Finding Forrester

Marketers Approach New Media With Caution
by Laurie Sullivan, Tuesday, Sep 9, 2008 5:00 AM ET
As budgets continues to tighten, marketers are resisting industry hype about emerging “cool” tech tools and are taking a cautious approach to experimenting with new media, according to a recent Forrester Research study.

The research reveals that although 80% of marketers say the benefits of adopting emerging channels are worth the challenges of trialing, 60% struggle to build the case for interactive marketing, and 68% would rather wait to adopt interactive channels until after they are proven. This year, Forrester’s annual Interactive Marketing Channels adoption study looks at where marketers are distributing funds. Participating in the study were 333 marketers at companies with more than 200 employees in 7 industries.

Interactive marketing will experience a 27% compound annual growth rate between 2008 and 2012, as marketers invest dollars in proven media channels that customers actually use, the study suggests.

Email, search, and display media are still the most heavily penetrated interactive marketing channels. Online video and most social media also continue strong growth. Widgets and mobile see less aggressive adoption, and game marketing has lost ground.

Forrester principal analyst Shar VanBoskirk says today’s “interactive marketing obstacles are related more to executing effective programs than validating the method or channel.” Managing content, recruiting qualified staff, gaining support, and measuring ROI are some of the common challenges, she says.

More than half of marketers using online video, display ads and search marketing–58%, 51%, and 51%, respectively–wrestle with measuring ROI. Marketers relying on tools like social networks or user-generated content often struggle with tracking results. VanBoskirk says scissor manufacturer Fiskars got around this by relying on Umbria, which monitors brand marketing, to track the frequency and type of conversations online. The company also built private communities for consumers to share ideas in its top markets, which now see three times more sales than other regions.

Marketers use search, display and online video to integrate these tools with others. Forty-seven percent of search marketers want to determine how search marketing affects offline sales, while 38% still struggle to tie search to other online programs.

The need for integration isn’t isolated to mature channels. Forrester expects that as marketers master the basics of emerging media they will strive to integrate these tools across their marketing mix, too. For example, social media company Doppelganger’s display ad efforts improved after it placed ads on sites that BuzzLogic had identified as conversation hubs for its target audiences.

Marketers experimenting with emerging media are particularly concerned about finding channel-specific expertise to manage their new programs. Those running programs with widgets, mobile, social network, UGC, or RSS components all have limited know-how. More than 30% of social networks, blogs, UGC, and RSS adopters in this study worry about having enough staff. Agencies find that in a tight talent pool, the best people to hire are those who have interactive experience and enthusiasm.

An understanding of the target market, and not arbitrarily choosing an emerging media and accompanying technology, will determine the correct strategy to reach consumers. Forrester suggests marketers use the POST method to guide marketing investments:

P = people: Who are the target customers and how do they engage with emerging media?

O = objectives: What are the brand’s marketing goals?

S = strategy: How to accomplish marketing goals and how will emerging media change the brand’s customer relationships?

T = technology: What new tools best fit customers, goals, and strategy?

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