Sales & Marketing Tech

How To Equip Your Marketing Team for Digital Transformation

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Learn how digital transformation has changed the marketing industry and what skills your marketing team should develop today to be successful tomorrow.

For marketers today, digital transformation is one of the most important topics. It’s not just about technology; it’s about people and processes as well as data, analytics, and strategy.

Digital marketing is changing more than just the way your customers interact with your brand—it’s changing how you market too.

In traditional marketing—and even after the internet took over—companies create marketing content to appeal to general audiences who may or may not consume the content online.

This shooting-in-the-dark marketing strategy doesn’t work anymore. Today, the world’s most successful companies are creating stories powered by automation and data analytics as part of digital transformation in marketing.

In this blog post, we explore how digital transformation has changed the marketing industry and why, as a marketer, you should care. We highlight what your team should do today to be successful tomorrow and what you need to know about the latest trends in digital content.

We also look at some great digital transformation examples, such as Netflix and Disney, to learn what they do and how your team can pick up on it.

But what exactly is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the marketing industry’s response to the tech revolution. The industry has shifted from traditional marketing activities to digital models because of the constant changes in technologies, markets, and consumer behavior.

Marketing goals have changed from old-fashioned advertising and large-scale branding to targeted customer acquisition, customer retention, and loyalty building.

What’s interesting about these new marketing goals is that they don’t emphasize technology itself, rather how technology enables business models that matter the most to your company’s success across both traditional and digital channels.

In short, you want a more effective and efficient way of reaching current and future customers via digital marketing. And doing that is impossible without a holistic digital transformation strategy for your marketing department.

What’s digital transformation got to do with marketing?

A digital transformation strategy is no longer something only large companies develop to gain a competitive edge. Today, even small businesses need digital marketing to survive.

Picture yourself as a consumer. When was the last time you bought something from a brand—global or local—without coming across it online first? Difficult to answer, isn’t it?

The days of visiting the supermarket to buy groceries for an entire month are long gone. In today’s digital age, consumers meet brands—small and large—online first, then research about the ones that pique their interest, and only later decide to buy something.

Think of a mom and pop store that has begun to do well on the back of traditional advertising or even the good ol’ word-of-mouth. If you happen to buy something from this store, your customer journey will involve giving post-purchase feedback and spreading the word further.

But if this store doesn’t have a presence on the social media platforms you use, how will you spread the word about it? If it has no live chat or instant survey option you can complete on the go from your smartphone, how will you give product/service feedback to the business owner?

If you own a store like that, imagine how many growth and product enhancement opportunities you’ll miss out on by sticking to only traditional marketing activities. A successful digital marketing strategy, on the other hand, will transform you from a business owner into a business leader who’s always on top of customer needs and trends.

Before new technologies caused the digital disruption we’re all experiencing today, marketing activities relied heavily on advertising, which left small room for cost savings. That’s why no business strategy today can succeed unless it incorporates digital marketing that’s geared to improve the customer experience consistently.

Key marketing goals your small business can achieve with digital transformation

Here are four marketing goals digital transformation can help you reach:

  1. Reduce churn and enhance retention by building customer loyalty
  2. Increase the return on digital activities
  3. Build digital experiences that give your business a competitive edge
  4. Expand marketing opportunities through digital innovation

To achieve these goals, marketers like you must focus on people, processes, and technology; therefore, you can no longer rely on traditional key performance indicators such as return on ad spend.

Top goals for social marketing professionals (Source)

Building customer loyalty requires your business to engage with targeted audiences far more deeply than it did before digital transformation. That means you need to better understand who your audiences are and how to keep them loyal.

For this, you can use CRM software with integrated data analytics. These tools help you find the best digital marketing strategies, content developers, and social media engagement managers, among others, to improve your brand’s digital interactions with existing and potential customers so they keep coming back to you.

How to measure digital marketing ROI?

Most businesses struggle to allocate a budget for digital marketing because they don’t yet understand how to measure return for a new business model that incorporates a digital transformation strategy.

For example, if only 20% of your total marketing budget is dedicated to social media advertising but social ads bring in 50% of all new customers, then increasing your investment in social ads could yield significant rewards.

Similarly, if investment in nonadvertising digital marketing activities yields a small but consistently growing return, scaling up those activities can help reduce your ad spend.

Building a digital experience requires you to understand how new digital technologies such as mobile apps and social media engagement influence the customer experience—and what exactly your customers want.

