My Significant Other (SO) and I are members of Dub Nation (fans of the Golden State Warriors professional basketball team). Because we live in Oakland (home to Pandora, new location of Uber, etc. and where the Tesla commuter bus stops around the corner from us each morning), we also watch games on our flatscreen while we connect with the geographically distant members of Dub Nation via Twitter. The Warriors are similarly digitally oriented with their marketing. Conveniently for them, there are a ton of seasoned digital marketers in the area as well as so many actual consumers of digital marketing that there is now a mobile app to accompany the live game experience.
Not all organizations have that level of comfort with technology in marketing or the will to infuse their organizations with it. The need to stay up-to-date on marketing technology trends, however, is one of the top three issues marketers seem concerned about. That’s why one major type of marketing transformation going on today is the switch from traditional marketing (i.e., heavy investment in events, regularly sending out direct mailers, etc.) to primarily digital marketing.
What exactly is digital marketing transformation? I’m not talking about shifting to a digital operational process, though you probably should, given the efficiencies involved. I’m talking about how digital relates to customer-facing elements of the business, led by demand generation. I like the definition of digital marketing transformation that the analyst firm Altimeter Group uses, specifically “The re-alignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital consumers at every touch point in the customer experience lifecycle.”
One of the biggest problems with digital transformation is that its potentially huge. You can overhaul each of your digital channels to include the best practices in each area. You can overhaul your backend software to better plan and automate marketing tasks. You can add analytics to better segment or even predict buyer behavior. You can add or improve e-commerce. You can better align your different challenges and a million other improvements.
Some companies are trying so hard to be competitive with market leaders that they let discreet groups address each aspect at the same time with the expectation that they sort it out amongst themselves when projects touch or overlap. This is lovely in theory – but I’ve never seen it work out in practice. Some teams will truly consider downstream implications of their ideas and what is the best way to build a coherent marketing organization. Others won’t. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen right before my shocked little eyes.
The resulting, multi-headed-headed monster doesn’t function very well, what with each head wanting to put the entire organism’s weight into going a certain, specific direction or doing a certain, specific task. However, getting that uncoordinated beast under control costs a great deal of money, political capital, and time – none of which most marketing leaders can afford after the effort of they’ve already put in to creating the beast.
Many smaller companies are so young that they never used a non-digital marketing approach and think this is a bizarre concept to do digital marketing transformation. Larger organizations, however, are often older and still sell large contracts based on relationship selling, which is inherently not digital. They have a huge amount of budget allocated for live events, printed catalogs, print ads, and so on.
I’ve worked for organizations in various sizes/stages of digital adoption, I can tell you from personal experience that getting folks in a traditional marketing-oriented organization to switch to predominantly digital tactics often got the same reaction as a witch coming out of the closet in Salem in 1692.
That cultural shift is another reason to have a comprehensive, well-coordinated plan. You have to have a single vision that prioritizes all the elements of the digital transformation based on the situation the organization faces and its goals for the future. It’s actually quite similar to the heavily studied and yet unique (among the historically “I’m the superstar, give me the ball” -oriented N.B.A.) of passing the basketball around to every potential player who might have an open shot while the rest move around to see if they can find a better location to shoot from. Its simple coordination but, just like in the N.B.A., this seemingly common sense approach is not very common.
The trouble is, this coordination is hard. Digital marketing transformation isn’t fast and easy the way people who haven’t done it might assume it is. Some of the basic elements you have to account for in your single, unified plan are:
- Analyzing your customer and sales data and segmenting your target audiences so you understand their relative value to the organization versus cost per lead. Theoretically, you should be doing this as the basis of all marketing programs but there is really no point in moving forward with digital marketing transformation unless you can take full advantage of the granular personalization and one-to-one targeting capabilities of modern marketing technology.
- Creating unique, multi-channel journeys with tailored content and tactics that meets the unique needs and wants of each target segment that delivers both strong sales conversions as well as a desirable customer experience . Again, you should be doing this anyway if you have more than one target segment but creating multiple, unique marketing paths in a cost-effective manner is the real value of digital marketing.
- Migrate to a solid marketing automation platform so you can connect your various marketing channels into a way that feels both logical and valuable to buyers. This is especially helpful in nurturing prospects who aren’t ready to buy just now but may be good bets at a later time.
- Building strong marketing operations that can deliver performance and trend data to marketers so they can act quickly while also sending responses that are ready for sales off to them in a prioritized manner. Your back end systems should also include customer relationship management (CRM) software that pipes customer interaction data into a single, relational database so you have something to analyze in those trend analysis reports.
- Ensuring you integrate systematic tracking (i.e., using standard nomenclature across channels) into all your channels and set up metrics that track the key performance indicators (KPIs) for each channel so you can compare actual performance to benchmark targets. This is super important for tracking the cost per lead and the status of your lead to conversion funnel
We’ll go into more depth on each of these topics but it’s important that you make plans to account for them in your digital marketing transformation plan. You can’t skip any of the elements common tall all types of marketing transformations, such as taking into account the concerns and effects upon different groups within the organization, prioritizing what to tackle first, and so on. However, these elements are essential to getting the most of any digital transformation process.
Comments welcome, especially those related to how organizations you know about shifted to a more digital approach to marketing.