The Digital Marketing Leader: Managing Your Company’s Virtual Persona 24/7
These days, it’s hard to imagine any company whose business has not been somehow affected by one or another form of digital marketing, from outbound marketing such as e-mail and online pay-per-click (PPC) advertising through inbound marketing such as content marketing, search engine marketing, and social media. Certainly, there are perhaps a few outlier companies that don’t rely much on digital marketing but, for the most part, if a business has considerable revenue, a significant product or service set, and a sizable customer and prospect base, it has a website and digital marketing presence. Not having these is akin to not being in the Yellow Pages years ago because, nowadays, without them a company is not so much in business as perhaps on the road to being out of business.
Expanded Communications Options, Greater Access, & Changing Customer Habits
As information has become accessible at every hour of the day and night through laptops, mobile phones, and other devices, companies have had to migrate from print advertising, direct mail, and similar traditional forms of marketing to virtual and more interactive communications channels. These changes are most marked in the retail and consumer products sectors, where eCommerce stores are making conventional shopping outlets go the way of typewriters, adding machines, and comparably outdated items now better suited to museum exhibitions than to everyday business operations. While traditional marketing vehicles, like product catalogs and capabilities brochures, remain important, they are increasingly being co-opted by digital equivalents like e-books and web content.
No Business Sector Left Behind
This expansion of communications options and changing market preferences have caused many companies to re-examine their go-to-market strategies and operating models. Regarding the initial point, consider the consumer software industry, which has transitioned from shipping boxed and shrink-wrapped packages via DHL and UPS to offering downloadable desktop and mobile apps, or the recording industry, which once promoted recording via radio and television and produced physical deliverables such as CDs and vinyl LPs, but which now markets and delivers syndicated music over streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify. As for changed operating models, one need only think of Amazon’s transformation first of the bookselling business and subsequently of almost every other conceivable area of the retail sector, including – as evinced by its recent purchase of Whole Foods — even groceries.
In some instances, the spread of digital communications and marketing has affected businesses by causing them to redefine the very definition of whom they view as customers or prospects. A telling example in this respect is in the realm of B2B (business to business) manufacturing, materials provision, and professional services. Because B2B purchases often entail the acquisition of “big ticket” items such as capital equipment, raw materials, or professional services such as legal counsel or management consulting, marketing and sales efforts in the sector have traditionally focused on building awareness, consideration, preference, and long-term relationships with prospects’ and customers’ C-suite officers, high-ranking executives, and other members of senior management. The reasoning was that if you got a company’s senior leadership to think well of your product or service, you were “golden,” and there was little need to cultivate relationships with less prominent members of the organization. Those were indeed the days and those were also far simpler times.
These days, as business challenges increase in number and complexity and their potential solutions grow and deepen in corresponding fashion, the number of players involved in making B2B purchases has expanded accordingly. For example, the selection of a food supplier for a regional or national restaurant chain or the purchase of an enterprise-wide CRM (customer relationship management) system for almost any kind of company is typically a committee endeavor involving specifiers and evaluators, as well as managerial- or -executive level decision makers; the first group is often composed of young and Internet-savvy individual contributors, and the last group of managers who likely beset with a host of other equally pressing responsibilities. The upshot of all this is a more informed and transparent purchasing process in which a variety of customer stakeholders must be persuaded and convinced before an order gets placed, a check cut, or a PO issued. So, even if executive golf outings and expensive dinners are still sometimes part of the B2B sales process, easy digital access to better and more compelling information for all members of the customer’s purchasing team has become the most important factor.
A Digitally Influenced Marketplace
In the early 90s, when the Internet first arose in earnest, some marketers took a wait-and-see attitude, with a few even dismissing it as a fad that would eventually pass. Of course, that view — along with a number of the marketers who held it — has long since vanished. Sometimes, though, confronted with the endless barrage of new Internet marketing vehicles, ecommerce platforms, and social media alternatives, it’s easy to wonder if digital marketing has been over hyped. Whatever the answer, the numbers make a compelling case for digital marketing’s relevance. For example, studies by Brafton, a U.S.-based content marketing firm, and Accenture, a global business consultancy, indicate that up to 94% and 95% of B2B and B2C purchasers, respectively, perform online research before arriving at purchase decisions. As such, it’s likely fair to say that companies unable to effectively address and leverage digital marketing are proceeding at their own peril.
A Company’s Digital Marketing Needs Vary According to the Competition, Customers, & Markets
Not all companies require the same level of digital marketing activity or the same types of resources to deploy it. As an example, a modest-sized business services firm might only need a straightforward, well-designed website that lists its practice areas and locations and provides bios and contact information for its partners or consultants, whereas a professional services company, such as a law firm specializing in family or malpractice law whose target customer is the larger public, will likely need to make its website more overtly sales oriented, and engage in advertising in the online editions of local newspapers and regional service-provider directories.