Understanding where your customers go for information and how they’re most likely to interact with your brand can help you create an overall enjoyable experience for them.

Successful marketing innovation brings together all of the above into new ways of reaching prospects, giving them more value than was previously available. If equipped with the right digital marketing tools, your company can deliver this successfully.

For instance, if analytics suggests that your customers prefer having their questions answered by a chatbot more than over call or email, you can easily increase your budget for chat tools, even though you don’t see a direct return on investment here.

In today’s digital age, measuring return only on direct sales activities, such as cold calling leads, may not take you far. Every touch point that can help enhance the customer experience is worth investing in. The image below highlights marketing channels that provide the best ROI for businesses like yours:

List of marketing channels providing the best ROI (Source)

Everyone knows that large corporations have the funds to spend on ads and acquire more customers quickly—Coca-Cola, for example, spends billions on advertising—but that alone isn’t sufficient. Large companies also put in place a whole system to nurture long-term customer engagement.

Think Jeff Bezos and his famous “obsession” with customer satisfaction:

“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.”

Therefore, as a small business, it helps to remember that you can get a thousand customers quickly by placing a Google or Facebook ad, but you’ll also lose those customers just as quickly if you don’t have a digital marketing strategy centered on customer delight.

The key to success—people, process, and technology

People, process, and technology is the key to digital transformation and long-term digital marketing success. You can’t outsource digital transformation because it involves changing how you think about your customers, and digital marketing workflows and resources.

By making these changes, you’ll be able to provide a more intimate digital experience for your customers.

To succeed in digital transformation, here’s what you need:

  • The right people on board—individuals who can think from a digital perspective and execute digital transformation strategies effectively.
  • A process to become a digital enterprise and transform how you create content, measure performance, acquire customers, and provide customer service.
  • Digital marketing technology tools that cover the latest innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), voice recognition, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR).

What should your team do today to be successful tomorrow?

Equip your digital marketing team members with the skills, abilities, and tools needed for successful digital transformation. You want them to be digital-first in their thinking, digital-native in their execution, and digital-savvy when it comes to marketing technology.

  • Digital-first thinking: Digital strategy is your team’s first response to new business objectives.
  • Digital-native execution: Your team creates digital content for all types of digital media; content will differ based on the platform used.
  • Digital-savvy marketing: Your team analyzes how different digital channels can work together to create a delightful customer experience.

Your teammates should also be adept at the new and changing culture of memes, shorts, reels, and anything that helps them leverage digital marketing opportunities. In short, here’s the mantra for your marketing team: Think digital, act digital, measure digital.

To stay on top of the latest trends, you must always be learning new skills and creating new strategies. As a digital marketer, you need to think like a consumer and watch out for every innovation in the market that can change customers’ lives for the better.

Wondering what that means? Let me explain with an example.

Recently, a friend needed new eyeglasses. A quick Google search led him to a brand that assisted him through the online journey of selecting frames by style, size, and so on.

My friend could add his preferences but wasn’t so sure about the size. As a solution, the brand’s chatbot directed him to a face recognition-enabled landing page where he could “try” the glasses on virtually and select the right size.

Indian eyewear retail chain Lenskart allows customers to virtually try on glasses (Source)

Next, he was prompted to “upload” his prescription and select the kind of glasses he wanted—bifocal or progressive, with or without UV protection or anti-glare coating, and so on. By the way, did I mention my friend completed these steps on his smartphone within a few minutes? The glasses were delivered to his home in a couple of days.

What does this have to do with digital transformation of marketing? The brand in this case uses the latest digital tools to offer customers a seamless online shopping experience without the need to even visit a physical store.

Here are some trends shaping the digital transformation of businesses:

  • Generation Z consumers are digital natives.
  • Content marketing is leading digital transformation.
  • Video is the key element of digital transformation for marketing teams, and it requires digital marketers to master video storytelling skills.
  • Every digital marketer should master new skills such as SEO, content marketing, social media advertising, digital PR, data analytics, and creative design.
  • The future of digital transformation for marketing includes:
    • New world technologies such as AI and ML.
    • Personalized site messaging to help customers resume shopping where they left.
    • AI-based chatbots to engage customers in the trivia of introduction to the brand and its product range.
    • Personalized email marketing for instant feedback on products and services.
    • Instant messaging on social media platforms to keep customers informed about the payment and delivery of products.

