Digital Transformation Works — So Why Are Companies Struggling to Transform?

 In Content Marketing

Digital transformation isn’t an overnight process; it takes time and commitment. To be successful, your company needs to be customer-centric, have the right team, and develop a digital framework.

Digital is no longer one of the many lakes we visit to fish for new marketing ideas. It has become the ocean — and we are all swimming in it.

Digital transformation has become essential for businesses to survive today. When you really look at it, digital transformation isn’t just another change initiative. It’s the gate that every business must pass through to reach a viable future. You have to digitally transform in order to fit through that gate, evolve from caterpillar to butterfly, from grounded traditional marketing team to unfolding wings in order move through the digital ether.

It sounds dramatic because it is. For those who don’t understand just what’s involved — and what’s at stake — they don’t experience a successful digital transformation. Others seem to take to it like a fish moved from its fishbowl to the vast and endless sea, thrilled by the endless possibility and potential of its new environment.

What Does Marketing Transformation Mean?

Ivan Menezes, CEO of Diageo, put it well when he said, “It’s not about doing ‘digital marketing,’ it’s about marketing effectively in a digital world.”

A business digital transformation is the full and comprehensive leveraging of digital technologies, applied to every corner of a business’s operations. It entails not just existing technology, but also being flexible enough to evolve with future innovations.

For marketing teams, this involves all elements of the marketing process and centers on the customer experience. While there are so many working parts of a transformation, the nuts and bolts can be broken down into three pillars, with each one feeding into the others.

1. Adopting Customer-Centric Thinking

According to research published by Salesforce, 86 percent of senior-level marketers believe it’s critical to create a cohesive customer journey. When your marketing team establishes a true customer-centric approach, content marketing and the use of inbound marketing techniques naturally dictate your strategies.

While marketers have always considered customers’ needs and wants, the actual shift lies in how the relationship between brand and consumer is perceived. The idea is to move from telling customers what to think, to inviting them with value-driven content that improves their lives. As Moz writer Scott Wyden Kivowitz says, “Build relationships, not links.”

This is very different from traditional advertising that implies customer and brand as two opposing poles. Today, the businesses that have excelled at social media campaigns, vlogging, and optimized mobile websites have done so because they have merged the relationship. Consumers feel like the brands they love are genuinely relevant to their lives and are providing them something of value, from information and insights to inspiration and instruction — as well as the products and services they are selling.

2. Working From a Digital Marketing Technology Core

The next pillar is to use technology as your operating core. You probably already use a CRM solution and a couple of apps to help with automation. To step into tomorrow, marketing leaders are implementing digital technologies that let them do everything from one technology “stack;”

  • Search
  • Lead generation
  • Email marketing
  • ROI measurement and analytics
  • Website visitor tracking
  • Landing page design and form builders
  • Real-time sales data
  • Social media marketing

This type of digital technology foundation allows you to connect all the dots of your marketing and see clearly the impact being made on revenue growth.

3. Overhaul of Marketing Roles

When your priorities, workflow, strategies, and culture evolve, the roles that were once held will have to change. Some tasks will fall to the wayside, while others will emerge as critical to a well-functioning, agile marketing team.

Here is an idea of the new marketing roles that you need for a successful digital future:

  • Chief content manager
  • Content program management
  • Marketing automation
  • Online digital copy
  • Digital optimizer
  • Head of digital marketing
  • Digital communication

Why Companies Struggle With Digital Transformation

Implementing a business-wide transformation is never easy. Not only does it take a lot of effort and resources to get through the process, it also requires the individuals that make up a team to be willing and committed to transform.

This means that everyone must see the value in a collective vision. This is easier said than done. With marketing, the need for an authentic and holistic digital transformation is more glaringly obvious than it may be for other business sectors — making it easier to inspire change. Still, there are serious obstacles that marketing leaders may face:

Getting the Necessary Budget

Problem one is convincing the C-suite to get on board. Upper management has to be just as interested in the results as your marketing team. The solution to this obstacle is to take the time to demonstrate need and to answer important questions to help managers feel comfortable with taking a big leap of faith. What are the short- and long-term plans? Over how long will the transformation process take place? How will this transformation help the company make money? What about training staff, hiring for new roles?

Addressing the Skills Gap

This is a major concern for many CMOs. There are so many new responsibilities and skills that need to be mastered in order to have an effective digital marketing team. Staff training and education, bringing in an outside digital marketing consultant, and hiring for new roles may all be on your agenda in order to get that stellar team that you need.

Staying Motivated

Your marketing team may have to take on new jobs, such as content creation, social media, and data analysis. If this wasn’t what they were originally hired for, how can you help them stay committed to their job and inspired to work for your company’s success? Checking in through one-on-one meetings can go a long way. This allows management a chance to further explain the need for transformation while also allowing employees to discuss their concerns. Regular short meetings — a core tenet of the agile, digital marketing culture you’re striving to create — can also help to keep everyone engaged, fired up, and focused on each project.

Getting Digital Transformation Right

Companies like Shop Direct, which had to evolve to respond to the consumer trend of moving from catalogue-based sales to digital, and pharmaceutical giant Astra Zeneca that used its partner scientists to create in-depth content, creatively operated through the new digital world with flying colors. Both companies were successful because they had gone through an entire process of change — they didn’t just come up with a new idea to plaster to their existing marketing. Shop Direct changed their entire sales model. Astra Zeneca created a new company website, became active on social media, and had to come up with an effective strategy to get busy scientists to see the value in creating digital content.

Successful digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It takes work and commitment. But, it also takes an understanding of how comprehensive the process is. It is only through having an evolved approach that is focused on the customer; supported and informed by an advanced, streamlined digital technology framework; and staffed by the right team — that your company can jump in this new digital ocean and navigate it with agility, vision, and success.

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Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow me LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.
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  • Brody Dorland

    Hey Michael! You and I agree on mostly everything…this post is no exception. Although, I would like to challenge you on the notion that “marketing leaders are implementing digital technologies that let them do everything from one platform”. From my perspective, marketers are opting more for a “stack” of best-in-breed solutions, vs. the swiss army knife. I don’t think there will ever be one single platform that does everything well (and actually gets adoption).

    Now I’m not saying there won’t be consolidation and that there won’t be a single company (i.e. Salesforce) that owns multiple platforms to serve each function, but I just don’t see a single platform ever getting there successfully. Maybe you know something that I don’t…

    Keep up the good work…;)

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Brody, I think you are 100% correct and my language was simply imprecise. “Technologies” is plural and I should have also pluralized “platform” or used the word you used in “stack” to better represent the combination of technologies that can achieve the goals. Editing now to better reflect that. Thanks for keeping me honest!