Digital: The New Normal in Strategic Marketing

Digital is pervasive and it is impacting  every aspect of business in the 21st century. Globally as the strategic marketing focus shifts towards consumers to enhance the brand experience, marketers are faced with the challenges of managing data, mapping the customer journey and maintaining consistent ROI attributing to business growth.

ContentFlo(CF) is pleased to launch an expert series where we will share global thought leaders perspectives on the impact of technology, marketing and digital in the service economy. In the launch edition of the series, the ContentFlo team interacted with Mark Ware, Managing Partner, Mark Stephen Ware Consulting on Digital, the new normal in strategic marketing.

Mark Ware

Mark Ware
Managing Partner, Mark Stephen Ware Consulting

CF– 1. Digital has provided a new dimension to strategic marketing, how do you foresee organizations adapting their strategy to this new normal?

Mark Ware – Frankly, I think organizations generally struggle with a digital vision, implementation and leveraging of performance data. In the US, given the state of the economy’s sluggish growth (~ 2%) and additional impacts of Obamacare, employers are focused on revenue and survival. Taking the time to build out a digital strategy is left for when firms have more time to focus on it, but in my opinion, that’s a big mistake. Yesterday is the time to develop and implement a digital marketing strategy beyond just having a Facebook page and blog for example. Fear of “dark data” is a real and should be motivating firms to aggressively embrace their own historical performance data, digital property data and delivery metrics. This will require the leadership team committing to a digital strategy and making resources and funding available, as appropriate, to make it a reality.

CF – 2. Are organizations aptly allocating budget to go digital? If not, why are organizations still apprehensive about digital?

Mark Ware – Clearly they should and many do. Cash is tight and the enterprise is holding onto its cash. The economy and employer-repeated costs are a big part of that rationale, along with the recent US stock market roller coaster; yet, there is a sense of more uncertainty in the future and so cash remains tight. It’s easy to see the
shyness with additional investment. However, as marketers know all too well, by not allocating cash for digital marketing, these firms are making growth, at a time when growth is desperately needed, that much harder to secure. Best practices indicate annual marketing spend should be 15% of net income, presuming results drive income.

CF – 3. With Consumer at the center of all marketing activities, Why do brands still fail to connect with consumers in the right way?

Mark Ware – Part of the answer is the myriad of channels and the overload of “noise” coming at consumers. They have even less time to see, discern and react and that trend will only increase with even less time. Additionally, I suspect many marketers and their handlers are so focused on scrapping up as much revenue as they can as quickly as they can, due to the uncertainty, I hinted at earlier, along with the ‘peer pressure’ of big data (i.e. “What are you doing with your Big Data?). The key, in my view, is to take a back-to-basics view on revenue growth: look at your historical performance data, and examine closely who bought, why they bought, what experience they had with you when they bought and why they bought again (or didn’t). That alone would underscore the lack of insights and necessity for investment in digital marketing to grow closer to the client and grow revenue too.

CF – 4. What ails marketing at leading organizations in the digital age?

Mark Ware – It’s like advertising’s problem at times: too much flash and not enough results. I know of firms that have fleets of personnel globally chewing away on data, which is important; but the data for data’s sake won’t create innovation, help manage growth or develop personnel. It won’t birth a “BIG IDEA!” either. We need creative people for that. Ultimately a firm’s “business hygiene” must focus on long term strategic plays that generate strong short-term returns while examining the basis of who bought what from the firm, and the all important ‘why’. The best firms are effective digital marketers (like Apple) because they know when/where to dial it down (noise), capture attention and analyze their performance metrics/customer journey data.

CF – 5. What are your recommendations for marketing and business leaders who are striving to do away with the organizational silo for an effective digital enterprise?

Mark Ware – Five recommendations:
1. Have a vision for where you want to take your firm. That’s the focal point for the entire firm to rally around, including marketing.
2. Appoint a CMO who is empowered to affect change – real change — from look/feel to content development and market communications.
3. Treat marketing as an investment, anticipate a return, but also fully support, empower, staff and equip the team. Putting ankle cuffs on the best soccer players in the world will not win them
4. Foster a culture of innovation — bring it up at every meeting –– sales, marketing, HR, etc. –– And feed the suggestions to marketing, who in-turn should vet each week and help create a punch list of “HOT” marketing Big Ideas to go for. Creativity has to lead the way.
5. Corporate marketing and product marketing must be tightly coupled as they should be likewise with sales — not just by saying, “Oh, we’re using (for example) Salesforce and Chatter for all of our sales/marketing efforts …”, but instead look at the go-to-market positioning, messaging and tone and work harder at ensuring consistency across the brand’s services/product lines along with what the sales team are saying/using to detect leads and pursue deals.

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