Marketers are generally optimistic about the state of their industry and the opportunities presented by new digital technologies.

But their enthusiasm is tempered by concerns about the level of training they receive to use this new array of tools — and also worry about their abilities to demonstrate return-on-investment (ROI) to senior management.

Those are some of the key findings of the Marketers Confidence Index that was released last week by the American Marketing Association (AMA) in partnership with Millward Brown Vermeer

A total of 1,028 marketing professionals, all AMA newsletter subscribers and followers, responded to an online survey about the state of their industry as measured by current levels of spending and growth.

Marketers Balance Opportunities, Resources

Russ Klein, CEO of the Chicago-based AMA, told CMSWire that the marketers surveyed seemed to recognize both the challenges and the opportunities created by digital everything. He described them as simultaneously buoyant and anxious.

"Marketers are being asked to do more with less, especially in Fortune 1000 companies. Their number one anxiety centers on having inadequate resources to capitalize on their optimism and the recognition that there are knowledge gaps surrounding digital technologies," he explained.

Specifically, the survey found marketers expect both their budgets and the degrees of power and influence they wield within their organizations to grow over the next few years.

AMA Marketers confidence index image 1

Marketing Is Customer-Centric

They further expect their brands "will be able to preserve consistency upon expanding their efforts digitally" and "remain optimistic about their organizations’ expected performance and positive about their business’ customer centricity."

The survey defined “customer centricity” as " the degree to which your orga¬≠nization puts the customer at the heart of everything you do."

AMA Marketers Confidence Index

Lack of Buy-In From Management

But they have less confidence in the levels of support their management is providing in regard to this systemic digital transformation. And while they think it is likely that spending for media placement, new product development and market research and analytics will climb, they're worried about their abilities to demonstrate ROI.

They're "confident about consistency across digital platforms and cross-department collaboration, but are not confident about ability to quantify the ROI of marketing initiatives," the report found.

AMA marketers confidence Index

Klein said the survey uncovered two significant problems:

  1. How to manage digital transformation.
  2. How to convert big data and analytics into true insights.

"Everybody has data but only outperformers have been able to convert that data into insights," he said.

Marketers need more training to convert big data and analytics into results, the report concludes. They also need to capitalize on technologies like virtual reality, social media, live marketing and the internet of things (IoT) to increase customer interaction and drive loyalty — while continuing to educate senior leadership "on the power and value of digital and mobile technologies."