Digital marketing is fast coming into its own as a specialised discipline. From the early days of setting up websites left, right and centre and cutting cheques for search engine optimisation, it now encompasses social media, mobiles and apps as powerful new possibilities.
So much so that some companies now have Chief Digital Officers (CDOs). In some cases, the CMO or the CIO may wear the hat of the CDO as well. The point is, the digital realm is getting bigger and more important as you read this.
In a world that is happily clicking away for content, groceries, travel, leisure and anything that fills up our life, how do you do digital? Sure, a bunch of boutique social media firms and others with 360-degree charters and integrated plays have come up recently, but as a digital marketing professional or CXO, it wouldn’t hurt to keep a few best practices handy, would it? So here you go:
1. Identify the digital goals for your organisation: There are pioneering companies that have set their ambitions to nothing less than complete digital transformation. At the other end of the spectrum, there are (still) firms that are splitting hair about whether to go beyond a brochure or static website. Deliberate on where your company wants to be in the next one or two years and decide on specific digital goals.
2. Get the T&T (the team and its tools): Both these Ts will be crucial to the success of your digital efforts. However, in all likelihood, if you have the right team in place, they will go find the best digital tools to work with.
Again, in today’s increasingly fluid scenario, having a team doesn’t necessarily mean hiring bench-loads of Facebook junkies; it might work better to onboard a couple of digitally savvy professionals who are nimble-minded. They could even be hand-picked from within the company. Also, they should be able to manage the work outsourced (if any) to specialist agencies, programmers, etc.
3. Have a well-articulated social media policy: We keep reading of employees or customers cribbing on Facebook, Twitter or other social sites, followed by the klutzy approach taken by certain companies to respond to their comments. Given the generally open culture that social media fosters, even those who are not authorised by the company end up jumping in the fray—often causing reputational damage.
Building a brand online may be considered hard but it is nothing compared to the nightmare of salvaging a sullied reputation. It is best to have a detailed, idiot-proof policy (this must remind some of their boss :) concerning the use of social media and responding to comments or taking any other course of action. Goes without saying that a quick complaint-redress mechanism needs to be built alongside the policy. On social media, you must respond in minutes and hours rather than business days or weeks.
4. Mobile in the middle: In the feverish world of e-entrepreneurs, they have a new mantra for a successful business model: it’s called mobile-first. The idea is to think of the mobile phone (essentially the smartphone) as the first touch-point for customers (some storied mobile-first stars include Instagram, WhatsApp, Uber, Spotify and Evernote, among others).
Not every corporate entity on Earth needs to be mobile-first, of course. But with the usage of mobiles exploding and the number of those phones going smart increasing like crazy, it would be stupid not to give “mobile” the place it deserves. The caveat here is not to think of mobile in terms of any single device but to look at enabling employees, partners, customers—whoever—to interact with your organisation anytime, anywhere, using anything that can connect to the Internet (you might have heard of the Internet of Things).
5. Balance speed and quality: If you ask around, most people would agree that the speed of life as well as business has gone up several gears in the past decade or so. In the context of digital, they would also aver that quality—the quality of content, software, etc—has gone down. While the race for digital supremacy is impelling most organisations to cut corners on quality, reduce time-to-market and respond to customers faster than ever, the winners will likely be those who manage a fine balance between speed and quality. It’s tough to achieve, but very much within reach, especially for companies that are not constrained by resources (or mindset).
6. Spread digital as a culture: This one is for the long term as well as the biggest impact. Arguably, it’s also the trickiest one. Remember the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” Having said that, people are not horses and digital is much different from water. With a top-down approach, can-do motto, the right tools and persistent monitoring, long-term organisational change can be brought in.
The key here is culture rather than strategy: you can strategise all you want, but unless the organisation’s culture is soaked in digital, the results would be sub-optimal. No wonder management guru Peter Drucker is said to have once remarked, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Or lunch, if you are a lunch person, but you get the idea.
And here’s the short, two-word conclusion to this article concerning your digital journey: start now.
Sanjay Gupta is an editorial consultant and freelance writer based in Delhi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org