Marketing’s greatest challenge: Remaining relevant in the face of digital

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Guest editorial by Andy Pattinson, managing director ANZ at Seismic Software Sydney: Marketers need an increasingly wide set of skills to stay relevant in the digital era. Marketing automation and data collection / activation are slowly gaining ground on traditional campaigns, and innovations like Artificial Intelligence, Augmented / Virtual Reality or voice activation are finding applications in marketing.

An Accenture report found that 33% of CEOs say marketing will sit under digital in the next three years. While, New Zealand has been called out as being one of the “standout” digital nations in the 2017 Digital Planet report by the Fletcher School at Tufts University. If companies want a piece of that cake, they will need CMOs able to embrace digital tools and codes, or risk losing their added value.

For companies to reap the benefits of digital technologies in marketing, they require a clear understanding of the technologies being adopted. A few elements are necessary to ensure this takes place:

  1. Foster collaboration between departments to break down intellectual silos and come up with new visions and strategies to drive digitally enabled employee engagement and customer satisfaction.
  2. Have the right people in the organization drive the change.
  3. Keep an open mind when appointing people to marketing positions.

Collaboration is key
CEOs and CMOs must work together by asking practical questions about what digital transformation means for their business. Cultivating an organisation-wide attitude of innovation can be tough. Borders—whether they are geographical or technological—can be a barrier to this as they get in the way of efficiencies and productivity.

Organisations that are serious about investing in digital must break down internal silos and leverage the skills of cross-functional teams, encouraging collaboration in order to deliver ROI and new, fresh ideas and vision. This means teams across the entire organisation must be flexible and focused, while emphasising transparency around objectives, activity, and achievements.

Ultimately, digital transformation is all about cultivating the talent necessary to steward an organisation through the journey of change. With a collaboration mindset that involves tapping into many people’s ideas and talents, marketing leaders will be able to make “digital” more appealing by grasping its potential for marketing.

This mindset can be materialised through cross-team hackathons designed to overhaul a marketing strategy, or technological monitoring or internal trainings from engineering or IT teams to upskill the marketing team for example. But this won’t happen if CEOs are not driving the change themselves.

Driving change management
CMOs are experiencing a number of different alternatives for gaining digital advantage, many of which manifest themselves in how organisations chose to act on innovation, collaboration, productivity, and borderless thinking. Most employees don’t have a broad understanding of all functions of a business, which can be an obstacle for the improvements that need to take place.

Some teams may even consider this a time-consuming process, however building marketing teams with a digital first strategy is key for overall business performance. Therefore, CEOs must be the catalysts for driving this change forward – since they have the most influence when it comes to implementing a strategic vision for the entire organisation. CEO’s must work with their C-suite counterparts to clearly articulate the benefits of a collaborative mindset, demonstrating how this change will be beneficial for the entire organisation.

Don’t judge a book by its cover
Collaboration can be pushed one step further. Have you ever witnessed that developer or engineer being so persuasive when randomly presenting your business to external stakeholders? That must be a potential to tap into. A de-siloed business environment encourages the emergence of multi-skilled and hybrid profiles.

That engineer or developer could be the next addition to the marketing team. He or she might lack pure marketing knowledge and skills at the beginning. However, they might also have an inherent talent in presenting the business in its best light and therefore define the best vision and messages, core to any marketing strategy. Furthermore, they will probably be more tech-savvy than other marketers and could be the necessary catalyst to make digital transformation a reality within the marketing team.

This is applicable to any position in a business. We often hear stories of successful CEOs or CMOs coming from radically different backgrounds. Organisations should stay open-minded when searching for candidates. They should not only consider their backgrounds but also their potential talent and added value in driving digital transformation.

Ultimately, CMOs are indispensable for meeting tomorrow’s customer and marketing challenges. Therefore, they must work together with CEOs, acknowledging the fact that digital transformation requires more than the application of the latest and greatest technology. It requires a cultural shift with organisation-wide collaboration at the heart of change.

Seismic currently does not have an NZ office but Andy Pattinson says they are keenly looking to expand in the region, having opened doors in Sydney only a year ago.

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