The concept of ‘digital transformation’ has become a hot topic in recent times. Companies are realising that although they’re tracking the evolving trends around consumers behaviour and expectations as a result of technological developments, they still lag behind when it comes to a corresponding vision, mindset and strategy to meet these new needs head-on.
A comedian effectively encapsulated this new era of heightened consumer expectations by suggesting that those of us that get annoyed if they get even a nano-second of the whirling circle loading icon give it a bit of a break, seeing that request is basically going to space and back! This however is the new reality that marketers in particular face as they, more than any other part of an organisation should be most attuned to consumers’ needs. The ongoing digitization of people’s lives should therefore be a marketer’s dream. Never has it been more possible to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time and in so many different forms. That however is at the root of the challenge. Where do you start? What do you prioritise? There are so many options out there and they are in constant flux - how do you keep up and what does best practice even look like anymore?
Start strategically: spot the gaps to see where to go first
A good example of this is the work that Google did with a leading consultancy group to launch the Talent Revolution - a first of its kind initiative that gave all marketers an industry-approved framework of digital marketing best practice. Taking part in this marketing skills health check allowed marketing departments to see not only how they measured up when it came to marketing in a digital world but also assess their in-house capabilities at scale thereby shining a spotlight on potential gaps in know-how.
As Ben Rhodes, Director of Customer Marketing at Royal Mail discovered, the insights unlocked by this capability review provided a new, clearer way of thinking about digital transformation: “We realised we couldn’t just rely on one or two specialist people in the marketing teams, but that a broader base across the marketing organisation needed to be engaged and upskilled. It provided a major wake-up call, which has led us to actively shift the way we work.”
With marketers from both brand and agencies taking part in their thousands globally a clear picture emerged that showed a much larger gap in digital skills than first predicted with not even the largest and most well-resourced companies having ‘cracked’ it yet.
For example, mobile best practice continues to remain an area of concern (despite this probably being the 8th ‘year of mobile’ in a row!) as does not having a single view of the customer in data. Breaking down some of these silos will become increasingly key if genuine customer centricity is the goal.
It was also clear that Marketers are becoming more confident with video but there is still a tendency to use a new advanced tool in old fashioned ways and, in areas such as analytics and taking a test and learn approach, there is still a lot of headroom.
There was also a disconnect between more senior stakeholders’ perception of the digital readiness of their teams versus that of those teams themselves and clear water between how leadership are seen to talk the talk but not walk the walk when it comes to the importance of digital capability to their organisation.
So broadly what does this mean? Ultimately there remains lots of room for growth as companies shift to a increasingly ‘digital’ mindset and the obvious starting point is figuring out which skills your company actually needs. There may be areas in which you’re falling behind, and others where you’re sitting pretty - in which case, think about how you can use this knowledge to share company best practice and inspire others. That’s where some form of capability identification and benchmarking mechanism like Google's Talent Revolution comes in handy.
Then, set about mapping out who needs to have those skills. Upskilling involves significant investment in time and resources, so identifying who needs to know what - and to what depth - in your organisation is key. And it’s not just about your existing workforce. Organisations who can demonstrate that they are also focused on delivering personal development are becoming increasingly attractive to potential employees. So how do you go about this?
Build the right skills, then grow the right culture for talent to flourish
When asked to rank the top capabilities by future importance and learning and development needs over the next 12 months, the results of the Talent Revolution saw strategy development and planning and digital channels ranked highest, but marketers only gave an average score of 47/100 for the statement ‘we have a learning programme which enables me to build the digital knowledge and skills required for me/my role’.
Paul Morris, Global Ecommerce Director at Specsavers, comments that ‘transformation is fundamentally human led’ so to enable that to happen helping people find bandwidth to learn and stay up to date with emerging ideas and thinking is key. Companies that embrace a culture of ongoing learning that actively incentivises everyone to keep ahead of the digital curve will reap the benefits.
Another example from Google is something called the ‘Courageous Penguin Award’. Named after the one penguin that dives in the water first to check it’s safe and in doing so risks his life for the others. This award recognised those who made big bets that might not have gone as planned but still delivered important learnings for the company to move ahead with.
Targets that encourage people to explore new things also instill confidence and willingness to take leaps without fear of failure. So, rolling in digital progress to KPIs and holding innovation awards that incentivise risk-taking and big bets are just a couple of examples of how to create the right signals that delivering digitally for the customer and the company will be rewarded.
What to take away?
In summary Marketers are on the frontline of digital transformation, but with a strategic approach to skills development it’s entirely possible to do the right thing by your customer and take your organisation forward at the same time.
Here’s your checklist:
- Not sure what skills you need to develop? Find out what you do and don’t know. Start by looking at your business-critical knowledge gaps and go from there. Digital transformation is an ongoing process, so check back in regularly to see how you’re doing and where you need to head next to keep pace with new developments
- Not sure how to create the right digital mindset in your team? Create a culture of digital skills development and reward the leaps that do new things for your customer and your business
- Want to be a leading marketer in this new reality? Agree and focus in on the audience signals you want to prioritise, and when it comes to decision-making start assumption free and rely on data to inform those decisions - data is after all something there is no lack of!
Ultimately all of the above, plus the ability to tell a great story and create customer experiences that are also transformative = Marketing 2.0.
Sarah Logan is a Marketing & Workforce Development Consultant, Advisor to the IFA & Xoogler (Ex-Googler).