7 Roadblocks to Digital Marketing Transformation

badge-guest-post-FLATTERThe marketing industry is advancing at an unprecedented rate, creating seemingly insurmountable gaps in marketing talent, technology, and strategy.

The marketing talent pool is underprepared, the marketing mix is evolving, and the matrix of technology providers is exploding. Customers are tuning out traditional marketing methods, while consuming information and making buying decisions on mobile phones, tablets, computers, smart televisions, and wearable devices. Marketers are drowning in data, dealing with the complexities of real-time marketing, and navigating brands through the openness and transparency inherent to social media.

Marketing success requires a commitment to consistently create exceptional customer experiences, along with transparency, agility, and accountability at all levels.

Unfortunately, many marketing leaders struggle to win and maintain internal support for digital marketing transformation.

Obstacles to Evolution

Let’s take a look at some of the most common obstacles marketers face. All challenges can be overcome, but a starting point for many organizations is to understand the roadblocks that lie ahead and then develop strategies to address them.

1) Accountability

Marketing technology advances have made everything measurable. This can be intimidating for marketers who have never been held accountable for marketing metrics such as subscribers, leads, conversion rates, and sales.

According to the 2014 “CMO Survey,” just 36 percent of CMOs have quantitatively proven the short-term impact of marketing spending, and for demonstrating long-term impact, that figure drops to 29 percent. So, the vast majority of CMOs use qualitative measures or have not been able to show an impact at all.

Marketers must develop strong analytics knowledge and capabilities to continually prove the value of marketing to CEOs, CFOs, and the rest of the executive team.

2) Complacency

MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting teamed up in 2013 to survey 1,559 executives and managers on digital transformation, which they define as “the use of new digital technologies (social media, mobile, analytics, or embedded devices), to enable major business improvements (such as enhancing customer experience, streamlining operations or creating new business models).”

In the resulting report, “Embracing Digital Technology,” researchers found that while 78 percent of respondents indicated that digital transformation will be critical to their organizations within the next two years, 63 percent felt the pace of change in their organizations was too slow. The most frequently cited obstacle was “lack of urgency.”

Ironically, success itself may be one of the largest culprits in creating complacent cultures. Too often, business leaders become comfortable with historical success and lack motivation to change their ways. They assume they can maintain market share, revenue growth, and profits by doing what has always been done.

But digital transformation has the power to upend industries and render market leaders obsolete. While the effects of staying the course may not be obvious in the short term, eventually complacent companies could pay the ultimate price. As the MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting study states in simple terms: “Adopt new technologies effectively or face competitive obsolescence.”

3) Conservative Culture

There is an old axiom in the IT industry: “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” The idea is that IBM is a safe choice because it is a known entity. While newer and sometimes more innovative companies may come along with better features and products, IT departments have been conditioned to avoid risks and go with the status quo.

The same thinking can apply to marketing today: “Nobody ever got fired for placing an ad.” Advertising, direct mail, trade shows, telemarketing, and other traditional activities are familiar. The risk is minimal, but so is the potential reward.

Differentiation and competitive advantage come from taking chances. Modern marketers are continually testing new technologies and strategies. While the probability of failure rises, so do the number of real-time learning opportunities. Analytics software gives marketers the insight to know what went wrong and the ability to make adjustments that improve performance.

As conservative organizations sit on the sidelines, modern marketers are capturing market share by activating marketing automation programs; building loyal subscribers, fans, and followers; developing mobile apps; engaging on social media; publishing blogs; retargeting website visitors with digital advertisements; and using branded content to educate leads and customers.

Businesses that are too slow to evolve and too afraid to take chances will lose in the long run. Conservative cultures can be corrected, but this change starts at the top. Leaders must provide the resources and runway to realize what is possible. Success does not happen overnight, so patience and persistence are essential.

4) Lack of Knowledge and Talent

The marketing talent gap has a direct effect on your business’s ability to adopt new technologies and strategies and continually adapt to industry changes. To advance, you must attract a new breed of marketers, build internal academies to evolve your existing marketing team, and evaluate outsourcing to marketing agencies that bring complementary knowledge and skills to the mix.

5) Power Struggles and Politics

Power struggles and politics are two unfortunate realities in business. Egos and self-interests can become challenges. If decision makers controlling the pace of change within the company lack confidence in their abilities to guide digital marketing transformation, then they may, consciously or subconsciously, hinder progress to preserve control and power.

Self-preservation is human nature, and it is a variable that must be considered. If you feel there are individuals or departments inhibiting progress, take steps to understand what elements of the process motivate and intimidate them. Use this knowledge to take a more strategic approach to change management that builds buy-in every step of the way.

6) Silos

Subscribers, fans, followers, leads, and customers choose when and where to interact with your brand. They do not differentiate between marketing departments and channels.

Think about all the possible consumer touchpoints. People may call, complete a web form, initiate an online chat, search a website for resources, download content, attend a webinar, subscribe to a blog, and/or connect on social networks. At each interaction, their needs and intentions are likely different. They are at a unique stage in their own personal journey with your brand, and yet, they expect the experience to be consistent.

Now picture how many different departments and individuals within your company affect the customer experience in the above scenarios.

With digital transformation and the shift to inbound marketing, the stakes are high. Marketing must break down its own silos (advertising, communications, content, digital, PR, SEO, social, web) and find innovative ways to collaborate with customer service, finance, human resources (HR), IT, operations, and sales to drive performance and create consistently remarkable customer experiences.

7) Legacy Systems and Technology Fatigue

The marketing technology matrix is vast and expanding at an exponential pace. According to Scott Brinker’s 2014 “Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic,” there are 947 different marketing software companies in 43 categories across six major classes.

Keeping up with the latest and greatest tools is exhausting. While there are likely smarter ways to do pretty much every marketing function, from CRM to website content management, large enterprises have legacy solutions in place, and small and midsize businesses (SMBs) face budgetary and human resource challenges.

Change takes time, money, unwavering executive support, and an internal champion willing to wade through the politics and power struggles required to move the business forward.

High-performing companies are prepared for perpetual change. They put agile marketing teams and business processes in place that can scale and adapt as new technologies and opportunities emerge.

The Underdog Opportunity

This is no place for curmudgeons and lumbering organizations. This is the land of underdogs and innovators. Professionals and businesses that are nimble, dynamic, and transparent have the opportunity to disrupt markets, displace leaders, and redefine industries.

The next generation of leaders will be those who are ready to leave their comfort zones, let go of their fears and anxieties, take risks, and build remarkable corporate and personal brands.

The choice is yours.

Following is an excerpt from The Marketing Performance Blueprint (John Wiley & Sons, 2014). Visit performance.pr2020.com for additional information and resources.

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