Do we still need Digital Marketing?

The Customer Experience MazeNo, I am not referring to the discipline, but rather how most organizations manage their Digital Marketing function.

A few years ago, I wrote that success in social media is when it’s fully integrated in organizations’ business practices and not this nebulous thing called ‘social business’. It turns out my post was almost perfectly timed with the burst of the social bubble in mid 2012. See Google Trends for ‘social business’, or google ‘social enterprise’. When I ran this search in 2012, I got 249 million hits. Today it yields 104 million hits.

From my anecdotal research, most leading companies have by now understood that social media is an integral part of their overall digital marketing strategy and have integrated these skills and resources under some sort of a digital marketing function. The same is however not true for digital marketing.

Isn’t it time we now finally take the next step and finally disband our ‘Digital Marketing’ teams?

Let me explain…First ask yourselves this question: What is the purpose of Marketing in your organization?

Marketing’s sole purpose should be to facilitate the customer journey and reach them at the moments that most influence their decisions.

I paraphrased the definition from this McKinsey article on the customer journey.

Although almost five years old, I still find this to be one the most comprehensive articles on this topic.

Now tell me, how many industries can you think of where the customer journey does not involve some sort of a digital interaction?

As an experiment, do the following:

  • Open your favorite print publication and look at an ad
  • Watch your favorite commercial on TV
  • Drive down your favorite highway and look at a billboard
  • Look at the last marketing brochure or coupon you received

Now try to find one of these that does not include a reference to a website, Facebook page or Twitter handle (if you do, please let me know!).

Do you believe your digital marketing and other teams are fully aligned in their objectives to help your customers as they move from one channel to the next? I don’t think so. Here is an example from my personal experience.

As much as we all dream that organizational structures don’t matter, the reality is they do…a lot.

Come on you say, after all digital marketing is only 25% of our overall marketing budget – at least according to Gartner and many other analysts. That’s not the point however. Here is what I believe:

  • Customer experience drives tangible results: Based on this research, while the S&P500 Index grew 51.5% between 2007-2013, the Forrester Research Customer Experience leaders’ stock price grew 77.7% during the same period. This compares to a negative -2.5% for the laggards.
  • Organizational complexity is an impediment: 33% of organizations cite organizational complexity as an obstacle to consistent customer experience according to this 2014 Harvard Business Review study.

So, as our customers expect a consistent experience regardless of the channel, do you believe there is still a place for ‘digital marketing’ in our marketing teams? Isn’t it about time we did away with this and focused on the customer?

After all, don’t we all want to facilitate our customers’ journey and reach them at the moments that most influence their decisions?

As always, I look forward to your comments…

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