An ever-growing number of customers have the potential to engage with your company on digital channels in real time. You have only seconds to attract and engage these buyers. Most companies can’t ignore the need for top notch digital marketing -- and marketers must quickly gain proficiency for interacting with customers on digital channels.

Digital marketing isn’t that new. A whole lot of people have been publishing all kinds of useful content to help you understand, implement and measure digital marketing -- as well as how to strategize, connect to customers and support customer journeys through to purchases.

But many of you aren’t getting it -- why?

Or is it that you get it -- but the company that you work for doesn't provide a culture or infrastructure that supports marketing as a strategic function?

Corporate Leadership Still Doesn't See Marketing Strategically …

… and that corporate leadership probably isn't running the company very well either. If a company constantly pushes marketing efforts into endless short-lived tactical campaigns and activities, what does that say about how that company is run overall: knee-jerk short-sighted tactical programs, instead of long term outlook reflected in well-considered strategy and insightful planning.

Where’s the commitment to better serving customers, in all ways? Where’s the customer experience strategy, with alignment across functions and backing by upper management -- and why don’t these companies understand why all of this matters?

You can’t move a company forward on "tips and tricks" -- and that includes marketing. Success and revenue growth do not come in “5 easy steps.”

To be a strategy-smart company, the hierarchy of strategies starts at the corporate level. Then create overall marketing strategy -- followed by strategies for digital marketing and content marketing (and it’s essential that these last two tightly integrate). At the heart of all these strategies is the Customer -- and high quality customer interactions on any channel or function.

If a company isn’t customer-focused and strategy-infused, then serious changes are in order for whatever is passing as company "culture."

The Digital Marketing Commitment

Digital marketing -- like content marketing -- requires hard work, time, money and skilled resources. Either fully commit -- or don’t even consider digital marketing. Digital marketing isn’t a strategy by itself and only thrives if it’s part of the right marketing and corporate strategies.

If quickie ways to market and sell products and services really worked, then every business would be successful. But they aren’t. And the companies that sustain growth and success don’t build those things on cheap tricks.

And yet marketers and digital agencies continue to throw out one quickie campaign after another -- no strategy, no long term plan and a failure to know what customers want. Digital marketing efforts must drive value and grow trust to truly engage and convert customers – and not just for one-time sales. The point is to engender great customer experiences that naturally lead to buying, to successful usage of products, repeat sales, advocacy and so on.

Relevant and Personalized Digital Customer Experiences

In her blog post “Create Digital Experiences,” Forrester analyst Tracy Stokes cites these data points from the Forrester / DMN 2014 North American Digital Marketing Online Survey:

  • Only 44 percent of marketers have a clearly defined and deployed digital marketing strategy
  • … while marketers are truly digital believers, they have yet to elevate digital from a tactical effort to a brand building one. Seventy-five percent of marketers surveyed agreed that digital marketing is a highly effective brand building tool. But for 56 percent, digital is more tactical and reactive than strategic.

Stokes goes on to outline four types of digital branding experiences that marketing teams should be nurturing:

  • Encourage conversation -- truly engage and interact with customers, no matter the touchpoint
  • Create a community -- draw customers into sharing their experiences with their products, the more creative the better
  • Make it easy -- digital interactions must happen in seconds
  • Make it individual -- time to tackle real-time customization and personalization of experiences

And by the way, it’s not just marketers or the CMO that should be addressing digital customer experiences: the entire company must be part of this work.

Stumbling Blocks

Problems persist for companies and not just in their marketing groups. The stumbling blocks that continue to plague marketers mirror company-wide challenges to becoming customer-focused, business-agile and market-savvy:

That pesky silo problem just won’t go away

Silos of information, business processes and functional activities continue to debilitate many companies. Digital marketing will not happen if Marketing is a silo. The essentials of digital marketing are cross-team collaboration, bi-directional sharing of data and analytics results, cross-functional customer focus and support, relevant quality content. All of these pieces are needed to continuously update your understanding of your customers, across the organization.

Speaking of Data Analytics …

Data and analytics are mission critical to everything in digital marketing, if you want successful outcomes. It takes data from many sources, inside and outside the firewall, to create and continuously update a multi-dimensional customer view, as well as analytics for buying trends, future customer behavior, understanding which products and which target markets, and better tracking of different customer journeys.

Data analytics initiatives are no small undertaking, especially since many of the sources and analytics processes don’t originate in the marketing silo. As part of the effort to integrate silos, centralizing analytics can eliminate redundant effort to pull together intelligence to benefit all functions in the company. Centralized customer-focused analytics also contribute greatly to nurturing relevant customer experiences across channels by sharing the right insight with all customer-related functions in the business.

Focusing too much on technology and tactics

While technology is essential to make a lot of digital marketing happen, many marketers find themselves too enamored of the tools, thinking that’s all it takes. Outcomes: no strategies, no customer focus, the wrong goals and the wrong metrics. Often the mechanics of working with the technology pull marketers away from the actual customer experience and how to improve it -- which are central points of digital marketing.


Source: square2marketing.com

Iterative buyer journeys change the sales funnel

As Mike Lieberman discusses in a blog post, buyer journeys no longer align with the traditional linear flow sales funnel. Customers often don’t start at the top of the funnel. They pause in different parts of the buyer journey and loop back to previous stages. The iterative nature of the new sales funnel should integrate with customer experience touchpoints -- which gives marketing and sales dynamic opportunities for quality interactions that enhance the overall customer experience and provide truly relevant information and assistance.

Ignoring best advice for content marketing: context, relevance, quality

Content infuses everything in digital marketing. But too many companies produce content simply to produce content. Tons of bad content will never connect to customers, let alone address their needs. Quit squandering the opportunity to wow your customers. This is not a check list item -- this is the whole bag of marbles. As expert Michael Brenner puts it:

Every piece of content that gets created and doesn’t reach any audience is complete waste -- stop creating the crap that no one wants."

In today’s always-on, hyper-connected world, the only option for brands to connect with their audiences is to create, publish and share stories people love.”

Time, people, skills

Companies still aren’t investing in these three areas. Digital marketing, including content marketing, demands very specific skills. These newer marketing approaches require proper staffing, budget and time to make things happen. A large part of this encompasses creative skills to ensure arresting experiences that are entertaining, engaging and contextually appropriate.

Still Stumbling

Marketers need to take the blame when they don’t put in the effort to understand how to do digital marketing well and accept that it takes hard work to get the most from digital marketing. Bad marketing dies hard, no matter the flavor. You can’t sustain successful marketing initiatives on tips & tricks.

Company leaders: don’t expect marketing to produce miracles and save your business if you don’t even yet understand your customers, let alone have corporate strategies that revolve around customers and delivering what they need and want. For most businesses, customers drive the sales process -- meaning that you will only succeed when you empower marketing to provide the highly personalized and relevant interactions that help customers buy your products. Don’t blame marketing until you’ve looked in the mirror and taken measure of your own customer savviness.

You can’t run a company -- at any level -- on tips and tricks.