Nowadays many marketers claim to be digital marketers. With the rising trend of digital marketing, putting the additional tag of “digital” to your job title can be temptingly easy.

However, the truth is, many marketers, even those who have expertise in certain online fields do not qualify as true blood digital marketers. Some might have gathered experience in various online marketing field such as SEO, PPC or Social Media Marketing, being a digital marketer requires the in-depth understanding of data, digital tools (websites, mobile apps, IoT), digital markets and customer journeys that start in the real World and quickly flow in the waters of digital. That’s only the ecosystem, once you understand it, you need to grab your digital business modelling skills and connect the dots to build strategies for growth.

Digital Marketing has become a rocket science. Levente Csenteri, CEO of Combridge, Deutsche Telekom’s subsidiary, who wants to boost its B2B sales in East Europe stated:

“I expect miracles from digital (marketing).”

Many leaders and C-level executives try to find a shortcut and adopt digital marketing in their growth strategy. Once they face with its complexity they:

Option A: Run away from it. Invest minimal effort and get back to their traditional methods of growing their business.

Run Forrest, run!

Option B: Realize it’s a bigger challenge than just creating a Facebook Business Page or a Google Search Ad and start looking for experienced digital marketers, trends and strategies.

Bigger than expected.

This article is for the latter. How do you open the Black Box of digital marketing? While it has become a complex work field, there are two strategies you can start with.

For technology minded leaders: bottom to top mapping

Start with the data: what are the current software you are using that collect data, if you are up to date with you GDPR policy, your Data Protection Officer (DPO) could be your starting point for discussion. Request a data map and a data flow diagram that concludes key data sets you are collecting about your customers and let them (DPO) explain why and how you are collecting these. It might have a strong chance that you already have valuable data that you are not using for business growth. A restaurant chain found out that their Italian locations were selling more every 2nd summer. Looks like a seasonality, right? Indeed, the question is what’s behind it. In this case after an overview of the surrounding data factors, it was found that every 2nd summer within a 50 km range from the locations there was a Sommelier Summer School. Students were coming to work and practice at the restaurants. Leveraging their fresh knowledge they added extra value when serving customers, that resulted in a considerable increase in sales.

For business minded leaders: top to bottom mapping

Start with the pain points of your customers that you don’t know. Thinking within the industry and spending time with the same people might create the feeling that you know the most important pain points of your key clients. What if I told you that this doesn’t help you transit to the digital future? Not because somebody doubts you know your customers, but because the pain points you are aware of are the problems of today (or yesterday). Creating new revenue streams through digital require your business to be able to solve the pain points of tomorrow. When Airbnb launched, they created a strategy to find venues and conferences where a large number of people will be looking for accommodation. They prepared for what would come by connecting with locals who would rent out a room or two and created a social experience from it. With tools, such as Customer Experience Mapping you can understand and learn from your current audience and tap into new opportunities by mapping new potential pain points.

Strategic, but agile method

Whichever method you chose to use, doesn’t really matter. What does matter, is how you pursue digitalization. It might sound utopist, but you have to be strategic and agile at the same time. So, how do you do that? You should be strategic in setting proper goals, measurable and relevant KPIs and proper long term mindset. Many people out there will promise instant results. If instants starts in 6 months, then I would agree, otherwise don’t expect that you will double your revenue in the first week of applying digital to your business. While goal setting for executives is a common thing, setting the right KPIs for your digital project can have a few tricks.

Here are 5 things you should consider:

  1. Why are you moving towards digital? Except, that all of your key competitors do, you should have a strong why that will keep you persistent.
  2. What are you changing with digital, how and where are you adding more value to the customer journey? Define the key value offerings that you are building through digital, and where these create competitive value.
  3. What are the risks that can sabotage your goals? Digital can be the road to the future, but shifting a business model towards it can have its threats. If the plan looks too good to be true, you might do a background check to avoid falling in a digital blackhole.
  4. What are you measuring? Revenue streams facilitated by digital makes sense, but if your plan is not going according to your expectations you should be able to break down your metrics to find out what went wrong.
  5. How are you measuring? You know what you’d like to track, make sure you have the right tools and assistance to do that. Business KPIs need to be “translated” to digital metrics in order to get the most out of the data.

Once you have prepared your background break it down to a timeline in milestones that you believe will drive you to your goals. I used the word “believe” intentionally. Being a stubborn strategist is not the right road to take, when it comes to digital. You should prepare to steer the boat quickly and adapt to findings on the go. Depending on your goals you should have alignment assessments where you evaluate shorter timeframes. Have a weekly sanity check on operational level, and a monthly strategic overview. Don’t be afraid to shift lanes, be an agile captain of your digital spaceship that has the open-mindedness to adjust in order to achieve great results.

Be an agile captain of your digital spaceship

David beats Goliath in the battle of digital transitions

I humbly apologize in advance, what I am going to write has no intention to offend. It’s my personal point of view and experience that I gained in working over 26 markets (countries) in digital transformations in the last 10 years.

Enterprise businesses usually prefer to work with big consultancy firms, established brands with decades of history, like the big four. Either them or other giants, these companies have powerful skills to create compelling business strategies and achieve business growth. In the recent years they have also tapped into digitalization, in terms of consulting their partners about how to get the smoothest digital transition. However, usually what happens is that they adopt similar business thinking that has worked on good-old fashioned business strategy. At first, it might make sense, however they usually lack practical agile thinking and are not striving to use disruptive digital technologies.

David beats Goliath in the battle of digital transitions

So the question is, who should you chose to support your roadmap of digital transformation? The answer is not easy. Rather than giving one type of company, I would like to suggest some parameters to check:

  1. Proven track record in digital transformation that has impacted at least 3 markets. Many digital agencies can be disruptive locally, but fail to scale digitalization to more markets. Knowing the local market is always a strong card in your deck, but digitalization should have an impact on all the markets you are targeting.
  2. Team of experts who can attend to physical workshops. While we are going forwards digital, in person workshops create the best value for your company. Online calls are good for operative tasks, but make sure you have a team that can support you on the spot.
  3. A scope recognition workshop: your partner should start with understanding what you want and need not only from your RFP (Request for proposal) or BRD (Business requirements document)
  4. Openness to go the extra mile: digital transformations sound neat, but in reality it demands a lot of hard work and willingness to go the extra mile(s) when things get rough.
  5. Wide understanding of the digital ecosystem: many digital consultants have exceptional skills and experience in one or two fields, but when it comes to the big picture, they keep forcing their services or products. Digital transformations require to see and go beyond just a few fields, you want to work with people who focus on full scale digital growth.

Opening the Black Box of digital marketing (start of the series)

This article is the first of a series of 7, where I will guide you through the black box, myths, tips and tricks and tried out practices of digital transformations that drive growth for enterprise level companies, industry forgers and firms that want to extend and establish their primary activities to digital.