The State of Marketing Leadership 2018

Times have changed, and marketers are being asked to do more than ever before. See what, why and how it’s measured in the latest Target Marketing research.



Over the past five years, the prevailing narrative has been that marketing roles changed, marketers are being asked to do more and marketing leaders are being held to more bottom-line business results. To find out if that’s really the case, Target Marketing conducted the “State of Marketing Leadership 2018” survey. Overall, 216 marketers responded in the month of April, offering unique insight into the changing roles and goals of marketing departments across the country.

You can download the complete research online. In the meantime, here are seven of the top insights from the report.

1. Marketing Roles Have Changed


While that sentiment alone may not come as much of a surprise, the extent to which marketers are reporting that their roles have changed is staggering. A full 86 percent say marketing roles have changed in just the past five years, and 49 percent say they have changed greatly or completely — including the elimination or creation of roles.

2. Marketing Responsibilities Are Only Increasing


To determine how those roles are changing, we asked whether responsibility had increased or decreased in 11 key areas, spanning revenue and budget responsibility through personnel management, creative, thought leadership and innovation.

What we see in the bar graph above is that all of these responsibilities are increasing for most marketers except personnel management, where “only” 42 percent reported increased responsibility, and 50 percent reported no change. For all of the other categories, responsibility has been increasing dramatically, and that trend shows no signs of slowing down in the near future.

What’s more, very few of our respondents reported that any responsibilities were decreasing. Those colors are nearly absent on the far right of the bar graph.

The movement in marketing roles and responsibilities has all been in one direction: increased responsibility and workload. Looking at where these increases are happening, technology has expanded the most. When we combine the answers for “much more responsibility” and more responsibility, 77 percent of respondents say responsibilities have risen in that area.

That’s followed by responsibility for business strategy (68 percent), metrics and reporting (67 percent), thought leadership (66 percent) and data (65 percent). All of these are taking up more or much more time than just five years ago.

When asked why these roles are changing, responses focused on changes in the environment and corporate expectations.

“Marketing to new generations requires more digital and more creative ideas,” said one respondent. “Retaining the customers we have requires more rewards and creativity, too.”

Other answers included “More sales pressures. Digital scares most of the leadership”; and “Change in leadership, new mission statement and goals for social media instead of sales.”

3. Strategy, Technology and Personnel Dominate the Schedule


While there are many changes in the responsibilities of marketing leaders, good old marketing strategy is still the No. 1 thing they’re spending time on — nearly a third (32 percent) of their time, in fact.

But after marketing strategy, technology and personnel management both take up large chunks of time, followed closely by time spent communicating with the C-suite.

4. Marketers Answer to the C-Suite and Sales

In terms of communication inside the company, marketing leaders talk extensively to corporate leadership and sales (both over 60 percent), followed at some distance by the product team (43 percent) and IT (40 percent).

These three departments — the executive team, sales and marketing — are the sides of the revenue triangle inside companies. Marketing leaders in 2018 need to recognize their place in this revenue structure and the importance of their efforts to the continued health of the company and its bottom line.

When business changes, the C-suite looks to marketing to lead the brand adjustment, find new customers and enable the revenue strategy. In many ways, marketing departments are carrying the weight of digital transformation. If you can do that, the rewards are great. If you can’t, you risk being left behind.

Successful marketing leaders today must have the skills to fulfill this role, and to assemble the personnel and tech stack to achieve these wider business goals.

5. Dissatisfaction With Marketing Performance

Finally, we asked marketers what they thought about their departmental performance and where they’re going. And the results here were unexpected.

We asked respondents to rate their satisfaction with different aspects of the marketing department’s performance on a scale of one (not satisfied) to five (extremely satisfied). “Satisfied” was an even three.

As you can see in the chart, not one aspect of marketing performance averages a three or higher. The highest satisfaction average is 2.9 for retention — which is interesting in its own right, as retention often comes in with lower budgets than acquisition marketing. Customer acquisition actually has the lowest satisfaction average at 2.5, followed closely by direct sales at 2.58.

6. Marketers Feel Like They’re Behind


Given that level of dissatisfaction in marketing performance, and the pressure to perform that corporate leadership is putting on marketers, it shouldn’t be a surprise that most marketers (57 percent) feel their departments are a bit behind where they need to be, and only 9 percent consider themselves to be “ahead.”

With more responsibility comes more pressure to perform, and the marketing leaders who took this survey certainly seemed to be acknowledging that they’re still catching up to these new realities.

We asked why marketers felt they were behind, and the answers reflected systemic failures to get the resources the department needs. The open response answer repeatedly cited lack of time, resources and personnel as holding the department back from where it needs to be. As one respondent put it, there’s often “not enough resources or freedom to spend on programs.”

This is why it’s so important to develop that relationship with internal stakeholders who are responsible for the bottom line. If marketers can’t make their cases for these resources, they will never be able to live up to these increased expectations and responsibilities.

In 2018, it is imperative for marketers to keep evolving to become more capable to deliver on those business goals. The ability to create great creative today is secondary to the ability to build a great business department.

Download the Full Report

This is only a small taste of the data in the complete “How to Drive a Successful Marketing Strategy in 2018” report, available to download for free. The complete report includes more data, more charts, and specific insight in marketing budget allocations and who’s responsible for what in the company.