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5 Steps to a Digital-First Marketing Function

Internet MarketingOne of marketers’ top priorities next year is digital integration, or – more specifically – adapting to the increasingly central role of digital in the marketing mix.  In a recent MLC poll, B2C marketers rated this their second highest priority.

Despite several years of slowly shifting mindsets, Digital Marketing is too often still treated as its own stand-alone function, separate from Promotions, PR, Direct Marketing etc.  It should, by contrast, be treated as a part of all marcomm efforts.  Here are a few reasons why:

  • To provide social proof from peers and validate brand messages (via social media)
  • To offer real utility that helps prove campaign promises (e.g., via mobile apps, microsites)
  • To create memorable experiences that bring brand benefits to life (e.g., via interactive games, virtual or live events promoted online etc.)
  • To connect touchpoints together. Mobile Marketing and Social Media Marketing can be the glue between all others touchpoints – and a means of accelerating consumers along the purchase path. For example, mobile enables consumers to purchase or learn more about a brand/product wherever they see an ad. This stops people forgetting about the ad and increases chances they’ll be just interested enough to take the next action then and there. Mobile plays a similar role in the store, i.e., it enables shoppers to check reviews online and saves them having to go home to do that due diligence before buying.

Now, we haven’t seen anyone who’s fully solved this one yet, but here are a few techniques that leading marketers have been using to integrate around digital:

Shift marketing organization and agency structures. Make your digital agency the lead agency (we’ve spoken to quite a few companies that have done this).

Appoint an ‘integration champion’ with a background in digital.  This person needs clout with multiple digital and non-digital teams/agencies as well as the power to enforce collaboration. MLC members, learn more about the role of an integration champion.

Assign a digital expert to each offline channel team ( e.g., TV, Promotions, Shopper Marketing, Direct Mail) to ensure each team considers digital extensions to their ideas and tests/optimizes ideas online before running with them is less flexible channels.

Start sourcing leaders (in any marketing position) from digital marketing roles to ensure a focus on digital comes from the top.

Make digital part of everyone’s job. Build a digital academy (as Intel has done) and require all marketers – even those in traditional channels – to pass at least the first module of lessons. Create more complex modules based on each individual’s requirements.

Encourage all marketers to participate in social media discussions with consumers (and thus learn more about it) by allocating badges/rewards for participation.

Get senior marketers to shadow junior marketers to learn about the new world of social media (some companies call this ‘reverse shadowing’).

Organize marcomm planning around digital. Start marcomm planning by coming up with a  ‘digital idea’ or an ‘experiential idea’ instead of any other kind of ‘big idea’ and then work out how it can play offline.  An ‘experiential idea’ should be an experience that conveys the brand benefit (and ideally breaks people out of their old ways of thinking).  Typically, these involve multiple digital elements, both to drive people to the experience and to enable the experience itself.

Make sure mobile and social media teams are included in campaign planning from the start. (See “Structure” tips above to help with this).

Optimize budgeting towards experimentation and rapid deployment. Save up to 20% of campaign budget for flexible deployment. Digital allows for faster detection of new opportunities and faster reaction to them, but this requires campaign budget to be reserved for later use in the campaign.

To stay on top of emerging digital platforms ensure a portion of the budget is always allocated to media experimentation.  Allocate 70% of budget to tried-and-tested touchpoints (to avoid excessive risk), 20% to emerging touchpoints that have shown promise, and 10% to totally new touchpoints with no expectation of in-year ROI. MLC members, learn more about the 70-20-10 approach.

Adapt relevant measurement methods and frames. Don’t rely too much on mix models that can underestimate the impact of emerging media (due to low spend and limited sales history). Consider using agent-based modeling and/or the Market Contact Audit to get a better sense of how mobile and social media influence sales.  Agent-based modeling also helps explain how digital and offline channels interact, which aids integrated planning as well as buy in.

Instead of only measuring the number of people reached, also measure the amount of media spend/impressions wasted on the wrong targets. This will encourage a shift away from inefficient offline channels. MLC members, see other ways to make this case.

MLC members, watch this space for more ideas on how to integrate around digital; it’s a topic we’re always interested in!  If anyone has any ideas or potential best practices to share, please let us know.

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