Skip to content

November 18, 2013

Are You Into Digital Marketing Patchwork ? Build a Digital Culture instead

by Tom De Baere

digital transformation

This blog post gives you insight why fragmented digital marketing efforts are not giving the expected results. It explains how the C-suite must work together to build a digital culture, and create new opportunities.

Companies have been investing in digital, but in many cases as silo-run initiatives. By changing your company culture and leading the coordination of digital initiatives, companies can reap the benefits of digital to lead the competition.

Many companies have developed e-commerce, e-business, social and mobile strategies. These strategies usually haven been developed by business leaders out of fear, having seen the likes of Kodak, Barnes & Noble or Blockbuster fail to adapt the digital era.

Travel agencies, book stores, newspapers, and video renting are all industries that have been erased because of digital.

The C-suite is struggling with digital transformation strategies

figrue-5-digital transformation

What are the biggest reasons organization fail to use technology to make their business better ? (source : MIT & Capgemini 2013)

In the lurking age of context, companies today hire digital managers, conversation managers and social media engagement managers. These managers work within a marketing or e-commerce department, within a business unit, and on some occasion are seen as a strategic function that lead the digital transformation strategy of the company.

However, the C-suite understands the necessity of transforming all departments to

  • embrace social and digital interaction, 
  • to focus on customers as individuals and 
  • stimulate enterprise wide transparency.

According to a recent MIT Sloan & Capgemini survey , conducted annually amongst 1677 executives and managers:

  • 78% of respondents said achieving digital transformation will become critical to their organization within 2 years
  • However, 63% said the pace of technology change in their organization is too slow
  • The most frequently cited obstacle to digital transformation was “lack of urgency”
  • Only 38% of respondents said that digital transformation was a permanent fixture on their CEO’s agenda

This study shows that organizations struggle to integrate divisions, align the C-suite or reengineer the customer-facing process, along a common digital strategy.

But in almost no occasion, digital is seen as an inherent part of the core business. Digital is embedded as simple patchwork initiated by a single business leader, neglecting or unable to implement the bigger picture.  Hence the reason why these new functions reside in departments, rather than seen as organization-wide initiatives.

Why is digital not seen as part of the core business? Capgemini Consulting released the white paper “The Digital Advantage: How Digital Leaders Outperform Their Peers in Every Industry“, in which they calculated that companies with strong digital performance are 26% more profitable, generate 9% more revenue from their physical assets, and are valued 12% more than their industry peers.

Digital patchwork within departments

Although marketers realize that change is needed, they don’t think big enough.

They work on social media, mobile apps, responsive websites, SEO, content marketing, marketing automation, CRM, you name it. They do this because that’s what they are supposed to do. They do that because of their place within the organization and the power they have within the company. I call this digital marketing patchwork. All these individual efforts usually try to better answer the changing needs of customers in terms of customer interaction and buying behavior.

Looking at the bigger picture, some companies have started to think how they can protect themselves against disruptive business models from new international players, with NetFlix, Amazon, Uber en AirBnB as much used examples. These are companies that put digital in the core. But putting digital in the core not only deals with having a digital product or sales model.

You can also put digital in your operational processes or in your internal collaboration. And many have done that, in the beginning using ERP and CRM, and now by automating processes, running customer analytics, and building internal systems for social intranets, video conferencing and working anywhere, anytime and on any device.

Every piece of this patchwork delivers its individual results. Unfortunately they are not able to change the organization from the inside out, where all departments understand the value of thinking digital, and where all these departments work together. Working together with the aim to develop one view on the customers, where customer data is available to improve the customer experience, to analyze, and to improve internal processes.

Why is this patchwork happening?

The reason why it is so difficult to work together is that organizations are split into departments. That’s normal you might say. And the bigger a company gets, the more difficult working together becomes. They are split up in business units, regional organizations, and country organizations. Some business units are the result of an acquisition or a merger. Still normal, right?

Indeed. Still absolutely normal and very human: in every company certain politics start to play, where managers have their own agenda and projects they want to develop.

They develop patchwork projects to improve their visibility within the organization, and to grow their career. Or internal politics play in a fight for budgets versus results. Those who bring in results, get the budgets and get to realize projects. And more patches are developed…

The negative effects of digital patchwork

When digitalization projects are happening in different departments, there is often a lack of cross-departmental coordination. Different departments choose different platforms, different customer segmentation, and different processes.

Overall, these initiatives deliver a sub-optimal overall result: resources, time and money are wasted across the organization. At a certain moment integration efforts will need to be done, where incompatibilities are discovered, which delay or block further digitalization efforts.

Another negative effect is even worse. When your competition is able to make these digitalization efforts quicker, the’ll go faster than you. Their internal operations will run better, they will think digital internally, and function digital externally.

CEO, CIO and CMO’s must work together to build a digital culture

Digital Marketers must think bigger. They are ideally placed to lead this transformation. You as a digital marketer can now grab this moment in time to start leading a digital transformation project as an organization-wide initiative.

Typical marketing responsibilities such as Social media, Content Marketing, Customer Experience, and sometimes internal collaboration are all domains which today need all departments to work together.

I believe this change cannot happen without a cultural change. Only when companies have digital, social and content pumping through their veins, they can embrace and monetize the change in customer buying behavior:

  • Social media is part of your culture, across the organization, to promote products and services, to provide customer service and to build customer communities.
  • Content is seen as the essential fuel which drives awareness, conversion and customer delight. Content is what enables social media, mobile, customer experience, and growth of the business in general.
  • Openness and authenticity are demonstrated through your content and your actions, in which employees consider this as normal behavior of a company.
  • Customers have a common online and offline personalized experience,
  • Mobile is used to promote and sell your products or services, provide customer service, and solve customers’ personal and business issues.
  • Customer data is integrated with all customer facing processes and operational processes, so marketing can target more effectively, pricing can be optimized, sales can better quality prospects

Pumping digital, social and content through your veins

If you do not want to put another digital patch on your company, start this cultural change today:

  • Look to your customer in a different way: listen to what they want, where they frequent, to what makes them passionate, to what makes them smile. Look at them how they behave in the digital and socially connected world.
  • Understand the threats your company is facing with its current product and services portfolio. Understand the threats your company is facing with its current working methods. Will your existing working methods continue to be effective in a digital world?
  • Make digital connections between departments, business units and country organizations: involve them in digital, social and content. Evangelize, create trainings, and create new cross-departmental processes that listen to customers, interact with customers, fulfill customers, and create company wide data about customers to be used for analytics and customer delight.
  • Develop your digital vision: where is the digital future of your products and services, and how do customers want to interact with your company in a digitally maturing world. Is the future of your company digital products, or can they remain physical, or is it a mix of both?
  • Invest in the right areas: To make the digital vision a reality, executives must ensure their organizations invest in the right areas. This requires cutting back in unproductive areas while ramping up investment where it needs to occur.

Vision, leadership, methodology and in some cases ‘urgent’ are keywords in this change management process. Marketing is best placed to lead this change. They can coordinate and share across silo-run digital initiatives. They can set-up the necessary governance initiatives like digital committees, shared digital units or introduce new digital roles.

It’s all up to you. Make your case to the C-suite and put digital at the core. What do you think?

Warm regards,

Tom De Baere

P.S. If you like this post, please let me know and share !