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Should every company adopt a digital marketing strategy?

Should every company adopt a digital marketing strategy?
If we’re talking globally, then I would probably say no. There are plenty of companies that operate in a very local way, that also don’t necessarily have the ambition to be big global powerhouses. If you think about someone like Co-op, for example, they’re wanting to deliver food to people locally, but they’ve got this ambition to be a big company. Whereas actually, your local corner shop may not have that ambition, so there’s also the concept of ambition and goals to take into account on top of that. Thinking about larger corporations, I would say bigger businesses, you’re more likely to need a digital strategy. And the reason for that is just because of how broad digital encompasses now.
Digital, in its many forms, just touches so many areas of our lives and has so many options for us to learn, to get insights, to interact with
people, to sell products, to create loyalty, I think there’s just too many opportunities to say: “Just don’t worry about it.” Think about how you look for information, how you engage with the news, you research products, you plan events, you book holidays, you manage money, you interact with your friends and family - there’s a huge number of different ways you’ll do that digitally, and there’s a huge number of different ways that I’m interacting digitally there that could be right for a business, a product, or a service. So
the vast majority of companies will need to adopt digital marketing strategies, for sure. The trick is figuring out what is the right areas for digital for your business and your situation. It can be very easy to end up with this ‘buffet’ of everything where you don’t do anything great, and as a result suffer as a business because you’re outranked on search, you have a poor website that is hard for people to transact in, your social media presence isn’t quite good enough, and you can be beaten by one person on each of these tactics, and it can lead to catastrophe. So it’s really about identifying what is right for your business.
Unless you understand about your audience behaviour, and how the marketing landscape has transformed from that traditionally assumed marketplace, you’re simply not going to communicate with your customers in the right way. It’s not good enough just to be sold on you wanting to do digital marketing. What are the implications of that? That might be creating a huge number of different assets for lots of different segmented audience personas. So you need to understand that that’s got a cost implication. So you can benefit, it’s great, you can fast-track people through the funnel, as we mentioned before, so you can take them straight from awareness into intent, and get them bought in.
Or if they’re searching for things, well we know there’s a certain level of intent - bang, here’s our product or service - and hopefully drop straight to the bottom of the funnel and capture that sale or get that product or service bought in by somebody. But in order to do that, sometimes you are going to need to create lots of different assets, not that one paper ad, or that one direct mailer, or that billboard. So there are challenges, but they’re good challenges for businesses and businesses should embrace them in my personal opinion. Understanding digital transformation now equates to understanding people. People are digital, and we’re becoming more digital.
Products are more digital - books are now digital, audio is digital, TV is digital. People are digital so you
can’t not - I would almost say to someone: try and not be involved with digital transformation, and I think you’ll end up living under a rock somewhere! So I think it’s really crucial. People don’t necessarily know what they want from devices, and we’re permanently getting new things. Wearable technology is a growing area, you’ve got audio, you’ve got all these different areas that are largely now powered through mobile devices. These are now incredibly powerful computers that we effectively walk around with us, that are empowering us in new ways, and understanding that can be really difficult. It’s an ongoing story, and it’s far, far from over.
We think about things like AR and VR - there are all these technologies that, some have burst onto the scene, some are sort of creeping their way in. TikTok, for example, has burst onto the scene, relatively speaking, whereas voice has been around for a little while, and actually in lots of our homes, but we don’t necessarily know how to interact with it yet from a branding perspective. It’s difficult in that it’s trying to understand what’s important for your businesses, what are the trends that are starting and where they’re going to go, and what ones do you want to get ahead of the curve on? What ones are better to wait and see how they develop?
And also just understanding how to reach your consumers in the right way on those devices and with that technology. Actually, do people want a brand message on their FitBit? Is that going to really annoy them? Is that going to damage your brand? Whereas actually, in podcasts, people quite like advertising, where you get the broadcasters and narrators doing funny versions of their ads - I think they’re brilliant! And so it’s quite difficult for understanding that focus for brands. Key challenges are fairly obvious really. You’ve got audiences interacting with a huge variety of different channels - traditional, digital - a huge number of sources of data, potentially, to analyse.
So how do you cut through all of that noise to work out where your audience are, channel, messaging?
So the marketing game hasn’t changed really, it’s: where are they? What messages can I give them? Albeit they can now be a lot more personalised and you can give them a variety of messages and tell them a story, and so on, and what technology are they using and where are those communities? The disruption I think we’ve had is that we have had a big proliferation of devices
and touch points and data sources, and with that has come different technologies. And the difficulty you have is that different technologies can produce data in different ways. And that can mean it can be difficult to understand what is the right data, or what is the trustworthy data. For example, Google might say your video campaign had this many views, whereas your brand safety tracking might sit there and show a different number. And actually that’s because they’ve blocked some of the ads from showing because they are against non-brand-safe content, or they think there’s ad fraud, or things like that.
But straight away you’ve got two different sets of numbers, and you need people to be able to understand that technology and the nuances of it, and find what is the source of truth, what’s the useful data? Where do we need to understand margins? Actually, where do we need to flag that things are an issue, and things aren’t working? So again, this is another aspect where technology still needs a human element, and the more technologies there are, the more difficult that is.
And actually, as businesses have more and more departments, linking them up and making sure everyone is on the same page can be quite difficult, and that again is where we, as marketers, have to work to be joined up and be ahead of that and be smarter in understanding all these different bits to help clients navigate that, because it is difficult. I think the ability now to read data, understand data, that’s something that marketers ten or fifteen years ago didn’t really need. I think you need a good baseline understanding of pay-per-click marketing, how search and how social channels work.
Marketers have to be real all-rounders now - part data analyst, part researcher, and have to have a genuine interest in how things work. So, yes it’s disrupted the marketplace and there are a lot of challenges, but they’re good challenges because once you get that cut through and you work out where your audience are and the type of content they might engage with, the chances are your campaigns are going to be that much more successful.

We have discussed the macro environment and e-customers and the benefits of digital marketing, including interactivity, intelligence, individualisation, integration and its global reach.

With these benefits in mind, watch the above video to see different perspectives from academia and industry on whether every company needs to adopt a digital marketing strategy.

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What is your view – does digital marketing need to be adopted by every company?
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