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In some ways, digital marketing has matured, with in-house teams and outside resources collaborating to achieve established best practices. And yet, there are still areas where many marketers struggle to find ROI, or to execute at all.

Our new report, 2018 Digital Marketing Plans for Best-in-Class Success, lets you benchmark your marketing plan against the most successful among us.

In partnership with Ascend2, we looked at 154 companies that described their digital marketing plans as very successful, or best-in-class in comparison to their competitors. (Of our original survey, 57 percent said they were very successful or best-in-class.)

We found that talent—especially MarTech talent—is in short supply, and data quality might not be as top-of-mind as it should be.

The struggle to achieve objectives

Top digital marketers want it all. They saw most of their strategic objectives as equally important:

However, these objectives are not equally achievable. Improved data quality remains a critical challenge, even for these successful marketers.

In addition, data management was identified as the most difficult tactic to execute in a digital marketing plan (47 percent).

Distracted by the shiny new thing

What was new a decade ago has become tried-and-true. Digital has now matured and our top marketers know how to effectively use each channel.

This means that the newer tactics—social media and MarTech—are where marketers can find the most improvements in effectiveness. At the same time, the top marketers found social media marketing and search/social ads to be the easiest to execute.


Data management, on the other hand, was seen to have limited effectiveness compared to its difficulty.

It makes sense that marketers might focus on the tactics that are easiest and most likely to provide immediate success. But this could be dangerous. A lack of quality, actionable data could become a stumbling block in the future for these marketers as machine learning and artificial intelligence begin to uncover new insights about consumer segments and behavior.

Marketers must make sure they aren’t short-changing future results by de-emphasizing data quality and management today.

Spending more to do more

A full 96 percent of best-in-class marketers said their 2018 budgets were bigger—and more than half said that increase would be significant.

To succeed this year, they’ll need to spend wisely. This means investing in talent, technology and data, not simply upping the ad buy. Marketers who don’t make these investments this year may find greater challenges over the next few years.

Minding the gap

If your digital marketing does not yet fall into that very successful category, it’s time to identify gaps in your channel resources, use, success, and expertise. Ask yourself these questions:

Partnering with vendors that can provide the expertise and technology you need is a quick way to improve results. At the same, focus internal resources on both short- and long-term initiatives to improve quickly while maintaining success over time. And don’t forget to test and measure your results to show your progress, calculate ROI and justify further investments in talent, technology, data quality and data acquisition.

Expect this to be another fast-moving year, with changes in consumers’ media consumption and shopping habits. Be prepared to meet your customers where they are with appealing, personalized communications.

To download the full 2018 Digital Marketing Plans for Best-in-Class Success report, click here. Digital-Marketing-Plans-Report