The maturity of marketing technology and capability has come on leaps and bounds in the last two decades. This rapid evolution is expected to continue as spend on digital marketing & media will rise to $118bn by 2021, according to Forrester.
The adoption of technology such as customer and content management systems by businesses and the fast rise in device ownership and social media use by consumers has resulted in rapid evolution in the way businesses communicate and engage with their customers.
However, a truly digital marketing function is not just one that has adopted CRM, CMS, social channels or emerging technology at the peak of the Gartner Hype Cycle. Digital maturity in marketing is about creating a future-proof business function that serves the business and its customers. It’s about truly understanding stakeholders and then continually evolving and seamlessly embedding and adopting new technology and behaviours to improve how things are done. It’s the difference between ‘doing digital’ and ‘being digital’.
It should be no surprise that the maturity of digital marketing across industries and markets varies.
Like the on-going development of anything in business, the evolution of digital marketing needs to be managed effectively to ensure it aligns to the business needs, their industries, markets and other external factors.
However, successful marketing teams will have some core commonalities, no matter where they are on the digital journey. I’ve identified these as the 7 attributes for marketing teams in the digital age:
1. Be Engaging
Using the right combination of data, technology and content, businesses need to be ready to engage with their customers constantly and seamlessly in this always-on society. They also need to be ready to respond quickly and efficiently when the data tells them that the engagement is not working.
Seamless, multi-channel, personalised experiences are now the consumer norm. Organisations will need to build the right resources and processes to fuel these engagements to deliver the right message, at the right time, the right place and using the right channel.
2. Build Relationships
Digital marketing has to create and build a lasting and rewarding connection between business and customer. Purely transactional relationships are not lasting relationships. Consumers are looking for brands with purpose that they can relate to and align themselves with. This needs to be communicated in a relevant and timely manner to drive consumers through the purchase funnel to become advocates. Marketing that isn’t building a relationship becomes an isolated activity and can never be used towards achieving wider strategic marketing and business objectives.
3. Be strategically Aligned with The Business
The marketing function needs to be strategically aligned and designed as a business catalyst. It needs to be able to support, lead and contribute to business objectives, enhancing and elevating products and services. At a platform level, this will mean integrating and surfacing core business functions seamlessly within the customer experience. Marketing can no longer exist as a silo if teams want to drive the wider business vision.
4. Be Fit For Purpose
Treating every customer as an individual places a huge resource drain on any marketing department. Like any business function, the team needs to be fit for purpose, housing the right capabilities, disciplines and resources to deliver in a manner that makes commercial sense. Just keeping on top of content expectations requires vast resource in a large organisation now that the experience is the product. Not to mention feeding data insights back in to ensure that the engagement is always working.
5. Be Technology Enabled
Investing in technology is one thing, learning to use it properly is another. To ensure lasting digital marketing maturity it is hugely important to adopt and fully utilise new technology medias and devices effectively to support operations, engagements and campaigns. Technology trends and capability continues to fuel changes in marketing so without using technology effectively you cannot create a truly digital marketing capability.
6. Be Data Driven
Any decision or initiative prompted or driven by data will almost always be better than one without.
Digital marketing that gathers, uses and harnesses information can be used to not only drive improvements to marketing strategy, content and marketing operations, but can also be used to drive value to the wider areas of the business as well.
7. Be Agile
What started as software development methodology is infiltrating marketing departments and making them more flexible and adaptable for the digital age. Creating a marketing department that can adapt and respond quickly is not all about the consumer experience. It has a major impact on how they serve and collaborate with the rest of the business.
Whilst every business is, without doubt, already ‘doing digital’; marketing departments will have to evolve and embrace these essentials in order to ensure that the business really becomes digital. And as capability within the marketing department increases so will its influence within the business. I certainly see a future in which Chief Marketing Officers will contribute to wider business strategy and objectives outside of their traditional remit, helping guide and direct a brighter, better and more customer-focused future.
Matt Berry is a Consultant and Strategist at Cognifide. You can find him here on Twitter.