Everyone is talking about a Digital shift. But what does that really mean? Depending on where you sit in the business structure, digital can mean different things. For some, it’s about technology. For others, it’s a new way to engage with customers. Overall, it’s a complete culture shift in how we do business. The reality is, as far as technologies that power our brand and our business go, we’ve been digital for a long time. The change that is happening today is more about the way we think.
Being successful with your digital strategy requires a philosophical change in the way we build our relationships with our customers. Many teams are focused on hiring the right talent or buying the best softwares. However, I think before you do either of those things, you need to create the right mindset.
Digital isn’t just a trend we have to keep up with, it’s a philosophical shift in the basics of what marketing means to the business. A digital mind-set is about making cross-functional collaboration standard practice. It flattens hierarchies and encourages the sharing of new ideas.
Today, consumers are in complete control. The sooner we as marketers embrace that notion, the better our digital success will be. The days of the hard-sell and ambiguity are over. To be successful, we need to put consumers first, and offer them interesting, engaging content that gives them the information they are looking for and that is so compelling that they will share it with their friends.
But What About Traditional Channels?
According to a study conducted by pulse Marketing Agency, “the average person listens to 112 minutes of radio and watches nearly 5 hours of television per day. About half of those same consumers use video streaming like Netflix and online radio like Spotify. And, “over 60% of consumers surveyed said they trust television advertisements more than online video advertisements.
The takeaway here is that more traditional forms of advertising are still going strong. Our customers are still showing up to those older mediums, and advertising on them is still effective. We should view our marketing strategy as a mix of various mediums that we adjust based on the specific goals of a campaign, or the demographics of our target audience.
To Move Forward, Let’s Take a Step Back
We can learn some valuable lessons about how to approach digital by looking back at the way marketing and advertising teams have handled new technologies in the past.
When I started my career as an advertising copywriter with a database marketing agency back in the late 80’s and early 90’s Direct Mail, incorporating proprietary modeling was the hot new thing that was transforming the business. Gaining access to very personal details of your audience segments and using that knowledge to engage in a targeted dialog that offered a customized experience revolutionized Direct Mail. Yes, it was a bit creepy at first. I remember feeling like “big brother” using targeted home-buyer lists to sell home equity lines, and new-parent lists to promote mini vans. But it worked. ROI went up. Testing alternate messages and creative was built into budgets, and mailboxes were soon flooded with mail that seemed to speak very personally to each recipient.
While large amounts of advertising budgets were dedicated to Direct Mail, it was never pitched or used to replace traditional media. High awareness campaigns for TV and radio created the buzz and excitement, and targeted database marketing (Direct Mail) allowed marketers to test results and customize messages. They worked hand in hand. And boy did it work! Until it didn’t….
What Did We Learn?
By the late 90’s and early 2000’s telemarketing was replacing Direct Mail. The problem with Direct Mail was time and money. Printed material requires printing, and that takes time. Creating, printing, and matching letters with envelopes for sometimes 40 plus versions of a direct mail piece with multiple creative looks, sizes, and envelope styles was time consuming and also expensive. Increasing postal rates also caused inflated costs per piece. Plus, people got sick of their mailboxes being filled, and they became immune to the sexiness of personalization. Telemarketing soared, until people started blocking the calls, and telemarketing scams became a thing. Just like with Direct Mail, Telemarketing was a timely strategy that worked until the world moved on.
What we should have learned as an industry is to not put all your eggs in one basket.
No matter how great something is working today, tomorrow’s circumstances can have an impact in ways you can’t predict. That’s why when I hear statements like “Digital is replacing traditional advertising”, “or “I’m scrapping my entire team structure to accommodate Digital,” I get anxious. I would not consider Digital to replace anything, but rather use it to offer an alternative opportunity to speak with customers.
What Does This Mean for Creative Team Structures?
For in-house creative teams working with marketing teams that want to embrace new digital mediums, this is an opportunity to look at your talent pool and see where your gaps are. Do you have writers who can write both traditional copy as well as content, or should you keep the lanes separate and hire specialists in both? Are your designers able to perform UX design duties, or do you need dedicated user experience designers? And what about the in-house marketing work that you do for non-advertising jobs like in-house brochures, signage, and event collateral? Do you have a high enough volume of standard marketing communications to warrant their own creative team, or do you pull from other creative groups to accommodate that work?
Smaller teams are forced to be cross functional. That means finding the most versatile talent you can. Writers who are comfortable with both ad copy and longer, thought leadership pieces, for example. Designers with print, video, and digital expertise. Finding this type of talent can be tricky, so a lot of in-house teams are spending more time and money on training their existing teams to expand their skill sets. Others are farming out the digital or video work to outside agencies. How you solve the problem is going to be individual to your own team’s priorities, needs, workload, and budget.
To Sum it Up
Digital success doesn’t come over night. In order to get where you’re going you should look at where you’ve been, how you got here, and what lessons you learned along the way. My lessons learned include:
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You don’t have to, nor should you, abandon traditional marketing channels
- In order to maximize digital, start by putting your customer first at every stage of the journey
- Before you hire new team members or add tools and applications, you need to change your mindset to be customer-centric, and identify from that perspective what gaps you need to fill
- Always be thinking ahead for industry changes that will disrupt your current channel mix, and open new opportunities!