Digital Marketing Is an Inside/Outside Game

Marketers looking to succeed in today's digitally driven economy must know out how to work inside and outside the organization. Here's how.

As each of us continues to further perfect our skills in digital marketing – and e-commerce in particular – the notion of what we’re trying to accomplish often becomes lost. Amidst the cloud of technologies and capabilities, we lose sight of the fact that the role of today’s marketer is to connect the brand (manufacturer or retail) with people, to build 1-to-1 relationships that are contextually relevant and able to be managed at scale.

What is less obvious is the amount of internal contact needed to help digitally transform a traditional business.  Thus, marketers looking to succeed in today’s digitally driven economy need to figure out how to establish and maintain meaningful contact with people both inside and outside the organization. Your goal as a marketer is for people outside the company to experience the joy of discovery and interaction with your brand, while influential stakeholders inside your company still feel at-home in an organization that is rapidly changing around them. 

There are 4 fairly simple - but crucial - activities you should complete to win this two-front battle. Depending on how digitally mature your company is, these will require varying levels of resource and effort, but they should all be completed as a top priority. 

1. Get your data in order

Welcome to your new job. You breezed past the interview process, you won the hiring manager over with your capability and experience, and you negotiated a nice compensation package. Well done!

The honeymoon ends almost immediately because your first task is to sort out the company’s product data and content, for that is the foundation for every digital initiative you want to do. You start with the most basic questions, and will likely get only the most basic answers: 

Most companies - and especially those that were founded before 2007 - have been inattentive to their product data because the use of that data was heavily siloed: only the teams that needed that information created it and accessed it. Marketing never had a use for it; the ad agency would do its work around ideas about the product’s value to the consumer, and the consumer’s only real experience with the product was in advertising and on the retail shelf.

But you know differently. You know that, in today’s shopping environment, data is vital. If you’re going to deliver on the promise of what a strong e-commerce presence can mean for this brand, and these products, you need to make some changes:

·      Codify how product data is created and managed over the product’s lifecycle. This will largely prevent inaccurate data and content being introduced into the consumer’s brand and product experience.

·      Identify a product information management solution (PIM) that will serve as the tool all relevant stakeholders use to access this data.

A PIM is basically an industrial-strength database, and there are many approaches - both in terms of options and models - available to you. Be mindful that usability by the average employee is key: a powerful database is fine but if the interface is not intuitive, then your co-workers won’t use it. Think of it like this: most people in data-intensive roles unconsciously structure their work around the Excel user interface. Make sure your new PIM is as easy to use as Excel as a baseline and you’ll be in good shape.

2. Investigate and test-drive marketing automation that’s right-sized to your business

Marketing automation is the brain of the company. But please don’t tell everyone that; you’ll piss a lot of people off, because chances are everyone you tell this to thinks of themselves as the brain of the company.

In its fully realized form, marketing automation receives input from around the enterprise and dispatches the right response to the right customer touchpoint at the right time. Marketing automation does things you shouldn’t have to think about, same as how your brain makes it so you don’t have to think to make your heart beat or your lungs breathe.

This notion of background activity is the key to marketing automation. Establishing and maintaining a relationship with a customer - or potential customer - needn’t require a 1:1 investment of your time. There are some very important marketing tasks that can be relegated to the background:

·      Welcome communications when a customer joins a list

·      Transactional communications that follow a purchase

·      Schedule-driven communications like post-purchase review requests or a friendly Happy Birthday greeting/offer

·      Inquiry-triggered communications that direct a customer to the right resource to get help

Don't sit back and exclaim Deus ex machina just yet. Marketing automation tools - while they come in many shapes and sizes - do require human management. After identifying which suite makes the most sense for your business, you need to find the right resource to be the point-person for this capability. This probably involves convincing your boss to hire or reallocate a dedicated marketing automation jockey / black belt.

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