You see, digital transformation is unfolding right before our eyes (rather literally in the above example), and if, as a marketer, you don’t realize who moved your cheese, you’ll soon have nothing to eat!

What will digital transformation look like in 10 years?

We can expect digital technology (AI, VR, AR) to impact digital marketing transformation beyond the roles of digital marketers, digital designers, and content developers. Let’s take a look at what digital transformation could look like in the 2030s:

  • Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality will become the new norm for digital marketing.
  • The use of digital design elements such as infographics, well-edited images, and engaging videos will continue to dominate.
  • Information accessed via digital analytics platforms, such as Google Analytics, will continue to be the digital marketer’s primary tool.
  • Digital marketers will need to know data analytics, visual storytelling, and digital PR skills in addition to their current skills such as SEO, content marketing, social media advertising, and graphic or creative design.
  • Companies will compete based on how well they’ve implemented digital transformation for their marketing teams.

If these stats seem overwhelming, we can understand. However, you must also realize that we’re in an age of changes, and it’s far from too late to start your digital transformation process. Here’s what you can do to adapt:

  • Start learning digital marketing skills and strategies. Read about digital trends, tools, techniques, and social media updates.
  • Experiment with different software tools to improve your brand’s outreach and customer experience.
  • Learn digital design elements such as infographics, digital photography, and short videos to tell stories about your brand.
  • Experiment with data analytics tools to measure the progress of your marketing campaigns.
  • Use multiple platforms for brand storytelling—don’t leave out new, emerging platforms such as Quora, Medium, and Instagram.
  • Invest in both established and emerging digital technology tools that are based on AI, VR, and AR.

Marketing teams that successfully made the digital transformation leap—and what they did

Digital tools and technologies have changed how both Fortune 500 companies and startups reach out to their potential customers. To keep it short, we’ll look at the examples of some immensely successful companies:

  1. Amazon
  2. Netflix
  3. Disney
  4. Apple

1. Amazon

Amazon knows digital transformation is a competitive necessity. In fact, digital transformation helped it take business from not one but two early competitors: Barnes & Noble (B&N) and Borders. And Amazon did this by using:

  • Digital tools such as chatbots, in-app surveys, and email surveys for customers to share quick feedback on product delivery and quality.
  • Digital analytics programs to track the success of its digital transformation efforts, improve them, and implement them faster than its competitors.

2. Netflix

Netflix has a strong presence on social media, and you can almost always elicit a response from it on Twitter.

But more importantly, the streaming service platform uses ML to understand what kind of content each customer prefers. Then it uses that data to design personalized emails with direct links to play shows or movies that customers are most likely to enjoy.

Is that a winning strategy or just plain sorcery?

Email from Netflix containing links to play Stranger Things and browse more content
Email from Netflix containing links to play Stranger Things and browse more content (Source)

3. Apple

Apple is a brand with a history of using digital strategies for marketing. Its digital marketing campaigns transformed it from a small computer company into an international powerhouse.

Back in the day, Apple’s marketers used strategies that digital marketers continue to use today—from Steve Jobs’ famous “Think Different” ads that never actually showed any Apple product to today’s more ubiquitous “Shot on iPhone” ads.

4. Disney

Disney uses tools such as the Google Cloud Platform for its digital marketing campaigns. It also uses dynamic ads and paid search channels to promote its digital content on social media.

The entertainment and media conglomerate has also turned to influencer video marketing. Social media influencers create videos on Disney’s products or services, offering the company a new way of reaching prospects online.

Wrapping up: Focus on digital transformation to delight your customers

If you want to succeed as a digital marketer, digital transformation is the only way forward. Digital technologies such as SEO and PPC advertising can help you find new audiences and increase revenue.

The goal of digital marketing hasn’t changed much since its inception, but now you have tools such as CRM and data analytics software that help ensure you keep customers engaged and delighted even post-sale.

Revenue used to be the keyword in digital marketing until millennials became the drivers of the global economy. Today, the focus of digital marketing is customer delight. Once that is accomplished and sustained, sales will naturally follow.

Are you interested in becoming a guest writer for Capterra? Reach out to guestcontributors@gartner.com for details.

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About the Author

Sharjeel Ahmed - Guest Contributor

Sharjeel Ahmed - Guest Contributor

Sharjeel Ahmed is the Content Manager at EngageBay, an all-in-one CRM software platform tailored for startups and small businesses. Ahmed enjoys writing about innovation in marketing software and new trends in the CRM space.

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