Data-backed tips for marketing spend

Warren Lane

Long before there was even a glimmer of COVID-19, tech buyers were moving towards digital transformation. A global pandemic pushed the pace dramatically, as marketing companies rushed to adopt digital analytics and marketing technologies.

“It is no longer enough to simply use digital to conduct traditional marketing better,” said Warren Lane, a Research Analyst for IDC’s CMO Advisory team, and a member of IDC’s CMO and Customer Experience Practice. “The disruption caused by the pandemic has forced companies to roll two years’ worth of digital into a compressed timeline, so the next normal has digital moving from a siloed vertical capability into a horizontal core competency.”

Lane joined ITWC President Fawn Annan in March 2021 for an installment of CMO Talks, a podcast series presented by ITWC and IDC to address pressing marketing challenges. Together, they fleshed out the specifics of IDC’s 2020 Tech Marketing Benchmark Survey and Lane offered research-backed guidance on investments in marketing.

In his introduction to the IDC Study, now in its 19th year, Lane described benchmarking as an excellent planning resource because it tells the full story of the marketing organization. “In the last three years, we noticed that investments had started pivoting to more program spend,” he said. “We are now seeing the impact of digital investments increasing.”

In reply to a question from Annan about possible changes in the investment in people, Lane said there is little difference in numbers, but the focus is now more on who is being hired. “That’s the change,” he said. “As we know, COVID has halted a lot of things that needed to take place throughout the year, so companies needed to ramp up their digital areas and bring on more people with expertise in that area.”

Lane explained that the IDC benchmark report highlights nine categories under advertising, including corporate sponsorships, social ads, digital media, and traditional media. To Annan’s surprise, mobile ads were actually in the bottom half of a ranking topped by online desktop display at 34% of budget spending, search ads at 20%, and corporate sponsorship at 16%.

“IDC has historically identified advertising programs and staff as mostly awareness focused, but the purpose has started to shift as it takes on a stronger role in demand building,” said Lane. “This shift has been made possible because of the changing nature of advertising technology.”

Another change, he said, is that companies have reversed their spending allocations for brand demand and awareness. “This year has been special,” he explained. “With brand awareness at an all-time high due to digital competencies, if you aren’t building awareness online, digitally, who is really going to know who you are and what products or services you provide?”

Although he doesn’t think billboards are going anywhere soon, Lane predicts some traditional routes, such as direct mail advertising, will continue to decrease because of the ease in sharing digital equivalents. “Now you can send out RSS feeds easily and more effectively because they can be tracked and measured through KPIs,” he said. “With direct mail, you don’t know who is reading it unless somebody calls to request your service or product.”

According to Lane, privacy and consent will create strategic changes in how and where data is collected, especially in countries that are beginning to refine their data policies as technology changes. “This will demand that the marketer works to build consented relationships, instead of hiding behind cookies,” he said. “Marketing will need to invest in content and activities that build trust at the beginning of the relationship.”

When asked about the number of leads that come from digital events, Lane spoke of an uncertain ROI. “We know most live events aren’t going to happen at present and that digital events can have more eyes than live events, but is that leading to more sales? Is that leading to more leads? That’s a new KPI that a lot of marketers are going to have to analyze over this next year.”

For 2021 planning, he recommended that companies put a stronger push on showing the human side of their brand, maturing digital capabilities, and building resiliency and adaptability. The key, he said, is to remember that data tells the whole story. If you don’t have it, what story are you telling?

For information about obtaining the full survey report or a custom analysis comparing your company to a group of your peers, please contact Warren Lane [email protected].



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Suzanne Robicheau
Suzanne Robicheau
Suzanne Robicheau is a communications specialist based in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, where working remotely continues to fuel her passion for new mobile technologies -- especially on snowy days.

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