When I started my career in digital marketing in 2011, life was good; simple. My biggest challenge was maintaining a healthy cost-per-click, click-through-rate and number of conversions which reflected in Adwords, to name a few. Fast forward to 2020 and it’s almost impossible to count the number of acronyms and buzzwords being used in the advertising industry. It’s hard enough keeping up to date with the lingo, it’s even harder putting it all into practice – and getting it right.

Needless to say digital marketing is tough, mainly because customers have much higher expectations of brands as well as little patience when it comes to interacting with them.

This is why digital marketing needs to evolve to keep up with the pace of answering client needs, brands need to adapt to become customer centric. Customers have gone from captive to empowered; businesses used to ask: “who can we sell to and how will we convince the customer to buy from us”, to asking “what problems do we solve and who has these problems so that we can help”.

Real digital marketing needs a new approach, a new way of working and a whole lot of skills, tools and time. According to a study commissioned by Google and the Boston Consulting Group just 2% of brands are best-in-class at data-driven marketing. This statistic proves the stark reality that brands are a long way away from showing up at the right time to the right person with the right message.

Digital Maturity

To help navigate this digital journey, Google in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group developed the Digital Marketing Transformation programme, which is a framework to guide businesses along the Digital Maturity curve. The maturity levels range from nascent to multi-moment and a brand’s maturity is determined by an extensive questionnaire. The tool analyses where your business sits on the path to full data-driven marketing and attribution. Then, it generates a personalised, consultative, interactive report. This benchmarks your organisation against others in your industry and makes both strategic and tactical recommendations to achieve specific goals.

Nascent brands are generally seen as using external data, which buy media directly from publishers and use basic measurement for reporting; whereas multi-moment brands make use of dynamic media, utilise automation effectively, optimise towards customer lifetime value or other tangible business outcomes and have advanced attribution tracking to understand the full user journey. The result is complete data-driven marketing which puts the customer at the center of every execution. 

According to research by Boston Consulting Group, those that succeed are seeing up to a 30% cost reduction and a 20% increase in revenue.

Where to start?

To achieve this lofty goal of customer centric marketing agencies and organisations need to set themselves up for success by tackling data, tech and organizational hurdles.

Agencies need to adapt to the organizational challenges by structuring departments for cross-collaboration by having various teams play to their respective strengths. Practically this comes down to an effective organogram, knowledge sharing sessions and an ideal office set-up. Not only does one need to break down the metaphorical wall, but agencies need to hire the right skill-sets such as platform knowledge (eg, GMP or Business Manager), tech skills (eg. Big Query, GA & Data Studio) or in depth channel understanding. This, all underpinned by strong strategic partnerships with clients and suppliers alike, as well as a strong internal culture which facilitates agility, innovation and collaboration. 

The technology enablers are considerably harder to achieve, which is why the organisational aspects need to be put in place first. At the heart of this is the demanding exercise of collecting and linking all data, syncing all tech pieces so that there’s seamless tracking of the customer journey, and ensuring there’s a robust measurement platform where there is a single source of truth. 

As we continue to advance as a digital fraternity, the need for connected data becomes more and more important. Meaning, all data sources need to be linked to show the full extent of what digital marketing is bringing to the table. Connecting various data sources as well as combining offline to online data is crucial to understanding which audiences are working for various objectives. Audience data is one of the most important ingredients in achieving customer centricity.

The truth to all of this is that there are no hard and fast rules in climbing the digital maturity ladder, no set guidelines and check-boxes. One needs to own the assessment, break it down into projects, prioritise work and essentially draw up a growth plan based on the recommendations. By gradually climbing this ladder, everyone stands to benefit.