Digital marketing has exploded in the last few years, with more tools out there than ever thanks to advances in tech. But many marketers lack confidence in their abilities – with some saying they’re not always sure they can leverage digital marketing to reach customers and forge relationships with them.

In a study of 1,000 U.S. marketers released on Monday from Adobe Systems Inc., only 48 per cent of digital marketers said they felt highly proficient in their profession, with more than 80 per cent saying they didn’t have any formal training and learned all of their trade while on the job.

Tied to that is their lack of faith in their ability to track whether their campaigns were working. For 82 per cent of marketers, their biggest concern was reaching their customers, with another 79 per cent of respondents saying they wanted to know if their campaigns were having any effect. Still, just 40 per cent of respondents said they felt their company’s marketing is effective, with another 40 per cent saying they felt their team and co-workers were skilled at digital marketing.

(Image: Adobe). Click to see larger version.
(Image: Adobe). Click to see larger version.

Even so, 68 per cent of marketers feel their companies pressure them to show return on investment (ROI) and to demonstrate why it’s worth budgeting towards marketing. And the problem is, only 44 per cent said their marketing departments had a lot of influence over their company’s business strategy.

Only nine per cent said they strongly believed their digital marketing was working, though almost half said they did think their marketing had some effect.

While the numbers don’t necessarily translate to Canada, marketers south of the border face many of the same challenges as the ones here. In the U.S., 76 per cent of the marketers surveyed said they felt marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the last half century.

Most of them would argue marketing has value, with 81 per cent of all marketers saying it delivers value that can be measured. Yet 61 per cent also reported feeling as though digital marketing is all about trial and error, especially since it has changed so rapidly.

That leaves many of them as unsure on what to focus on in the future, with some saying social media marketing should be the top priority. Others said personalization and targeting were key, while still others named digital advertising, e-commerce, or marketing measurement as contenders for the most important area in marketing.

Still, many agreed that reaching customers was still the number one focus, followed by measuring campaign effectiveness and showing their company there’s a real ROI in marketing.

“Marketers are facing a dilemma: they aren’t sure what’s working, they’re feeling underequipped to meet the challenges of digital, and they’re having a tough time keeping up with the pace of change in the industry. What’s worse, no one hands you a playbook on how to make it all work,” said Ann Lewnes, chief marketing officer at Adobe, in a statement.

But she added that marketers can’t afford to miss out on opportunities and need to be willing to experiment.

“Marketers who are bold in their digital marketing efforts and investments, who are taking smart risks, and who are training their teams to be more ‘digital ready’ will be in a great position to capitalize on digital’s full promise.”

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