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LEADERSHIP LAB

Marketing in a world gone digital

  • This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.

No change has had more impact on marketing since the turn of the century than the dominance of the digital culture. Whether you're an established company like 3M which has been around for more than a century, or a new start-up, success depends on your ability to market in today's world.

I'm not talking about “digital marketing” but, marketing in a world that's digital. Organizations must embrace this mindset, not just in the marketing department, and incorporate it into everything the organization does.

Today, almost 90 per cent of B2B buyers start their purchasing process online, with the first serious engagement with a sales representative taking place, on average, 57 per cent of the way into the buying process, after the customer has done a lot of due diligence through digital means.

By employing a content marketing strategy, you can develop relevant content and make it available when and where customers look for it so they can make informed decisions that hopefully lead to a sale for you, not one of your competitors.

Create Internal “Buy In”

The single most important step in changing the mindset of your organization is to generate social licence internally at all levels, from the boardroom and C-suite to customer service and in the field.

Educate: Start by providing everyone with enough information to explain what's needed and create a sense of urgency for change, but not so much information that you get stuck in explaining mode.

Make the sale: Once you've given the decision-makers the information they need, ask them for the go-ahead to make the investments necessary for success.

Speak a language people understand: How you tell your story depends on your audience at any given time. You'll need pictures and analogies for people who think visually, numbers for the CFO and finance, and research for those who make decisions based on data. You'll also need a plan, for those who think about things in sequence. And you'll need to tell these stories internally over and over again.

Modernize your organization

Once you've embarked on changing the mindset, you need to ensure that your technology, teams, speed, scalability and execution will support marketing in a digital world while also working together with traditional marketing techniques. The goal is the intersection of media, message and marketing technology to inform the entire customer journey.

Technology: When you have clearly defined who you're targeting and created the most relevant content to speak to those customers, you're ready to choose the technology most suited to achieving your marketing goals. Whatever technologies you choose should help you address four key areas: Social Relationship Management, which helps buyers and customers become aware of you; Content Management, which helps deliver content and secure leads for your business; Marketing Automation, which helps you warm and nurture those leads; and Customer Relationship Management, which turns warm leads into profits.

Teams: Marketing in a world that's digital means your teams will need totally new skillsets, some of which you can find internally, but many of which you'll need to hire externally. You're going to need fewer generalist marketers and many more specialists with deep expertise in the niches.

Speed: You need to be able to move quickly to meet customer expectations for information. From planning and scheduling social media content, routing content for approvals, and tracking the impact of content, to listening to the conversations that your customers and prospects are having about you and then adjusting your plans when needed.

Execution: None of this modernization matters if you don't set yourself up to execute at every stage of the process. After all, demand generation is only worthwhile if you can convert customers from wanting what you have to enabling them to buy it.

Clearly, organizational transformation is a huge undertaking that isn't usually led from the marketing department. It definitely takes time and commitment, and there's no single blueprint you can turn to, not least because every situation is different depending on each organization's specific needs and its location along the spectrum of change. But organizations that do evolve will be able to stay relevant in a world that is digital – the world we have today and will have for years to come.