It is not only about developing websites or managing social channels. The true meaning of digital marketing lies in the combined use of all available online tools, the Omni channel approach, new technologies and the analysis of customer data. Digital transformation is above all organisational: here's how the CMO can lead the company to the customer and achieve successful results.
Today, for many marketing managers and entrepreneurs, digital marketing, or web marketing, still means managing a company's website or a Facebook page. This is a simplistic and outdated view. Without necessarily equipping themselves with the most sophisticated marketing platforms available on the market, every company can take many advantages from Digital Marketing, which is truly essential for growth, because customer journeys are now largely on the Internet, and this happens in every market, whether consumer or business-to-business (B2B). Marketing in the digital age has become a key part of the digital transformation, the main tool for increasing sales online and also in-store, as well as for increasing brand awareness. It is important to clarify what this is all about.
What is digital marketing and why is it important?
In the academic world and among practitioners, digital marketing is called in many ways: Internet marketing, e-marketing, web marketing, modern marketing. Dave Chaffey, author of the book "Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice" and other best sellers on the subject, provides this simple definition: "Digital Marketing is about achieving marketing objectives through the use of digital technologies and media". How to do this in practice? You have to manage your company's online presence through the different online channels, i.e. websites, mobile apps and social media, and use online communication techniques such as search engine positioning, social media marketing, digital advertising (or online advertising, Internet advertising), e-mail marketing and partnerships with other sites. The aim is to acquire new customers and provide better services to existing ones, expanding and strengthening relationships, through CRM (customer relationship management) and marketing automation.
Digital marketing has the advantage of allowing the measurement of any activity. When creating a marketing plan, however, it is necessary to establish what it is useful to measure, i.e. to define the Marketing KPIs, without getting lost in the flood of data, and to implement improvement actions by constantly monitoring the results achieved.
But don't let technology and numbers overwhelm you: your compass must always point to your customers and their problems, and then present appropriate solutions.
The 5 pillars of digital marketing:
Digital marketing is ultimately about creating effective and trusting relationships between consumers and businesses, not only reaching and convincing them but also listening and learning from them, responding to comments and requests. This is done in different ways, which can be summarised in 5 key elements:
1. Digital devices. To interact, users use smartphones, tablets, PCs, TVs, websites and apps.
2. Digital platforms. Most interactions take place through a browser or an app that can reach proprietary websites and the most popular platforms and services, such as Facebook and Instagram, Google and Youtube, Twitter and Linkedin.
3. Digital media. Different channels can be used, either in-house or paid, to reach and engage with customers, with advertising, email and messaging, search engines and social media.
4. Digital Data. Collecting and analysing data is fundamental, because successful marketing must be data-driven, i.e. guided by the evidence that emerges from interpreting the data. This is a complex activity, mostly because there is the necessity to comply with data protection regulations, and in particular the GDPR, the regulation in force in Europe. The so-called customer insights help to create personalised communications in line with needs. For this crucial activity, DMP (Data Management Platform) technologies, which are increasingly used, come to the rescue. The collection and analysis of data in high volumes is also called Big Data Analysis.
5. Digital Technology. The final and crucial piece is marketing technology (martech) that facilitates the creation of interactive experiences on websites and apps, and helps to segment audiences, create targeted campaigns and increase conversion rates.
Digital Marketing objectives: customer experience and CRM
As you can see, this is a 360-degree approach that aims to improve the customer experience and develop relationships in a multi-channel context, thus going beyond the mere promotion of products and services.
It is important, before launching a strategy, to carry out an analysis of the reference context and market trends, using marketing intelligence tools.
In this context, the role of technology platforms (marketing technologies, or martech technologies) is crucial, but the organisational approach is even more so. We need to break down the silos that divide traditional and digital marketing, and manage online channels to support the entire sales cycle, from pre-sales to customer service, working together towards a common goal. New skills are needed, of course, and many companies are tackling this transition with major change management projects aimed at creating a digital mind-set in people that represents a new breeding ground for modern marketing.
The 4 phases of digital marketing
Briefly, we can identify four fundamental phases that correspond to as many objectives of digital marketing specialists.
1. React: Reach potential customers, with an acquisition strategy aimed at creating online and offline awareness and driving traffic to the company's web channels. Techniques include search engine optimisation (SEO), online advertising, public relations and social media marketing.
2. Act: taking action towards prospects to convert them.
3. Convert: turning prospects into customers, i.e. achieving marketing objectives in terms of lead generation and sales, and increasing online and offline sales. These two phases are linked and require the analysis of the customer journey, content marketing and lead nurturing activities, the use of marketing automation technologies and techniques to optimise landing page conversion rates. Defining marketing KPIs, i.e. performance metrics, is crucial. A number of tools are used to monitor sites and e-commerce (i.e. for Web Analytics), many of them free.
4. Engage: create a close relationship with customers, build loyalty (retention), create a fan base and stimulate repeat purchases. At this stage it is important to have a customer on boarding solution in place.
The Chief Marketing Officer is responsible for growth
In recent years, the role of the CMO has become increasingly important among C-levels. Experts and analysts agree that the marketing manager holds the most effective levers to drive business success in the company, and along with him emerging professionals such as the Social Media Manager and the Data Scientist. This is also supported by an article published in the Wall Street Journal by Deloitte Consulting, which indicates that there are two factors of greatest importance in setting up a successful growth strategy: the collection of customer data and collaboration between different business functions.
In fact, it turns out that the companies with the best growth performance are those that have extensively deployed strategies to extract, analyse and govern customer data, with data-driven marketing. CMOs help shape the data architecture to optimise segmentation, targeting, personalisation and agility. Customer insights are not only used to make marketing decisions, but also influence more strategic business decisions, enhancing the role of marketers in companies. CMOs, together with them digital marketing specialists, are asked to make customers’ voice heard throughout the organisation, and to create a connective tissue between business units in order to turn the organisation into a truly customer-centric one, a concept that is not brand-new, but one that only few are able to realise.
A new figure: The Marketing Technologist
Today, it is impossible to think of marketing without technology. Over time, the importance of a new hybrid figure, the Marketing Technologist, has emerged, capable of taking on the growing complexity of managing the points of contact between customers and companies, in a world where technology has become an integral part of the experience, and is no longer a stand-alone as it was in the past. It is important to remember that technology should be the point of arrival, not the point of departure, but that today it requires organisations to govern their budgets and technology choices: given that access to solutions is now potentially open to all areas of the business, coordination is needed to avoid duplication.
The marketing technologist must be able to facilitate and enable the achievement of the promise of technology for marketing, which is to "deliver contextually relevant experiences, value and utility at the most appropriate time in the customer lifecycle, through the preferred point of contact" (Forrester Research). A promise impossible to realise without technology and equally impossible to achieve with technology alone.