F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that “the rich are different from you and me.” (And Ernest Hemingway, unblinded by bling, is said to have replied, “Yes, they have more money.)

Turns out, when it comes to marketing, money doesn’t seem to yield a big advantage. According to From Stretched to Strengthened, chief marketing officers (CMOs) are struggling with many of the same challenges that keep small businesses up at night.

CMOs are under-prepared for big data and market fragmentation.

Chart of Challenges Facing Chief Marketing OfficersIt seems no one is ready. As the chart shows, CMOs report feeling unprepared to manage the impact of everything from social media to decreasing privacy and the erosion of brand loyalty. “CMOs are stretched,” write the authors. “Even those who work for the most successful organizations are struggling.” They add:

“One of the most surprising findings… is the degree of consensus among the respondents. No matter where they work, their industry, or how large or successful their organizations are, CMOs are facing many of the same challenges and most feel unprepared to manage them.”

 

One of the most interesting findings from the report is that many CMOs are still trying to understand markets (not individuals):

Marketers Still Looking at Aggregate Data, Not Individuals

At one level, looking just at the challenges of harnessing the data, this makes perfect sense:

Relatively few CMOs … are exploiting the full power of the digital grapevine. Although nearly three-quarters use customer analytics to mine data, only 26 percent are tracking blogs, only 42 percent are tracking third-party reviews, and only 48 percent are tracking consumer reviews. This is largely because the tools, processes, and metrics they use are not designed to capture and evaluate the unstructured data produced by social platforms.

 

And, yet, the downside of looking only at aggregate data is that they are forced to make a lot of assumptions about individual behaviors.

Is there an opportunity for small business?

Small businesses can have a competitive edge. Sure, we struggle with the same challenges. But we’re closer to all our stakeholders (especially clients/customers, and prospects), so it should be easier for smaller organizations to understand what makes our customers tick.

From Stretched to Strengthened, which reports the findings from one-on-one conversations with over 1,700 CMOs in 19 industries and 64 countries, also looks at the skills CMOs will need to be successful moving forward (including cross-collaboration, creative thinking, and an aptitude for analytics). There’s a lot of good data in the report, so it’s worth taking a look.

Do you think small businesses have an edge? What are you doing in your business to be prepared to meet the challenges ahead?