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Two-thirds of CMOs report that they’re not ready to cope with social media, and 82% say they feel unprepared to deal with Big Data, according to a recent report from IBM's Institute for Business Value.

The study, based on interviews with 524 chief marketing officers around the world, also found that most respondents have not implemented various complex digital strategies: For example, just 20% say they are collaborating with customers on social media to a large extent, and only 13% are heavily using advanced analytics to capture customer insight across all touchpoints.

However, not all marketers are having the same struggles with digital. In the course of its research, IBM found that the CMOs surveyed fall into three broad categories: 37% are "Traditionalists," who feel overwhelmed by the new technologies; 33% are "Social Strategists," who have mastered core digital strategies but not more complex ones; and 30% are "Digital Pacesetters," who are using (or are prepared to use) advanced strategies.

That last group of marketers is helping their enterprises significantly: 43% of Digital Pacesetter companies outperform their peers financially, compared with just 25% of Traditionalist companies.

So what are these digitally savvy CMOs doing different? IBM found they are excelling in three core areas: using data analytics to get a deeper understanding of customers; establishing strong relationships with consumers via digital channels; and integrating new technologies into their enterprises smartly and efficiently.

Below, data and findings from the report covering each of these three key areas.

Data Analytics

  • Digital Pacesetter CMOs are up to 26% more likely to have made significant investments in capturing and analyzing data compared with Traditionalist or Social Strategist CMOs.
  • Digital Pacesetter CMOs have also done a better job combining and integrating data from both internal and external sources: 66% say they have done so, compared with 37% of Social Strategists and 25% of Traditionalists.

  • Not surprisingly, those investments have led to better customer insights: 56% of Digital Pacesetters say they understand their customers, compared with 30% of Social Strategists and 19% of Traditionalists.

Customer Experiences

  • Digital Pacesetters concentrate more on establishing relationships with customers on digital channels rather than immediately selling products. They also foresee those bonds becoming even more important in the future: 82% expect digital channels to play a bigger role in their interactions with customers in the next 3-5 years, compared with 64% of Traditionalists and 76% of Social Strategists.
  • Digital Pacesetters are also more likely to already be collaborating with customers on digital channels than are other CMOs.

Enterprise Integration

  • Digital Pacesetters and Social Strategists have made far more headway in implementing integrated physical-digital strategies than Traditionalists (50% and 48% have done so, respectively, compared with 16%).
  • Digital Pacesetters are also much better equipped to conduct business via any device (58% say they can do so, compared with 38% of Social Strategist CMOs and 21% of Traditionalist CMOs).

About the research: The report was based on data from interviews with 524 global CMOs conducted between February and June 2013.

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image of Ayaz Nanji

Ayaz Nanji is a digital strategist and a co-founder of ICW Media, a marketing agency specializing in content and social media services for tech firms. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji