Chief Human Resources & Marketing Officer, Zebra Technologies.
As communicators, we have been well versed on the benefits of digital platforms for years. Many of us are early adopters, influencers even, of online communication and collaboration tools. Yet, lately, it has felt like the times are changing faster than ever. By the time we test and commit to a new digital platform, three more have emerged, promising to drive even better outcomes or deliver more metrics. It may be the nature of digital transformations: constant iteration in an agile environment. But it can feel a bit unnatural to marketers.
We’re strategic thinkers who like to plan campaigns that align with sales priorities and product availability. We want to know our audiences before we engage, and we engage multiple internal stakeholders to get buy-in on our thinking. Months are spent conducting focus groups and surveys, defining personas, digging into market data and mapping out well-aligned strategies and tactics. However, the digitization of marketing is making the digitalization of campaigns and customer journeys increasingly complex.
There is a staggering amount of data now available to marketers, and mining it all can be difficult without the right strategies, skills and tools. Even when we drill down, it’s not always easy to know what audiences want beyond rich, personalized online experiences.
So, I wonder: How should we digitally transform our marketing processes and thought processes to ensure we’re capable of executing effective digital marketing programs?
Internalizing The Idea Of Digital Transformation
I believe automation will underpin marketing’s digital transformation. It’s the only way to increase our efficiencies as we aim to maintain a steady stream of fresh, yet targeted, communications to the growing number of audiences across countless platforms.
With the right technology tools, behavior-defined “rules” and content strategy, we can guide customers through the marketing funnel and toward sales channels without a person managing every move in real time. We can say, “If someone enters the website on page X and then clicks over to page Y, let’s recommend white paper Z via pop-up.”
Of course, we must monitor customer behavior to ensure the digital strategy is effective. And refinements may be needed to ensure customers are being served content that aligns with their interests and leads to conversions. That’s where analytics automation becomes valuable. Instead of spending weeks compiling data, we can log in each day to see what’s working and what’s not. We can reallocate our time to investigating why something is or isn’t working. From there, it becomes easier to make strategic decisions and take swift actions that support near-term business priorities and long-term digital ambitions.
Automation won’t put marketing on autopilot, but automating program execution and analytics can give us time to assess performance and continuously optimize strategies and tactics to drive better outcomes. That’s why it’s important that we train ourselves to think digitally, even from an operational perspective.
We can’t use manual mechanisms to develop, manage or measure digital marketing programs. Nor can we rely exclusively on third-party digital platforms to drive success. We must learn how to build, manage and maximize our owned digital platforms, such as our websites. They aren’t just digitized versions of brochures and spec sheets anymore. They are thought leadership hubs, resource libraries and the way by which brands build trust with entire industries and market segments.
However, we can’t talk about specific digital marketing techniques until we digitally transform our marketing mindset and tool set. So, let’s talk about the steps you should take from an operations perspective before deciding on which strategies, tactics and tools to use to effectively digitalize marketing communications, otherwise known as marcom:
1. Conduct a good old SWOT or gap analysis.
What is working well today within your marcom program? Is it a digitalized technique? If not, could it be? What’s the risk of not digitalizing—or automating—a particular process? What could happen if you automate and then forget about it? Once you understand your current digital strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, rerun the analysis with a future frame of mind. Will that platform still be relevant in a few months? Could an always-on campaign be the right approach for brand awareness? Or do you risk losing sight of what’s out in the market by using so many digital tools to engage with audiences across multiple platforms?
2. Examine your owned platforms to ensure they’re capable of guiding the customer journey.
Everyone wants to keep audiences engaged, yet people’s attention span is limited. We’re overwhelmed with content and, unless something pops out as relevant, we’re unlikely to dig deeper to find something that might be helpful. It’s important that you’re capable of serving up personalized information on every platform, especially owned platforms like your social media accounts and website. If you’re not, that should be the priority of any website 2.0 plan.
3. Create a content plan that maximizes your journey mapping capabilities.
It’s one thing to understand where customers are in their buying journeys and another to be able to influence their next steps. If they’re clicking to search for certain insights and you don’t deliver, then they may detour elsewhere. Make sure you have personal messages and highly targeted content to serve up, no matter where they stop and look.
4. Consider your bandwidth.
Even if you automate the customer journey and certain aspects of your marcom campaign execution, content will need to be refreshed at some point in time. It’s also important for a human to monitor asset or campaign performance—not just an algorithm. Before you commit your team to a digital transformation, ensure you have the resources to properly plan, execute, optimize and sustain it.
Perhaps the most important step of all is to train marketers to think digitally. Techniques that worked on traditional platforms may not carry over well to today’s digital platforms. Customers’ expectations about digital interactions have also changed, with the standards set high (often against consumer e-commerce platforms). Overall, we must diversify our thinking and be willing to adapt often.