digital marketing

Ron Person has done more than 800 short assessments and probably 30-plus in-depth assessments regarding digital marketing maturity. He's compiled a list of 12 barriers to digital strategy success that came from interviews and audience polls. He's gathered input from more than 100 chief marketing officers, directors and digital strategists.

The results?

"There are 12 barriers that kept appearing," said Person, senior consultant for business optimization for Sitecore, a software development company geared toward digital marketers. "Of these, five were most frequent. The only one of the topmost barriers that was technical is 'moving from a home-grown system to a new system.' The most recurring themes I’ve heard revolve around people and process, basically change management."

So let's chat about those five barriers.

No. 1: Lacking a Model or Process

First, the process of moving to a new digital marketing system (CMS, email, automation, personalization, analytics, etc.) is not straightforward, Person said. "And there is much more than just IT," he added.

Businesses depend upon their digital marketing to drive a significant portion of their revenue so implementing with less-than-best practices is putting revenue, and careers, at risk. Marketing and IT must, Person said, use clear and proven processes.

"It is critical that marketing uses leading-edge best practices when they implement a new digital marketing system," he added. "They can’t just market the same old way."

To this end, digital marketers should:

  • Map content to persona and lifecycle to get maximum marketing impact with minimum resources
  • Identify key visitor segments through a data analysis
  • Use A/B multivariate testing to optimize response
  • Identify areas that get maximum return using simple rules-based personalization

"Marketers moving to cross-channel digital marketing is analogous to when manufacturing moved to ERP systems in the 90s," Person said. "It was a tough process, but those manufacturers that successfully made the move leaped ahead of their industry. The new cross-channel digital marketing systems are to marketing what ERP was to manufacturing. Follow a proven process and do it right, and you leap ahead of your competitor. Use the wrong processes and you’re in for a painful experience."

No. 2: Restricted Budget

When thinking about “budgets,” marketers need to start with corporate objectives. "Show what marketing objectives will achieve corporate objectives," Person said. "And then they have to show how digital strategy will impact the marketing objectives. It’s like creating a cause-and-effect diagram. You’ve got to connect the dots."

Show how digital marketing helps the executive’s bottom line, then build a business case or sensitivity analysis to see how a 5 percent to 20 percent boost in web conversions impacts the business.

Remember, if you buy just a CMS to keep costs down, you may later face high costs and increased risks as you cobble together a system from disparate vendors.

"The alternative solution is to buy an integrated solution up-front, where all the digital marketing pieces are designed to work together," Person said. "They can implement an integrated system by bringing on new capabilities, such as marketing automation, as they need them and not have to worry about technical integration."

Not considered hiring additional high-skill people? You should.

"Two of the most difficult skills to find are digital strategists and digital marketing analysts," Person said. "People with these skills need to be brought in to help plan the new system and then develop it."

Learning Opportunities

No. 3: Pressured for Short-Term Gains

Not enough people? No budget to hire? Yeah, we've heard that, too. "We see lots of organizations who have pushed their home-grown systems or their single-purpose CMS, as far as it can go," Person said. "Maintenance is taking more time than new marketing efforts. They are running as fast as they can, but they can’t get enough momentum to jump to a new system, either in people-resources or in budget."

Marketers must:

  • Show executives there is a serious chance of falling behind the competition. Sitecore found in its research of more than 800 companies that 84 percent of organizations are at the first two out of seven stages of digital marketing. "But, every industry had one organization that was at the highest level," he said. "There is momentum here in brands, loyalty, and minds of consumers. If you are slow to implement the new digital strategy you may never catch up – think Amazon versus Barnes and Noble or Netflix versus Blockbuster."
  • Show how marketing directly effects business objectives. If you don’t know how to do this, hire a process consultant.
  • Build a business case or sensitivity analysis that shows what the impact on the business objectives will be.
  • Use proven processes when implementing the IT and new digital marketing plan
  • Build the skills of their people

No. 4: Lacking Resources

People skills, Person said, are the biggest things missing in this space. Every CMO and digital strategist Person's talked with mentioned they can’t find enough skilled people or they can’t get enough budget. Digital strategists and marketing analysts are the hardest skills to find, he said.

"With the greatest respect to brilliant women I work with, marketers can no longer be 'Mad Men.' They must become 'Math Men,'" Person said. "They have to use data-driven decisions. Instinct-driven marketing is great for innovation, but it has to be tested with analytics to prove which is the best solution."

"Digital strategists are tough to find," Person said. "There just aren’t enough of us around that have brains for both technical and marketing. The digital strategist (DS) is especially needed by organizations moving out of silo-channel marketing. A DS is needed to put together a technical and marketing strategy. What portfolio balance across channels best meets the target audience? What technical implementation and HR skills are needed to make that happen? How do we do the analytics to prove success?"

No. 5: Managing Change:

Anything new is tough to implement, Person said. "Most of the move to cross-channel digital strategy (customer experience) is an organizational change," he added. "A smart CMO is going to get advice from an OD (organizational development) consultant on how to implement and train people for their new roles. Some skills will stay the same, but a wider breadth of knowledge will be needed as you move up the career ladder."

In addition to the IT project management you need, Person said, a skills/HR implementation and training plan.

Companies needing a change can consider the following three types:

  • Burning Platform: "We have to change now or we’ll die!” This, Person said, has a high failure rate, but it works fast in a specific type of organization and crisis
  • Boil the Frog: “We can let everyone change gradually and eventually we’ll get there without too much pain.” This can work, Person said, but it might be too little too late for your organization
  • Become Trapeze Artists: “Make the new platform safer and more fun. Give lots of training and support. Then burn the old platform.” Person used this method as an independent consultant moving organizations onto Windows

"You need to figure out," Person said, "which one is best for your culture, your timeframe, and your level of change."

Title image by bloomua (Shutterstock).