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  • Michael Kerman

Digital Marketing: Fight the Right Fight

So, I've got a little time to catch up on my reading and one of my favorites is the McKinsey Quarterly. Their article on "Digital Strategy: The Four Fights You Have to Win" in their October 2018 issue really resonated with me and I'd like to share my perspective.

In the article, the authors identify four distinct battles that need to be waged and won:

  1. Fighting Ignorance

  2. Fighting Fear

  3. Fighting Guesswork

  4. Fighting Diffusion

While these refer to overall digital transformation and not solely to marketing, I can attest to the fact that many executives, even marketing leaders, struggle with these four battles. I've personally experienced:

  • The "Our industry and solutions are too complex for digital to really be effective - we need events and face-to-face interaction" (ie, the "Ignorance" battle)

  • C-level execs who claim "We need a digital-first strategy" without actually understanding what it means (i.e, the "Fear" battle)

  • Digital transformation that are initiated solely with an inward, business process re-engineering perspective and without any consideration of the customer journey or touchpoints. (ie, the "Guesswork" battle)

  • Initiatives across every function to "Go Digital" (ie, the "Diffusion" battle)

Here are a couple of underlying issues that I believe need to be addressed:

  1. Digital starts/ends with the customer. All too often the digital initiative starts with "let's re-do our website" or "let's buy a bunch of domain names or keywords". The reality is that any digital initiative must start with knowing the digital profile of your buyer personas. What do they look like, digitally? Where do they go online? What do they read? Who do they trust? What content is import to them? All of this needs to be discovered before you embark on any digital marketing efforts.

  2. A great deal of digital is "background". Non-marketers seem to only believe in things they can see. This is why they like tradeshows, press releases, brochures, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of digital dialogue happens in the shadows. It is bidding on keywords to keep ahead of your competition. It is optimizing email campaigns via A/B testing. It is tweaking web content to improve SEO or have a more personalized experience. While this may not be as "sexy" as a new brochure, this is the heart and soul of digital marketing.

  3. Sales likes Events. As much as companies want to "Go Digital" many of them still suffer with the "Here is another industry conference we absolutely MUST participate in" syndrome. Although most salespeople hate manning a tradeshow booth or exhibit table, they love seeing their company spend big $$$$ on all types of sponsorships and advertising. All of this makes it harder to shift the spend from physical events to digital.

  4. Digital Implies Measurement and Accountability. OK, this may sound weird or even a little paranoid, but stick with me. The great part about digital marketing is that it is (generally) easier to track all progress from initial outreach or inbound activity through all of the touches and conversions to pipeline and bookings. So, why is this a problem? Well, there are some (hopefully, fewer each day) who really don't "buy into" the belief that marketing can and should have a material impact on the business. To them, marketing is about thought leadership, pretty giveaways at tradeshows and a catchy logo or tagline. For them, digital marketing represents a watershed moment... where there are clear(er) metrics that highlight the impact marketing has on the business. It is a good change, but change nevertheless.

As a CMO, I realize that a large part of my job is to continually manage change and drive to an effective, scaleable and efficient marketing engine. This means constantly tweaking the mix of creativity, analytics, innovation, process, data and technology to not only fight the digital transformation, but win the battle as well.

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