Businesses must have a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, show caution as well as agility, and make both structural and mindset changes
By Agnisha Ghosh
Traditional marketing activities—a well-placed ad on TV, at the bus stop, or perhaps at the doctor’s office as well as exhibitions and expos—are undeniably effective. In the last decade, though, businesses have increasingly connected with customers through smartphone and computer screens. Digital marketing activities are now crucial to success. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shift to online shopping and remote working have only accelerated this shift: digital has gone from “can do” to “must do.”
However, this shift must be made strategically and not reactively. Businesses must have a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, show caution as well as agility, and make both structural and mindset changes to make a successful digital transformation.
In this light, here are 10 issues to consider:
From ad hoc to strategic
Plan, plan, plan! It’s easier said than done, but a strategic approach, with a clear objective and a plan to get there, always has a greater chance of success. Better still would be to anticipate potential problems and be ready to make minor tweaks to your digital campaign along the way. This should help avoid ad hoc, knee-jerk reactions, especially if a campaign does not go as expected.
Agile vs Perfect
At the same time, don’t get stuck for weeks in planning a perfect, full-fledged, award-winning campaign. While you’re doing that, an agile competitor might be capturing market share from you. The beauty of digital marketing is that you can roll out options A, B, and C to quickly test the waters in a phased launch with a small budget. Once you’ve identified the option that clicks, invest more significantly. In fact, it’s a good idea just to keep aside a small budget to test and learn what works in the market.
Just another brand…
…don’t be one. You must differentiate yourself from your competition. Otherwise, you could be wasting your money. One way is to produce meaningful, high-quality content (and often) that is different from what your competitors are doing to continuously engage your customers. Another way could be to explore the use of a new platform for reaching your audience…
Shiny Object Syndrome
…but only if this platform is a good fit for your business and your products. Be wary of the colleague who says “Oh, I heard of this new social media/short-form video/messaging platform, and I think we should run our campaigns on it too.” Don’t follow trends blindly because, today, they come and go frequently. Do you need to be on all platforms? Do you have the resources to create an excellent and consistent customer experience on all platforms? Are your customers even on this new platform? If the answer is “No,” maybe you should just stay away and focus on what’s already working.
And don’t forgot good old traditional marketing. Digital, when well combined with traditional, can actually give better results. That’s because your customer wants an omnichannel experience, that is, the same experience on the smartphone and at the store. Tear down the silos of traditional marketing and digital marketing, and give your customers a consistent experience through an integrated marketing approach.
A digital campaign can provide you with considerable data about customers and what they want and like and buy. Before starting your campaign, define your objectives clearly and identify the measures you will use to track your performance. If the objective was “Advertise product X to potential customers in market Y” but the outcome is “Return on investment is poor because sales were not good enough,” something’s gone wrong.
…from past digital marketing campaigns. You don’t need to start from scratch for every new campaign. As long as you’ve tracked the correct data, you can judge your previous performance and figure out what worked and what didn’t. Build on this for the next campaign: improve the good, leave out the bad.
In fact, businesses need to build a culture of continuous learning. Marketing and sales talent must be encouraged to upskill themselves through courses and workshops to build their digital knowledge. The market, the customers, and the digital marketing tools available are changing constantly, and you must keep up with these changes.
Because change is a constant, marketing teams need to enjoy greater autonomy. This will enable them to be agile and to launch marketing campaigns quickly. If the team is sitting around waiting for the go-ahead from somewhere above, you might have already lost the initiative to competitors.
Medium and large businesses, especially those spread across multiple geographies, should try to avoid using too large a mix of agencies and tools. Before hiring a new agency/investing in a new tool, check if you can use what’s already being used elsewhere in your business. Use your network, leverage your connections, but do try to avoid the overlaps, incompatibilities, and duplication that may arise otherwise. Save your time and money, and don’t reinvent the wheel.
Keeping these issues in mind should help you navigate your digital transformation successfully. Be smart about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, and be wary of overdoing things!
The author is integrated marketing manager (Asia), Transportation and Electronics Marketing and Sales Center division at 3M