Digital marketing transformation: a revolution of strategy and execution

Digital marketing transformation — it can be defined from two sides.

From one perspective, it will help marketing departments attract the attention of other businesses in order to sell their products and services (gain competitive advantage), and from the other, to use the jargon, it can help marketing departments within large organisations streamline internal processes, adopt technology and break down organisational barriers.

This article will look at digital marketing transformation (the former).

From marketing to digital marketing

The marketing industry is in constant flux, it changes all the time. And it’s not that long ago that the sector was still doing print and post. It switched to digital marketing in terms of how agencies communicate with their customers.

“This only began in the early years of the 2000s,” says Nick Evans, chairman of Extra Mile Communications, the international digital marketing agency. “If you think about 2000, there were very few people doing, for example, email marketing. Social media was in its infancy, there was nothing much happening there,” and now, they have become increasingly important in the portfolio for marketers.

What’s happened over the past years is that marketing has become digital marketing through technological innovation; that’s been one of the primary drivers.

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SEM — search engine marketing

To a greater extent, however, there has been a need for companies to improve the profile of their websites through search engine marketing.

How has this evolved? Well, it all surrounds search engine optimisation (please Google, rank my page higher), which entails working on the actual website content and structure.

“Or,” says Evans, “it might be through pay-per-click, or re-marketing where the apps follow you around, or any of those sort of technologies. This is the big change in the marketing sector, and that’s where we as a business have seen the demand from our clients shift.”

“The demand [from a digital marketing agency perspective] isn’t so much about creating websites, although that’s an important part; it’s now about being a digital partner and helping implement a digital marketing strategy for clients on a continual basis.”

Marketing has transformed into a digital proposition, and the industry will continue to evolve into something from 'Minority Report', for example.
Marketing has transformed into a digital proposition, and the industry will continue to evolve into something from ‘Minority Report‘, for example.

The age-old problem: silos

One of the main ‘goals’ of digital transformation is breaking down silos within organisations, and having every department communicating and sharing data with one another.

Digital marketing is no different — it is in silos. Currently, and this is where digital marketing transformation comes in, when organisations or websites are looking to market their brand or product, they have their social media platforms and they send out their email marketing campaign, but the two are isolated. The need to bridge these is isolated silos is driving change in the industry.

“We can no longer have these silos that form a tapestry of activity,” explains Evans. “It’s changing to be much more coherent and much more individual focused — that’s the key element.”

Nick Evans is chairman of Extra Mile Communications, and believes the digital marketing revolution is on par with history's other great revolutions.
Nick Evans is chairman of Extra Mile Communications, and believes the digital marketing revolution is on par with history’s other great revolutions.

So, now is the time to ask: how?

How can marketing agencies (or marketing departments) embrace these kind of digital first initiatives that can break down silos? What do they need to do? Do they need to change their culture and bring in new people? How does it work?

In order to meet the needs of current marketing requirements in the social-media savvy, Google-driven world we now live, it’s up to businesses to change the way they think about marketing.

In the past (we use this phrase, as if it was a bad thing!) everything surrounded a strategy of silos.

Now, marketing has to think about making the customer experience transparent and personal (personalisation really is the key). Why?

Today, there are so many devices, whether it be phones, smartphones, wearable tech, our own computers or tablets, that people receive content on and in so many ways — we use that device in a way that matches our lifestyle. And for everybody it’s different. Every person uses their tech differently.

So, the marketing has to respond to that and it has to accommodate individual needs and requirements. Ironically, these people who are targeted by businesses are way ahead of those businesses; because of the pace of change in the consumer market. Marketing has to catch up, and this entails looking at an individual’s purchasing history, their interests, the way they interact with the company etcetera. This level of sophistication needs to be built into a marketing strategy.

“We’ve got to understand each individual client and if we don’t, then all we’re doing is we’re firing a scattergun,” says Evans.

Here he explains, anecdotally:

If we have a marketing campaign and we are launching product X. Product X goes onto the market, we fire the scattergun, everybody learns about it. What happens then? Well, how does product X work for Nick Evans? How does it work for me as an individual, how am I going to use it? What benefit is it to me? And how is the marketing that’s going to be done actually going to convince me of that benefit? How is that going to get over?

The only way it can do that is through a form of artificial intelligence which takes the known data that the company has about this guy, Nick Evans as an individual, or about a company that we’re marketing at, takes that known data and says right, he’s responded in this way to this piece of marketing, what’s the next step? The next step is to send him this piece of marketing through this medium in order to further convince him.

You can’t do that at scattergun level. Companies with the large data sets enable and facilitate personalisation. Amazon does it fairly well, generally, though sometimes it’s very annoying when you’ve bought a television that they keep pushing more televisions at you, but there you go. They do it really well because you express an interest in something and they follow you and they keep pushing it at you. That is a level of individual marketing that we’ve got to strive to.

“I think the buying cycle stays the same; you engage interests, you inform people with detail, you lever the benefits etcetera. But the difference lies in the fact that we now need to tailor our marketing so it can respond to each individual’s needs and desires. I think that’s the big difference.”

At the moment [but we all know how quickly things can change in the technology space], there is no AI product that can bolt onto my marketing capabilities.

Digital marketing transformation: a revolution

Technology and a new way of thinking is taking standard marketing practice and revolutionising it. You could put it up there with the agricultural, industrial and information revolutions.

There are those who don’t believe that it’s real, but the truth is that the companies that prepare themselves now for what is coming will be the ones that come out of that revolution.

Companies in every sector are already falling by the wayside, simply because they’re not responding to the way that the market is moving. And, there’s a lot of catch-up to do, especially on the data-first organisations, such as Amazon, that have digital marketing systems long-established.

Digital marketing transformation — to reap the rewards — will need a lot of investment and that investment needs to be determined against a very coherent strategy, because you don’t want to be putting your money into something that isn’t going to service the needs of the company.

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A note on the compliance/regulation challenge

GDPR is a great thing,” insists Evans. “It’s a good move, because it enshrines good practice and it stops people from simply gathering data for the sake of gathering it. You gather it in a structured and sensible coherent way, and the data will work better for you.”

Data sets, for email marketing campaigns, for example, have been reduced by approximately 10%, but — in general — engagement levels are higher. (What, I hear you ask, or shout?)

Logically thinking, this will be the case, because the ones that actually want to talk to you, the ones who have given permission, want to listen and engage with you.

“Permission-based marketing is gold dust,” adds Evans. “If people have given permission to be contacted, then that is the absolute pinnacle of achievement,” in digital transformation marketing.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...