity and significance, the study also looks at various issues related to data, marketing technology and marketing skills. Some takeaways are highlighted below.

Data-Related Challenges

Asked which data-related challenges are pain points for their team, marketers were most likely to point to marketing attribution (48%), turning data into insights (47%) and turning insights into actionable segments (45%). In terms of severity, though, the highest proportion assigned a top-2 “migraine rating” to moving data between systems (74%), gaining a single customer view (69%) and turning data into insights (65%).

Being able to work with the data has the biggest impact on the success of marketing campaigns, too. On a 5-point scale of importance, almost 8 in 10 assigned a top-2 box score to the challenge of turning insights into actionable segments, with an equal 79% saying the same about the challenge of turning data into insights. The (in)ability to turn data into insights is a recurring problem cited in research on data-driven marketing.

Marketing Technologies

A majority of respondents to the study reported using marketing technologies such as web analytics (66%), email marketing platforms (61%) and social media management (55%), although others such as marketing automation (31%), social listening (27%) and website personalization (26%) are lower on the adoption scale.

Technology integration problems – another recurring theme – continues to be a problem, per the survey, with 63% agreeing that lack of integration makes it harder to get a single customer view. Meanwhile, only one-third agreed that they have the right marketing technology to help them meet their business objectives, and even fewer (30%) agreed that marketing technology platforms are fast and easy to use.

Surprisingly, though, only a minority of marketers assigned the various marketing technologies in question a top-2 “migraine rating,” led by data management platforms (37%), multichannel campaign management (37%), and marketing automation (36%). These tended to fall around the middle rung in terms of importance to marketing success, supplanted by more common technologies such as CRM, content management systems, web analytics, SEO technology and email marketing platforms.

As for email, there are struggles there too, with by far the most common problem being an increasing difficulty standing out in the inbox. (See the MarketingCharts report on brand email opens for more on this topic.)

Although about half personalize email content to individual customers, few are yet able to engage in other capabilities such as offering dynamic email content based on when and where customers open email (18%) and real-time decisioning capability to serve the most contextually relevant content (12%).

And while 8 in 10 agree that context is king when communicating with customers, about half as many (37%) can track customer journeys for individuals and serve relevant content accordingly. Additionally, only one-third personalize the web experience based on demographics and behavior.


The majority of marketers today agree that the role of the marketer is becoming more complex (88%) and that the role of the marketer is more stressful compared to five years ago (68%). Today’s complexity of marketing means that it’s harder to be effective, according to half of the respondents, and a majority (54%) agree that they don’t have the marketing resources required to deliver what the business expects.

While respondents feel their teams are generally well-equipped on a skills-basis when it comes to a commercial understanding of the wider business and developing effective marketing strategies, close to half feel poorly equipped to understand mobile marketing, personalize marketing with real-time interactions and improve the omni-channel customer experience.

About the Data: The survey was fielded among 509 client-side marketers in March and April 2015. Half of the respondents are from the UK and another 40% from North America. The retail (19%) and financial services (11%) industries were the most heavily represented.

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