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7 Roadblocks to Digital Marketing Transformation

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7 Roadblocks to Digital Marketing Transformation

For nearly a decade now, the pace towards digital marketing transformation has been quickening but the pandemic fast-tracked it abruptly. The result? The marketing talent pool has expanded, the marketing mix continues to evolve and the matrix of technology providers is ever growing.

Customers have fully adopted the convenience of consuming information and making buying decisions on mobile and smart devices. So now, marketers are committed to creating exceptional customer experiences across the board.

Tacked onto the need for grand customer experience, marketers are drowning in enormous amounts of 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.


Digital Marketing Transformation Obstacles

The question is no longer whether you will make digital advancement a priority. Rather, how you will implement digital transformation for your business?

All challenges for digital transformation adoption can be overcome. A good starting point is to understand the roadblocks that lie ahead and then develop strategies to address them.

Let’s take a look at seven of the most common obstacles marketers face.

1) Accountability

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

According to the 2021 CMO Survey, pressure to prove the impact of marketing efforts is increasing. 58.7% of marketing leaders report increased pressure from CEOs and 45.1% from CFOs. A majority report quantitative tools aid in the reporting of short-term impact of marketing spend however showing the long-term impact remains more of a qualitative assessment.

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

2) Complacency

Let’s look back to nearly a decade ago. MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting teamed up in 2013 to survey 1,559 executives and managers on digital transformation to enable major business improvements.

In the resulting report, 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.”

Fast forward to 2021, a majority of us felt that “urgency” prompted by COVID and were forced to shift to digital technologies and processes. However, some employees’ still experience a reluctance to leave behind familiar tools and ways of working.

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, as we have all witnessed. While the effects of complacency may not be obvious in the short term, eventually they could pay the ultimate price.

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.

Businesses that are too slow to evolve and too afraid to take chances will lose in the long run. Click To Tweet

It’s a huge competitive advantage to take chances.

Modern marketers are continually testing new technologies and strategies. While the likelihood 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 and AI programs.

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

In a recent McKinsey Global Survey, 87 percent of executives said they were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years.

The marketing talent gap has a direct effect on your business. It can effect your company’s ability to adopt new technologies and strategies as the industry continually changes.

Try to recruit strong leaders that are forward thinking. Hiring digital-savvy leaders has a great impact, which was marked by nearly 70 percent McKinsey survey respondents. They experienced digital change when new leaders familiar with digital technologies joined the management team.

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.

If you feel there are individuals or departments slowing down progress, take steps to understand which parts 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 touch points.

People may call, complete a web form, initiate an online chat, search on the web, 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 enter unique stages with your brand, and yet, they expect the customer experience to be consistent.

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).

Find innovative ways to collaborate with customer service, finance, 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 2020 “Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic,” there are 8,000 Mar-Tech solutions. That’s a 5,233% growth of this landscape since 2011!

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.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

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.

How will you get there?

Visit for additional information and resources.

 This post was originally written by Paul Roetzer and updated by Michelle Saunders in 2021.


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