New Survey Sees Changes in Marketing Priorities – Including Reliance on Big Data and AI

2018 marketing priorities

Marketing’s role has changed. And it’s likely to keep changing. How are marketing leaders navigating the disruption? At the end of last year my company partnered with MerlinOne and asked 400 marketers from a variety of industries and backgrounds to weigh in on what will be the key priorities for marketers in 2018 (you can get the full report over at MerlinOne).

While the role of marketing continues to change and expand, often marketers’ number one priority remains the shift from storytelling to holistic customer experiences. The influx of data and wealth of communication channels is now allowing for marketers to engage with customers in unprecedented ways.

2018 Marketing Priorities: 4 Key Findings From The Survey

  1. CMO’s biggest bets will be on Content Marketing, Content Operations, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.
  2. Every company is a publisher.
  3. Marketing is on the front lines of risk when it comes to cyber attacks.
  4. Organizations have a goal to leverage innovative analytics, but lack access to the data and the skills to analyze it against their overall business strategy.

1. Which Marketing Projects Will Be Most Important To You And Your Business In 2018?

New Survey Data: 2018 Marketing Priorities

We asked respondents over the years to select the single marketing activity they think will make the largest commercial impact and it’s been really interesting to see the moves, adds and changes.

Content is King and it’s no surprise to see content marketing at the top of the pile. Content marketing is the fuel that powers all digital communications from search to social to email marketing to creating website experiences which convert.

In a world where data has surpassed oil as the most valuable resource on the planet, marketers need complete visibility (a.k.a. Big Data) from the top of the funnel down to the “last mile” to make a real impact on sales. Marketers are well aware of the potential of using data to deliver “actionable insights” and “predictive analytics”.

In third position is artificial intelligence and machine learning. Survey respondents expect artificial intelligence to be used far beyond automation and optimization. Marketers will leverage AI to pay more attention to and generate insights from content interactions. For example, AI can determine which images a user sees and which ones they respond to positively — and which ones they simply ignore. With advancements in deep learning, AI has the power to help marketers not only understand contextual data, but also to discover, QA and recommend images.

2. Every Company Is A Publisher

An undeniable shift in the world has occurred that creates both (a) big stakes and (b) huge urgency for CMOs. There is no longer a distinction between those who can publish and those who can’t. It is expected that if you are selling a product or service, you know enough about it to promote it. Brands are acting more and more like publishers, rolling out multichannel networks filled with original editorial content spanning everything from how-to videos and listicles to new-technology primers.

New Survey Data: 2018 Marketing Priorities

While more than 70 percent of marketers reported content marketing, digital asset management, customer relationship management and creative suites are key to their publishing stacks, bringing up the rear and seemingly nice to haves include product content management and ERP.

It’s clear that companies know they need to showcase their differentiators, show their work and prove that they are going to offer the best product or the best service. It is now not done through a conversation with an individual customer, but through multiple mediums. Communication methods that didn’t exist a few years ago — social media, native advertising and in-app advertising, to name a few — now compete for user and marketer attention.

3. Marketing Is On The Front Lines Of Risk When It Comes To Cyber Attacks

Marketing is on the front lines of risk when it comes to cyber attacks. That’s because marketing’s applications such as websites, landing pages and marketing automation are all public facing applications and thus prime targets. Seventy-five percent of CMOs are worried marketing infrastructure will be the source of a breach. Exacerbating this are deeper compliance and regulations issues like GDPR and HIPAA, which have organizations focusing on how data enters and flows through their systems.

New Survey Data: 2018 Marketing Priorities

With GDPR coming into effect in May 2018, the questions hanging over marketers as the deadline for compliance approaches are:

  1. How proactive have their preparations been?
  2. Are their measures sufficient?
  3. Will the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) actually be capable of prosecuting anyone?

4. Organizations Have A Goal To Leverage Innovative Analytics, But Lack Access To The Data And The Skills To Analyze It Against Their Overall Business Strategy

Our respondents are unanimous, 2018 will be the year of AI. In 2018, we’ll see AI bring benefits — enabled by analytics and automation — that take the place of guesswork and allow marketers to be more targeted and quickly pivot as they identify tactics that move the needle. Our audience projects AI will become critical to providing enterprise wide insights and its use will grow by 73 percent in the next three years.

New Survey Data: 2018 Marketing Priorities

In 2018, marketers will leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence for greater personalization and more effective and efficient workflows. Marketers will increasingly turn to this technology to create smart content — content that is created automatically by inputting signals from search to automatically create the right content at just the right time.

However, I also found that marketing departments are not as savvy as they would like to be about data and analytics, and cite lack of training and overselling by vendors as reasons for this gap. Only 12 percent of respondents believe they have the skills they need to benefit from the data that’s available to them today.

Photo via Shutterstock

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Tom Demers Tom Demers is a co-founder and managing partner with Measured SEM and Cornerstone Content. Learn more about Tom by following him on Twitter @TomDemers or find him on Google Plus.