Are You Embracing Digitization?

We talk about digital marketing as the channel through which marketing is deployed, but that’s what it meant a decade ago. Today, at many top brands and marketing agencies, digital marketing isn’t just what they do, it’s what they are.

Every now and then you see these studies about who is or isn’t a “laggard” in some marketing technology. I always found the term a bit manipulative — after all, one man’s laggard is another’s smart shopper — but when it comes to digital transformation, or digitization, I think there’s something to it.

We held a webinar yesterday with Workfront on “3 ‘Digitization’ Trends Shaping Modern Marketing,” where I spoke with Workfront’s Brandon Jensen, Alanna Peet of Accenture and Jennifer Johnson of Informatica. And while they had slightly different viewpoints on digitization, they all said one phrase the same: “You have to embrace it.”

And some of our viewers clearly have not embraced it. So they asked about how to make their organizations more digital … And I have to say, they were a little hard for any of the speakers to answer, because their companies already were fully digital and had been for years.

What exactly does that mean? Well Johnson described how new hires at Informatica start on a Monday, and on that first day they’re given their laptop with all the apps they’re going to use and all the logins and permissions they need. That laptop with those apps contains probably 90 percent of what would have traditionally been in the office for an analog worker.

Now, they still have an office — this is not about working remotely — but the whole marketing job has been digitized.

We talk about digital marketing as the channel through which marketing is deployed, but that’s what it meant a decade ago. Today, at many top brands and marketing agencies, digital marketing isn’t just what they do, it’s what they are.

And it’s not just how the marketing workers interface with the company and their work, it’s how customers interface with those companies as well.

As we talked yesterday, what became clear was, to successfully connect with the connected consumer, it doesn’t just take digital marketing as a tactic or ad channels. It takes embracing the digital world and the tools and everything you can do with them.

Peet’s number one tip, and we came back to it several times, was that through digitization, you can be automating many of the slow, repetitive tasks that burn your time (and burnout your nerves). Data entry, message responses, testing … all of these tasks and more could be automated. This can save you an enormous amount of time and energy that would be better spent on the creative and rewarding (both for you and your employer) aspects of your work.

I admit, I have not embraced digitization as much as I probably could. There are a lot of things in my day to day (and all of Target Marketing’s day to day) that are not automated and probably could be. And that has me thinking as well.

Peet suggested you think about those little annoying tasks and actively identify things you’d like to automate. I bet you can quick make a list of a dozen. If you can automate even half of those, wouldn’t it make a huge difference?

So I ask again, are you embracing digitization? If not, you could be missing out on the marketer’s equivalent of the industrial revolution.

Hype or Opportunity? 

Marketers today face the huge challenge of creating the right program mix to meet their brand objectives. It’s difficult to balance the risk of new investments against the budget support needed to continue in proven channels. But it could be even riskier to wait too long to test or adopt some of the newer opportunities that emerge with oppressive regularity.

Marketers today face the huge challenge of creating the right program mix to meet their brand objectives. It’s difficult to balance the risk of new investments against the budget support needed to continue in proven channels. But it could be even riskier to wait too long to test or adopt some of the newer opportunities that emerge with oppressive regularity.

The bounty of options makes planning more complicated and can thinly stretch even the largest of budgets across a wide array of team efforts. Each team effort must be supported with planning, development, distribution, optimization and reporting, all of which cost time and money. And though more options generally leads to more learning, it also creates more work — and sometimes even a dilution of impact upon prospects.

Some of those new opportunities will earn key positions in future campaigns via their proven contributions to specific objectives. But many will turn out to just be a shiny object that got its fifteen minutes of marketing fame and ate away your resources. One handy tool to help you hedge this high-stakes bet is the Gartner Hype Cycle.

Gartner has been publishing this annual review for many years. It considers emerging technologies in a way that best informs critical business investments. It offers brands distinct interpretations of real value versus hype, charted along a continuum marking the highs and lows of technology adoption over time.

The cycle begins with a peak of inflated expectations, tied to a wave of adoption and a lot of market attention, before negativity and failures lead to a trough of disillusionment. Then the real work begins: adapting best practices and methodologies that lead to higher productivity. Rinse and repeat.

Hype CycleThe 2016 Gartner Hype Cycle of emerging technologies highlights three big trends, including:

  1. Immersive Consumer Experiences, like virtual reality, smart materials and gesture controls
  2. Smart Machines and workspaces that foster the evolution of the Internet of Things and digitize physical objects to improve efficiencies.
  3. Technologies that connect to each other and synergize previously autonomous technologies and platforms.

Gartner actually publishes multiple hype cycles annually. Some of these cycle reports focus on particular technologies, so if you have an interest in a specific area of technology, you should do some further digging.

It is easy to see how today’s technological innovation can evolve into tomorrow’s marketing tool kit, but it’s not a quick, direct or easy journey. Watch for the phases of the hype cycle but also for the availability of tested vendors, channels or service partners to help ease your adoption. Most marketers are not equipped to leverage the raw technology on their own, so they search for partners with a tested offering that effectively employs the emerging technology. But this typically occurs in the later stages of the hype cycle, which in some cases may be too late.

So how do you know when it’s time to jump in, and how do you maximize the impact of your inherently risky choice?

  • Have clear goals and benchmarks in place, along with a time frame to assess whether this new initiative is achieving its function within your plan.
  • Know the difference between technology and marketing. Both have value but they are not interchangeable.
  • Don’t launch what you can’t measure.
  • Some endeavors are more labor and research intensive than others, or further outside of your comfort and experience levels. Weigh the effort expended against the potential return before embarking.
  • Build in additional time. New efforts always need additional launch time, QA time, etc.
  • Fund the effort appropriately. Just dipping your toe in may not return a realistic picture of the actual value.
  • Know what your team resources can support. Unduly stressing them can have unintended negative consequences on unrelated programs that had been running smoothly prior to the adoption.
  • Keep a balance in your budget of proven tactics, but also set aside a testing budget so as to continually learn and freshen your eye.
  • Don’t hang out on the bleeding edge unless your brand and your audience are already there. Not every new marketing opportunity will be a good fit.
  • Do your research. You can learn a lot from watching early adopters.

Success today favors the bold but informed. Make smart choices, and continually test and refresh your marketing mix. Maximize the opportunity and minimize the hype.