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UK marketers ambitious for 2014


A recent report from the Cranfield University School of Management highlighted the strong levels of ambition among British marketers as they enter 2014, while pointing out that there are still some gaps in their plans for the coming years.

The Cranfield report has changed from its previous two iterations, with new areas of questioning including the development of leadership positions, global marketing capabilities and initiating big data programmes.

It found that, despite the ambitions of British marketers, far fewer of them are investing in 'breakthrough' or new products and services compared to their counterparts abroad.

"We seem to have stronger share, growth and customer acquisition ambitions in the UK, but are less likely than in other countries to follow a policy of breakthrough innovation in support of export led growth: the prescription widely suggested by economists as the solution for our economic problems," explained the study.

According to the survey, the top functional priorities for 2014 are taking advantage of the opportunities that technology is creating, working on measurement and accountability metrics and developing skills and competencies to meet new challenges.

This latter aim will have a major bearing on the recruitment policies of many businesses; it will involve bringing in talented young staff and building up their experience, ensuring they have the capabilities to cope with changes within the marketing world.

Furthermore, it will also see more workers look to leave their current positions if they are not offered this kind of training, meaning businesses need to take steps to ensure they have strong development capabilities in place or risk losing their most talented and ambitious staff.

Cranfield are concerned that organisations are not working hard enough to collaborate with IT departments and the boardroom, suggesting that technical skills are going to become crucial in the near future.

As marketers are urged to work closely with IT to produce technologically sophisticated campaigns, their knowledge of this sector is likely to be crucial if they are to avoid making mistakes or wasting cash on pointless investments.

This ties into the growing importance of big data, which was also identified as a likely growth area in 2014.

With businesses bringing in an increasing amount of information about their customers, marketers will need to learn how to connect with this data in order to produce targeted, intelligent advertising; while working with IT departments will offer a degree of this analytic skill, it is also crucial to have some degree of this within the internal marketing function.

The top three tactical priorities identified by respondents to the survey were customer relationship management (CRM), brand building and customer experience, with CRM seen as particularly important among British firms.

"What emerges is a picture of marketing leaders understanding the what of success (e.g. brand, CRM, customer experience), but not necessarily the how to achieve it through building influence and collaboration," explained Cranfield.

Excitingly, UK businesses are less constrained in terms of budget than their counterparts abroad, suggesting they will be able to spend a great deal on these areas and the corresponding talent over the course of 2014.

However, the report warned that British marketers are currently too insular compared to US organisations, meaning they need to look beyond their own borders in order to compete on an international level.

Although it is unlikely that UK companies are set to restructure their departments entirely in order to take advantage of these new opportunities, it does appear that they will attempt to hire new talent with the capabilities to utilise big data technology, CRM and other new trends.

Cranfield's report calls for "more radical leadership" from chief marketing officers over the course of 2014, despite the budgetary constraints and the lack of ability to restructure, arguing that taking risks at this stage will help set firms up for further growth as the economy continues to improve.

It is crucial that no mis-steps are taken when it comes to building up marketing teams, particularly if businesses wish to avoid wasting cash in bringing in workers that prove not to be the right fit.

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