The table stakes are higher yet for companies with more tangible offerings. For instance, embattled brick-and-mortar retailers and former mail-order houses must be able to showcase most if not all their merchandise in a well-categorized site equipped with eCommerce shopping carts and faceted search- and cross-sell and upsell capabilities. On the other hand, B2B capital-equipment manufacturers, like makers of food processing equipment, might not need online purchasing capability but, if their products are customizable, might require specification-based product configurators and pre- and post-sales online support via live chat or call-on-demand functionality. In contrast, a B2B components manufacturer that sells in high-volume to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and smaller volumes to maintenance and repair organizations might need a website equipped with account-specific web portals and the ability to accept purchase-orders for the first group of customers and robust product selectors and credit card processing capability for the second. Finally, almost all companies, whether they are selling to end users or to other business, will likely benefit from ongoing social media initiatives involving blogging and postings to social communities and platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and Twitter, preferably integrated with their PR, trade press, and IR initiatives.
What Does an Ideal Digital Marketing Team and Its Leader Look Like?
The answer depends on some of the factors cited above, i.e., how much digital marketing capacity does your company need? Another driving determinant, however, is company size. A small professional services firm might get by with minimal in-house staff — such as a digital marketing manager who defines the digital strategy and manages execution themselves or through a subcontractor and/or agency. A moderately sized manufacturing business, however, will probably have a digital marketing director and a staff composed of several web professionals, including content developers, web designers, and programmers, who either execute the digital strategy directly or oversee its execution by external parties. By comparison, a larger consumer products or manufacturing company will often have a full-blown internal digital marketing agency, headed by an executive director or vice president and replete with digital strategists, content developers, UX designers, and SEO/SEM, email, social media, and lead generation specialists, as well as additional support from agencies and contractors.
To manage such a diverse team and broad range of technical responsibilities, the head of digital marketing must be able to provide strategic leadership as well as direct tactical execution in areas as diverse as digital asset management, marketing automation, and data-driven measurement and reporting methodologies such as omni-channel attribution and multivariate testing. Moreover, whether the leader is an executive or a director who reports to one, the digital marketing leader must be able to cross the divide between digital and traditional marketing and work collaboratively with the management staff from other areas such as sales, business development, and information technology (IT). Most importantly, he or she must be capable of crafting a digital marketing plan that is integrated with the company’s overall marketing and sales strategy, supports its positioning, communicates its messaging, and helps deliver on its business goals and objectives.
How Can I Find the Right Digital Marketing Team Leader?
Outside of pure technology areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), biomedical engineering, and IT, digital marketing might be one of the fastest-growing job fields today and its practitioners among the most sought-after talent, given the digital skill shortfall among most marketing staffs. (See two recent surveys conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), wherein hundreds of marketers from digital agencies and client companies were asked to rate their organizations’ digital marketing competence on a scale of 1 to 100, and the average rank came in under 60 for client companies). The hiring challenge is further exacerbated by a tendency among candidates with tenuous digital marketing backgrounds to exaggerate the depth of their experience. As such, hiring managers must be careful to distinguish between candidates who are merely good at bandying buzzwords from those who truly understand the discipline from a strategic perspective as well as have a handle on its tactical execution.
This is one of the reasons that many companies who need to hire a digital marketing leader find it helpful to retain the services of an executive search consultancy experienced at identifying, evaluating, and acquiring digital marketing management talent, whether in the company’s own business sector or across a wider range of industries. Such a firm will typically have suitable contacts and access to related candidate databases that it can draw upon when sourcing positions in this arena. What’s more, it will be experienced at vetting candidates and separating the wheat from the chaff (i.e., those who are perhaps spouting fluff versus those who truly know their stuff) via a variety of methods, including competency-based behavioral interviewing and technical skills assessments. The better firms will also pay close attention to a candidate’s interpersonal characteristics, soft skills, and management style to ensure that they are consistent with your core values and your company’s norms and standards. Because, in the last analysis, the ideal hire is one who is both a perfect fit for your organization’s culture and also truly expert in his or her technical area and adept at fulfilling her or her management responsibilities: In other words, someone who doesn’t merely tell you what you want to hear and mouth the latest jargon, but who instead walks the talk to help you meet your company’s mission-critical marketing and sales objectives.
This is the latest entry in a series of articles that examines the characteristics and experience that employers should expect to find in candidates for executive and senior leadership positions in mission-critical functions such as corporate communications, marketing communications, business development, digital marketing, product marketing, loyalty marketing, direct marketing, and public relations, as well as sales and other types of channel management.
For comments or for more information, please contact:
Customer and prospect contact: Ronald S. Torch, Founder, Chief Executive Officer, and President, the Torch Group, email@example.com, www.torchgroup.com, 440.519.1822 x101. Media contact: Ronald-Stéphane Gilbért, Global Managing Director, Gilbért, Flossmann & Zhang Worldwide, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.globalmarcomm.com, 216.816.4947
- Posted by Stuart Glassman
- On November 14, 2017
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