• We still have some way to go to truly embrace digital and benefit from its potential
  • Understanding buyers and their behavior is paramount to high-performance marketing and customer-centric innovation
  • Develop a holistic understanding of interaction patterns, both self-guided and human-to-human

This sounds like a paradox, right? Especially because digital is a hot topic right now. Indeed, preliminary data from a study that SiriusDecisions is currently conducting with CMOs and other marketing leaders around the globe shows that CMOs are tackling the digital challenge on many fronts:

  • They are upskilling their marketing organizations by hiring digital expertise
  • They are augmenting internal skills by leveraging the expertise of digital agencies
  • They are hiring digital strategists to orchestrate digital strategy and execution
  • They are investing in digital tools and shifting program investments toward digital initiatives

Digital MarketingAt our recent EMEA CMO Forum on the topic “Digital Playing Field: Strategic and Operational Considerations for CMOs,” we had a lively debate about several topics related to digital. During our discussion, it was clear that leading the digital marketing transformation falls squarely within the realm of the CMO/marketing leader. However, to achieve this transformation we are not doing ourselves any favors by using the word digital or any associated marketing jargon.

Here’s why:

  • Using the word digital potentially reinforces the mental divide between digital and non-digital activities. Ask your teams the following question: When was the last time they did a non-digital activity? The answer is, probably a very long time ago, before the arrival of the Internet. Today, every activity we do is somehow supported by digital. Email invitations are sent out to attend a physical event, press releases are amplified via social media, online training is delivered to enable sales or channel partners, and the list goes on.
  • Planning processes often reinforce the misleading digital/non-digital divide, instead of planning from the start an integrated mix. In our discussion, we shared with CMOs a degree-of-influence exercise – a model that guides teams to come up with a holistic view of the right mix to engage a target audience based on how buyers buy, not how companies want to sell to them (or based what tactics have always been used in the past).
  • Digital is not just about digital marketing! There is a broader and more significant opportunity to use digital to transform the way we run our businesses. And in that business-wide transformation, CMOs and marketing teams must step up their role. As custodians of the customer and with customer/buyer insights in their hands, CMOs must act as catalysts to make the case and drive buy-in for this company-wide transformation. In doing so, it is imperative to translate well-understood (to marketing) digital benefits (e.g. increased audience reach, deeper customer relationships, more authentic engagement with prospects/customers) into business language that other executives and the board care about (e.g. speed to market, profitability, increased revenue, scalability).

We still have some way to go to truly embrace digital and benefit from its potential. However, the first barrier to dismantle is how we think about digital.

Instead of reinforcing false assumptions through a simplistic use of terminology – digital vs. non-digital, new vs. old – CMOs and other marketing leaders should urge their teams to develop a holistic understanding of the interaction patterns, both self-guided and human-to-human, that characterize buyers in different buying scenarios. Understanding buyers and their behavior in this holistic way is a paramount requirement for high-performance marketing and customer-centric innovation.